WACO, TX — August is National Black Business Month, a month recognizing black-owned business owners around the country.
Black-owned businesses, like many others, struggled in the face of the pandemic. But in Central Texas, this past year has also been a chance for black-owned businesses to find support from each other and their communities.
At the head of East Waco's Tru Jamaica kitchen, Aniceto Charles, Jr. is one of many Black business owners in Central Texas.
"Small businesses are the backbone of the United States, and then when you look into communities, they provide character for their communities," he said.
Khandiese Cooper is another Black entrepreneur with her own photography business in Killeen. She's also the membership chair of the Innovation Black Chamber of Commerce.
"When you're supporting black businesses, you're supporting those black families, you're supporting a household, you're supporting the mother, the parents working multiple jobs," Cooper said.
Black-owned businesses have been affected by COVID-19 in different ways. Some have faced hardships.
"We've had times where we've had to limit the amount of hours for our staff," Charles said.
Many have also found new opportunities through the course of the pandemic.
"The access to information and the technology has given Black communities or minority communities the information now that was not maybe accessible to our parents' generation," Cooper said.
A Facebook group started last summer, dedicated to black-owned businesses in Waco, now has nearly eight thousand members.
Shakayla Vaughn created that group with her sister after seeing so many struggles in the COVID-19 economy.
"It was during COVID, so a lot of people that were losing customers, but after we made the page, they were like, 'I gained more customers than I had before COVID,'" Vaughn said.
Something that both Cooper and Charles both emphasized is that supporting Black-owned businesses is not about excluding other businesses.
"Take the time to ask questions. Don't assume that anything that states those five letters means that we're against anything," Cooper said.
Instead, it's about learning more about your own community.
"I think that some people need to see that there is quality in Black-owned businesses and if you don't go and support them, you'll never know," Charles said.
Cooper said she encourages those interested in starting their own business to join an organization like the Innovation Black Chamber of Commerce.