Philadelphia Black businesses owners get creative during COVID-19

Art and Soul, a Black-owned art gallery has been a bright spot for West Philadelphia since it opened in July of 2019, but the pandemic threw a major curveball.

“It really interrupted our momentum of gaining new customers in the area. We had to rethink how we’re doing our exhibitions with our artists. We’ve had to rethink our sales,” co-owner Jamese Newsome-Williams said.

But Newsome-Williams describes feeling hopeful. While there’s not a lot of foot traffic in the gallery she says sales online have skyrocketed.

“If it had not been for social media and our website, I don’t think we would have made it,” she added.

Art and Soul is being strategic in what they now sell.

“The saving grace has been because in the spirit of pivoting, my partner was very instrumental in driving our masks sales,” Newsome-Williams said.

Third Floor Media, a Black-owned advertising firm in East Mt Airy, says they’re also working smarter to attract new clients.

“I do believe we lost one of our major clients and I can understand it because they were impacted by COVID-19, and with us as a small business, that puts a dent in our revenue stream,” Owner Gary Shepherd said.

Shepherd says Black business owners are not only up against keeping business afloat but also dealing with COVID-19 which has disproportionately affected the Black community.

“My concern was to make sure I didn’t catch it or any of our team members didn’t catch it, unfortunately, we have lost family members and some friends to COVID 19 and we’re all in this together,” Shepherd said.

Action News spoke with the chairman of the African-American Chamber of Commerce who said their phone has been ringing non-stop due to COVID-19. He says most Black businesses are small but provide jobs within the Black community.

Right now, the chamber is focused on connecting struggling entrepreneurs with resources.

As Third Floor Media puts it, it’s all about paying it forward.

“We’re talking about COVID-19, we’re talking about the racial reckoning that’s going on throughout the nation, we’re all in this together. So, if there are best practices, if there are technologies those kinds of things that the major corporations and businesses can share,” Shepherd said.

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