WASHINGTON WATCH: Black Women Flexing Their Power In The Marketplace As Consumers, Entrepreneurs (VIDEO)

Black women are now a big power in the marketplace as consumers, leaders and entrepreneurs. Roland Martin talks with Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications and McDonald’s franchisee, Patricia Williams about African American women entering into business for themselves.

MR. MARTIN (VOICEOVER):  Black women are now a big power in the marketplace – as consumers, leaders and entrepreneurs.  Here is Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications.

MS. MICHELLE EBANKS:  This is a weekend where Black women put themselves first.  This is so- — time that they set aside to reinvest in themselves – in their – in their spirit and in the things that bring them joy, and the things that make them happy.  So, there’s a little bit of shopping that goes along with –

MR. MARTIN:  A lil’ bit?

MS. EBANKS:  — everything else that happens –

MR. MARTIN:  [Chuckles.]

MS. EBANKS:  — this weekend.  But it is quite extraordinary, so it’s filling the hotel rooms here in the city, going out to the restaurants.  The economic impact over the four days of this festival is over $200 million.  That speaks to the power of the purse of Black women, and it’s extraordinary over a time when, really, nothing else would be happening in the city of New Orleans.

MR. MARTIN:  But even beyond that, when you talk about [the] 2008 election, Black women voted at a higher rate than anybody else in the country; when you talk about the purchasing power, the decisions being made in the households.  So, how do you make it clear to advertisers that, “Look, when you talk about who drives the Black community economically, you need to be talking to, and dealing with, Black women”?

MS. EBANKS:  Well, there’s no question.  You need to deal [with] and talk to Black women.  Black women have the highest level of employment, and an even higher level of full-time employment, than any other group of women.  Black women have doubled – nearly doubled the number of small businesses over the last ten years to almost a million.  Black women head two thirds of households in our community, and our buying power is increasing.

This is a force – she is a force to be reckoned with.  This is the only matriarchal culture within America.  You cannot go through the Black community without going through Black women.

MR. MARTIN:  We talk about the power of Black women.  We also talk about consumers, talk about buying; but the fastest-growing segment of small business owners in America [are] African-American women.  Now, McDonald’s owners – [when] people think about McDonald[’s], they think about the very large corporation; but most McDonald[’s] franchises – franchises are owned by small business owners, and Patricia Williams is one of those small business owners.  She owns – you own 11 McDonald’s in the –

MS. PATRICIA WILLIAMS:  That’s correct.

MR. MARTIN:  — Los Angeles area?

MS. WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Los Angeles and the surrounding communities – Compton, Linwood and Carson.

MR. MARTIN:  And so why did you decide to get into this business?  Why did you decide to become an owner?  And how did you go from one to 11?

MS. WILLIAMS:  Well, you know, I think life is about right place, right time, and that’s exactly what happened with me.  I – I was working for the State of California.  My husband was a policeman, and we met a  young man na- — man named Reggie Webb who was the regional director of the Los Angeles region.  And we used to play cards with him and had a good time, and he tried to convince us to leave our “good jobs” and go into McDonald’s.  And we thought about it for about a year and then finally decided to take the l- — plunge.

And right place, right time.  We were able to secure a franchise that was less than two miles from our home, so we didn’t have to leave.  And it was just a great opportunity, and – and it’s something that I’ve been so grateful for that I did it, and I’ve never looked back.

MR. MARTIN:  What is your advice to someone who decided, let’s say in 2009, 2010, “I’m ready for that plunge,” and now they’re saying, “Oh, my goodness.  I don’t know what to do right now.  This may never turn around”?

MS. WILLIAMS:  Well, you know, we can’t predict the future.  Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?  But, you know, after you’ve made some plans and, you know, you – you d- — looked at the industry that you’re thinking about, you know, if it – if it can pencil out on paper, and it’s something that you think that you want to do, and your heart is there, I say, “Go for it.”

MR. MARTIN:  What do you advise people who want to become a business owner?  Because a lot of people say, “I want to own my own business, but they really – I always use the phrase where you work, you don’t think about who buys the Post-it notes – things along those lines.  And so what are some of the tips, some of the things that folks should be preparing themselves today for when it comes to owning a small business, even as a franchisee?

MS. WILLIAMS:  Well, the first thing they have to realize is [it’s] 24/7.  You’re n-

— you are the boss, whether you’re there or not.  If something happens, you have to go and take care of it, so you have to have that kind of commitment that “I’m in it, and I” – “I’m” – “I’m going to take a chance.  I’m going to put my best foot forward and then go from there.”