Owner Celia Ward-Wallace, left, brings a takeout order to Sandra Flores at South LA Cafe in the Exposition Park neighborhood. The Cafe is one of many Black-owned businesses in LA.(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Los Angeles Center For Enriched Studies

Opinion: How to tell if a company is Black-owned

The Black Lives Matter movement, in combination with most of the nation in quarantine, has sparked discussions on social media about supporting Black-owned businesses. While the increase of people supporting Black-owned businesses is great, it is important to make sure these businesses are Black-owned. Here are some simple steps to help you figure it out. 

When trying to figure out if a brand is Black-owned, the first step is to go to the website and find the About, About us or Contact Us tab. Most of the time, the company will provide background knowledge on how the company was founded, who founded the company and who owns it. A standard e-tailer will include the company’s founder and The Chief Executive Officer there.

CEOs make major corporate decisions, manage the operations and resources of a company, communicate with the board of directors and shareholders of the company all while being the public face of the company. So, in other words, if the CEO is a Black person, then there is a 99.9% chance that the company is Black-owned.

If you are not able to find anything helpful in the About section, or if there wasn’t one, to begin with, you can check the domain to find the registered owner. To do this, enter the domain name of the business you want to find, and check for any registration information. You should note that some domain owners choose to remain private and use a third party to mask their information.

The second step is to know that your time is money.

A company should be upfront about who owns the business. You should not have to scour the internet for information. If you have to, it is best to assume that the company is being mysterious on purpose and you shouldn’t buy from them.

A good example of this is the clothing company AfricanMall. This Chinese-owned clothing e-tailer has long implied and pushed the narrative that they are Black-owned and have tried to hide their ownership. After speculation about the brand’s ownership by Black YouTubers and consumers, the brand has recently changed its company name from “AfricanMall’ to JurllyShe (you can still find the company by searching up AfricanMall).

However, the company received so much exposure from Black influencers and content creators such as Nella Rose and Nicole Tv  who amassed 31 million views in total from posting three unsponsored African Mall try-on videos, it is evident that this mysterious Chinese-owned company has prospered and continues to thrive off of the support of Black women.

Looking at the company’s website it is obvious the CEO and employees are non-native English speakers due to the many grammar mistakes and broken English in their About us section. It is also nearly impossible to get in contact with the company, and there is no context about who established or owns the brand or where it was founded.

YouTuber EverybodyHatesAngel posted a video about AfricanMall and discovered the company’s owner is a Chinese man living in the United Kingdom, before his channel was deleted earlier this year. All of his videos will be re-uploaded to his website in a few months. 

The last tip is to be aware of companies with Africa in their name.

Indego Africa, for instance, is a handbag company that sells handmade woven baskets and purses that are said to be woven by African women. Most of the purses are priced around $70 to $150. Both the CEO (Karen Yelick) and the Chairman/Founder (Matthew Mitro) are white.

However, the brand makes it clear as to who owns the brand and what their initiatives are without being secretive, making it easy for a potential consumer to decide whether or not to support the brand.

There are other obvious tactics, such as reading customer reviews and looking through the brand’s social media accounts. For more intricate ways to find a brand’s owner, check out the article, “How (and Why) to Find Any Business Owner’s Name by Adam Taton.

While there are a plethora of ways to find a brand’s owner if the company is purposely making it hard to figure out who owns it or their website is too obscure, most of the time just use common sense and you’ll be fine. Don’t listen to he say she say. Just because you see a cute post on Instagram or a YouTube personality says a company is Black-owned does not mean it is. Take your time and be thorough to ensure your dollar is supporting what is claimed to be. 

Need help finding Black-owned businesses?  Here is a list of websites, social media accounts and apps you can download/follow to find a wider variety of companies and an easy way to support African American entrepreneurs. 

WeBuyBlack(Atlanta based website and Instagram account that promotes Black businesses)

Black Nation(Downloadable app launched by Rameish Budhoo for all things Black related)

Support Black Owned (SBO features Black-owned businesses in all 50 states)

African American Literature Book Club (A website with a list of Black-owned book stores)

Eat Okra(An app for finding Black-owned restaurants near you)