Jeff & Maddy Carothers and Ashley Creft launched @CLTBlackOwned (CBO) in June 2020 to help promote and support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. The team set an initial goal of getting 1,000 followers on Instagram. Within the first week, CBO reached 10,000 Instagram followers. The momentum continued and they have grown to more than 40,000 followers on Instagram and over 1,000 email subscribers.
We checked in with the CBO team to see how they continue to support Black-owned businesses, how the community can help, and what’s on their radar for the coming months. (Hint: Be sure you’re following them on Instagram so you don’t miss their second annual 12 Days of Giveaways!)
We Are Fam(ily)
The result of CBO’s hard work over the last year and a half is a community built on a mutual desire to create more opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and creatives. “We’re most proud of the fact that we’ve really built a ‘fam,’” said the CBO team. “We love the fact that they see us as a family, too. The trust we’ve built with our community – both consumers and business owners – is really unmatched, and we’re so grateful for it.”
Lifting Others Up
By sharing Black-owned businesses with their “fam,” CBO continues to increase visibility for the goods and services these businesses provide. This leads to more awareness, increased revenue and a higher likelihood that these businesses will continue to grow organically and sustainably (not just a few big orders from one Instagram post).
Since their launch last June, CBO says they have seen a steady amount of support from their community. This presence helps Black-owned businesses and creatives in several ways:
- Their expansive audience helps CBO communicate more easily with potential sponsors or corporations that want to work directly with and for Black-owned businesses.
- Followers’ support and engagement also helps CBO by building trust and credibility for potential sponsorships and collabs.
- And the community’s support helps the businesses CBO promotes by giving CBO a larger platform to share their creations, products, services and ideas.
From a big-picture perspective, this initiative can greatly impact the next generation of entrepreneurs and creatives – inspiring them to start their own business or create their own products.
“We’re building a supportive ecosystem that requires everyone to support Black-owned and we like to think that, so far, it’s working,” the CBO team said.
Facing Challenges Head On
CBO gets the “what’s your biggest challenge?” question a lot. Their response is the same each time: racism.
“At the root of all the common challenges Black entrepreneurs face, you’ll find racism,” the CBO team said. “Whether it’s lack of access to financial funding from banks or investors, lack of equitable attention from the media, lack of visibility, lack of resources to begin and scale a business … it can all be reduced to racism. Racism can permeate every area of what it takes to begin, operate and then scale a business. What we do, in our own way, is combat racism. We do this by pouring all of our energy, all of our support and all of the attention of our supporters to Black entrepreneurs.”
The support the CBO team has received from the community continues to fuel their passion for the initiative. “[Since launching CBO], we’ve learned that if you keep going and keep pushing and working to make a mission like ours visible, what starts as a ‘moment’ can turn into a mission with community buy-in.”
The CBO team said some of the initial support they received was from people thinking it was “the right thing to do.” (CBO adds that it absolutely is the right thing to do.) But through CBO’s authentic advocacy for Black-owned businesses and by sticking to their mission, many of these passive “should do” followers became genuine “want to” supporters.
Each member of the CBO team works full-time on a volunteer basis, in addition to their full-time responsibilities outside CBO. One of their goals for 2022 is to work on a capital campaign. Until now, CBO’s operating costs have relied on revenue from events and the costs to join their network.
They’d like to offer paid internships, hire contract content professionals and compensate their team (at least part-time) for the time they commit to CBO’s mission. Through these investments, CBO hopes to continue to grow their outreach in the area.
“We choose every day to remain dedicated because of the goodness it brings the businesses we support and the goodness it brings the community we’ve created. It’s not always easy, but we love it,” the CBO team said.
Step Up and Help Out
You can help CBO keep the momentum of their initiative moving with these simple asks:
- Follow @CLTBlackOwned on Instagram and stay engaged by liking, commenting and sharing CBO’s content. (Bonus: CBO’s Second Annual 12 Days of Giveaways is underway and features awesome gifts from Black-owned businesses.)
- Subscribe to the CLT Black-Owned Newsletter for the latest in Black-owned business news.
- Discover and support Black-owned businesses by referencing CBO’s Black-Owned Business Directory.
- Corporations and city stakeholders can work directly with CBO to offer funding, resources and impactful initiatives to support Black entrepreneurs, business owners and creatives. (Visit their Contact Page to learn more.)
Featured Image Credit: Lynwood Pixley Jr.
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