Despite societal barriers and a global pandemic, Black entrepreneurship is significantly rising in North Carolina. According to research from the University of California, Santa Cruz, Black-owned businesses grew 38% between February 2020 and August 2021. Studies show Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh are among the top cities in the U.S. where Black businesses thrive.

Ryan Burkett and Alex Moore are senior partners of Stratagon, a successfully integrated marketing firm based out of Charlotte and High Point. They share serval tips to help entrepreneurs enter the business world.

Focus on people, plan to get your business off the ground

Learn about the business before jumping in

Knowing where you’re going is everything, but figuring that out takes careful thought. Be assertive in planning your business steps. Research your business, target audiences and know your competitors’ offerings.

Get a minority-owned certification

Minority-owned business certification offers entrepreneurs of color opportunities for networking, training and even the ability to compete for government contracts.

Apply for grants and loans

These financing options are for anyone starting a business. Historically minority founders have struggled to secure business loans due to credit inequality and discrimination, but affordable financing options remain.

Diversify your team

When starting a business, it’s best to surround yourself with hard-working, dedicated, diverse employees from all different ideologies, goals and values on diversity and inclusion.

Write out a business plan (Plan properly)

Once your business idea is solidified, the second step is to iron out the details and write them all down. Composing a business plan is valuable for planning your business and crucial for a startup.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help (Failure is not a destination)

Unexpected issues and obstacles can quickly pop up, especially when starting a new business. Addressing these problems and opportunities is critical for long-term stability and prosperity. As a small business owner, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek out help; if you fail, it’s ok. Don’t give up; get back up and try again.

“If you think you have found yourself in a place you have failed, just make sure you get up fast,” Moore said. “Find your passion, find purpose and drive toward it.”

Marketers, best friends model diversity in business

Burkett and Moore are best friends who met in an undergrad MBA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The firm they created provides services such as brand strategy, website design, digital advertising, marketing technology, etc.

“Behind closed doors, we are a people-centric organization that wants to deliver important impact to our communities, customers and ultimately to our colleagues,” Burkett said. “We want people to feel as though they are enriched by being part of not just this organization but this community we operate in.”

Burkett says it’s essential for the people in the community to have their voices heard and get opportunities. He said Stratagon staff reflect that diversity.

“It’s as important to me that we serve as a pool of representation for our community,” he said.

Burkett and Moore were already working in successful corporate jobs when they decided to leap and start their own business. Their stepping stone came when they secured a contract with a women-owned business and have thrived ever since.

Since opening in 2005, Stratagon has been named to the Inc 5000 list, Outstanding Diversity in a Private Organization by the Triad Business Journal, and recently recognized as one of 2023 CBJ’s Most Admired CEOs

“This year, within the Charlotte area for 11th largest Black-owned business, highest earning digital marketing list, and we have team members who were on the 40 under 40 list,” Burkett said.

The Triad Business Journal recently recognized the team with the Diversity Business Award.

According to the 2020 Annual Business Survey released by the Census Bureau, North Carolina has just more than 1,000 advertising, public relations or related services firms. One-third of them are women-owned. Only 3.8% are minority-owned.

The industry employs more than 11,000 people across the state. Most employees are white men, according to the data.