I have been thinking about this topic for years, and now I am ready to write about it. How do I find and somehow wrap pretty language around some ugly experiences? As I think about how much better Black America could be if the majority of black churches took more of an active role in the growth of the community at-large including support of black-owned businesses, I get excited by the thought.
While I cannot speak for all black churches of course, I can speak about my professional experience with black churches. At times, I have been amazed, and also disgusted by the negligence, bullying, and predatory tactics used by these churches to gain an advantage when doing business. But, those experiences, lead me to sharing points that you should keep in mind should you decide to offer your product or service to a black church or faith based organization.
When in meetings with church executives, I found myself caught off guard. Behind the closed doors with church leaders, the hustle moved like a different animal. Instead of snarling, the communication purred, and every move was calculated. I have even been in meetings with church officials who have insisted we pray before we start the meeting because that was the way they do business. Only they will finish the prayer, then lead into the shrewdest, pimp-trick-ho and often one-sided business dealings. Before I knew it, the dealings were leaning heavily in the favor of the church.
Needless to say, I have missed out on a number of contracts and opportunities simply because I will not play this game. As a Black entrepreneur you need to decide early on what your ethics and values are. When or if you start mixing your business with your religion, you may find yourself on the wrong side of the hunger line. Can your business sustain this long term? It is one thing to volunteer your time to your church or a cause, but as a business owner, you should keep the health of your business at the forefront of your mind. I assure you that the church will keep its interests first.
Think about it. A church is fueled by donations and grants. That is FREE MONEY! Your business is fueled by your own money, time, sweat, blood, pain, and sacrifice. So, if you are a business owner who is also a member of a church, you may be asked to give that church a better rate than your standard rate. You then may be expected to donate 10% to further the mission of church. Don’t forget-- the church is a business as well. In your efforts to be benevolent, you could lead to the diminishing of your own profits and ultimately the goals you have for your business and your family.
The intent here is to not take aim at anyone’s religious beliefs. As African Americans, we all need support to shoulder the weight of carrying this hot brown skin down what are often cold white roads of entrepreneurship. I am only providing certain words here that are needed to help you see things clearly as a Black entrepreneur. When you are handling your business, you should be handling your business at all times, even with the church. If you are working with a church, you should handle yourself in the same professional manner as outside of the church and represent your brand well.
We must remain committed to our business goals and set a standard for what we will and will not compromise on if we expect these churches to respect us for the products and services we offer. It is never a good sign when others outside of our community are willing to pay the asking price while those within consistently seek lower prices or discounts. Our businesses and Black America are joined at the hip, so when one suffers, the other suffers as well.
The black church can be a uniting force that enables our community to feed and employ itself. This could be a beautiful thing for Black America and our businesses! Every Sunday, black business owners shovel millions of dollars into the coffers of these black churches. The black business owner is a parishioner, a mother, a father and a pillar in the same community we are trying to edify.
What would happen for our Black businesses if these Black churches leveraged their-- or rather I say OUR money to get small business loans for our communities? Every Monday these white banks swell with our Jesus dollars while starving our Black businesses that need these same funds to grow. Let’s take this a step further. How many of our Black churches have ministries designed to fund the small businesses within their congregations? Yet we have these biblical wordsmiths in the finest bespoke clothing- flying around in private helicopters and jets all in the lord’s name.
Ultimately, when doing business with the black church, you should go into it on your feet, with your eyes open. If we approach this relationship clearly, it can be a great benefit to both your business and the black church. Still, sometimes it is best to keep religion and your business separate to benefit and protect both entities.