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Growing up in a factory town in Central Illinois, thoughts of race and wealth as a child were present but not predominant because most of us had similar economic backgrounds. When people wanted to know where your parents worked, the question often posed was, “Which factory do your parents work at?” As I got older, the race and money line became increasingly visible. 

After nearly 17 years as a business owner, I’ve learned that customer service is king and impressive outcomes lead to referrals, but the face of company ownership affects overall growth and profitability. Women and/or minority-owned employer businesses make-up less than 25% of all employer businesses. And if you keep peeling back the onion, Black-owned employer businesses make up less than 3% of the spending pie. Now, at the core, you’ll find the hard truth that of the Black-owned businesses that exist, on average, most have significantly less total revenues, profit margins, employees, etc., than their white counterparts. Since the economy is built on small business success, that disparity directly impacts the economic growth of our communities. 

Notably, efforts encouraging people to “Buy Black,” businesses with commitments for percentages of minority-business spending, and the few remaining DEI strategies are all helpful in fueling the growth of underrepresented firms. However, the rollback of some of those efforts makes me wonder if people feel the statistics are inaccurate or simply unimportant. 

At KQ, we remain focused on research-based results. I feel that has allowed us to become one of the largest Black-owned PR/strategic comm firms in the Southeast with roughly 20 employees. We are proud of our accomplishments, but we recognize that the size of our PR firm isn’t necessarily big for MOST PR firms. In fact, one of the largest overall PR firms in the Southeast has roughly $28 million in annual revenue. We earn less than 10% of that. 

Odds are simply a guidepost for your chances. Still, winners believe in winning despite what the numbers say. Winning for us is making an impact, whether that means:

  • Using organic social media to help a business increase revenues by over 33%
  • Helping school districts recruit qualified teachers amid a teacher shortage
  • Supporting public transit providers in multiple cities solve problems to better serve riders
  • Illuminating the work of tech firms, real estate firms, leadership coaches, HR firms and more in achieving their dreams of growth and expansion

Our dollars may say differently at times, but we are extremely valuable to our industry, our clients, and most of all, our community. KQ, under my leadership, may not become the biggest, best, or most profitable PR firm – but we are building a foundation for companies with a similar ownership face to show up and thrive. 

If my dad, who, like most of the men and women working factory jobs decades ago (or even now), were alive to see what’s happening today, he would be excited about the prospect of wealth-generating opportunities for all. He would also say to keep pressin’, don’t settle for what’s expected, and dare to do more with future generations in mind.

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