RALEIGH – When the pandemic hit, Black franchisee owner Efrem Yates got hit hard like everyone else. But in recent weeks, the operator of Cary’s pizza chain Your Pie has seen a “substantial” surge in sales.

In the wake of national racial protests and North Carolina’s Phase 2 re-opening, “sales volume increased by more than 40 percent year over year during the week of Juneteenth,” he said, referring to the week commemorating the end of slavery. His store is located on 685 Cary Towne Blvd.

He’s not alone.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sales are climbing for Black-owned business – both in the Triangle and around the country — after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis in May.

The event sparked a worldwide outcry against racism and police brutality. That, in turn, triggered a social media campaign encouraging people to spend their money at Black-owned businesses and let their dollar speak.

Many local Black leaders are seeing other changes on the ground. As part of a series of stories from WRAL TechWire focusing on the calls to action by local African American executives in the wake of Floyd’s death, Margaret Brunson, CEO of Illumined Leadership Solutions, highlighted this movement.

“In general, I’m seeing and participating in many virtual conversations, calls for real change, people vowing to do the work of understanding the fundamental and foundational issues at hand,” she said.

For weeks now, lists of local Black-owned retailers, artisans and manufacturers have been circulating on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to raise their profile. According to Google, searches for “Black owned businesses near me” reached an all-time high last month in the United States. Yelp has also made it easier for customers to search for Black-owned establishments on the restaurant review site.

Your Pie owner Efrem Yates

“The outpouring of support from the community has been overwhelming in the best of ways,” said Yates. “Word of mouth has been a powerful business driver.”

In addition to his Cary store, he’s now getting ready to open his second location on Capital Boulevard in Raleigh in the coming weeks.

Feeling the love

Johnny Hackett is anther local entrepreneur who is seeing an uptick.

A process architect for Wells Fargo by day, the 36-year-old Raleigh runs #BlackDollarNC — an online “rolodex” of more than 400 black-owned or operated businesses across the state. He’s also been active in organizing #BlackFleaMarketNC, which started in February and is held monthly at Loading Dock at 1053 E. Whitaker Mill Road. The next one will be held this Sunday, July 5, at Loading Dock from 2-5pm.

“Approximately 250 people came through the last one [in June] during the four-hour period,” he said.

He also reported a strong turnout at last Saturday’s Black Farmer’s Market at Southeast Raleigh YMCA,1436 Rock Quarry Road in Raleigh, which he attended. “This attendance shows that folks are serious about supporting other Black-owned businesses. That’s a great thing for those business owners. We just got to see how it goes. [There are] many things to continue to work through.”

The Black Flea Market Collective is (L-R) Jasmine Bullock, Brittany Santiago-Lewis, and Jae Lavonn.

Johnny posses with founders of Univeristy Closet at Cute As A Button event sponsored by #BlackDollarNC

For others, however, it’s taking a little longer to feel the full impact.

Dannesia Pullen owns PullenBoy Hauling, a trucking company headquartered in Rolesville. It transports dry goods and supplies statewide. Because she runs a business-to-business operation, she said it’s challenging for the community to support her.

“We are slowly getting back to some normalcy,” said Pullen, who saw a 15-20 percent decline in cash flow just after the pandemic hit.

Still, she remains positive. “I do feel other black-owned businesses have seen a significant outpour of support,” she said. “My counselor [at WakeTech Small Business Center] and I have discussed strategies to grow, scale, and find business opportunities.”

Still, Durham tech startup founder Kimberly Williams Moore believes more can be done to address systemic racism. Earlier this year, she launched Ark Mobile, a social network for pets, along with an app that uses artificial intelligence to aggregate pet resources.

“We would like to be part of the solution and at the table with strategic investment partners who are ready to move beyond writing checks to the large intermediaries and are prepared to do the due diligence to make investments in Black businesses that are non traditional,” she said. “The pet market is very fragmented and we need investments to grow and most importantly to employ talented people. Why is it so hard for Black tech founders to get investors? We are grappling with that daily.”

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