Black History Month: Advancing Equity for Black Entrepreneurs in the Workplace and Beyond

February 14, 2022

For almost all of us there has been a tangible shift in not only how we work, but our relationship with work. The Great Reshuffle has changed how many of us define professionalism – daring to bring previously unseen aspects of our authentic selves to work, including our desire for business ownership.  For many of us in the Black community, entrepreneurship is in our DNA. We grew up seeing our families work multiple jobs while running their own side business to live the lives they felt they wanted to live. 

Today, Black professionals and entrepreneurs have felt they need to contort their lives and careers in order to fit often oppressive and largely outdated workplace norms.  Whether it's the events of the past decades, living through a pandemic or the Great Reshuffle, today’s Black professionals and entrepreneurs are being bold about what they want and are unapologetic about pursuing their passion for entrepreneurship. In fact, the number of African-American business owners in operation surged to almost 1.5 million in August 2021, up 38% from February 2020, according to data from the University of California, Santa Cruz. 

While this trend shows the resilience and courage of Black entrepreneurs, the question that we should be asking is why now? Why are Black professionals leaving their jobs to pursue entrepreneurship?

To better understand what is fueling this trend and to shine a light on the journey and lived experiences of Black entrepreneurs I asked our team to speak to more than 1000 Black entrepreneurs as part of our Black History Month efforts. We asked Black entrepreneurs and business owners what they need to succeed and for those who are navigating entrepreneurship and a 9 to 5, we asked them how companies can create cultures that are supportive of entrepreneurship. We’ll share more data from the study, but this will focus on those entrepreneurs who are still navigating employment and entrepreneurship.

The multi-hyphenate professional: Working a 9-5 while running your own business

Entrepreneurship in the Black community isn’t a new phenomenon. My grandfather was a pastor, an elementary school principal, a landlord and he owned two coin laundry mats. Often Black professionals and entrepreneurs have been ‘multi-hyphenate’ workers out of necessity. A multi-hyphenate person explores the variety of their skill set through multiple professions, projects or side-hustles simultaneously. 

LinkedIn is proudly and intentionally investing in multi-hyphenate Black professionals and entrepreneurs by elevating and amplifying Black business stories on our platform and working with strategic partners to provide grants that help more Black-owned businesses get off the ground and accelerate growth. Additionally, our latest research on the journey of Black entrepreneurs offers insights into their experiences. Here’s just some of what we uncovered. 

  • Finances: 54% of Black entrepreneurs are motivated to grow their business in order to have financial security & independence, and 43% of Black entrepreneurs are motivated to grow their business to help create generational wealth for their families.

  • Stigmas: More than 1 in 3 (37%) Black entrepreneurs with full-time jobs have not told their company that they have their own business. 35% of Black entrepreneurs with full-time jobs feel that they’ve been overlooked for career advancement opportunities because they have an additional business.

  • Career Growth: 1 in 5 Black entrepreneurs started their business because their former job wasn’t invested in their growth and development.

At LinkedIn, we welcome professionals to be the unapologetic version of themselves – whether they take on a side hustle while working a full-time job or leave the corporate workforce altogether to start their business venture. 

  • Black Entrepreneurs LinkedIn

Helping dismantle obstacles Black entrepreneurs face

During the pandemic, Black business owners have been disproportionately impacted by not only the economic downturn, but existing environmental, financial and emotional setbacks. Research shows that 58 percent of Black-owned businesses were at risk of financial distress before the pandemic, compared with about 27 percent of white-owned companies. With Black businesses facing economic, market, sociocultural, and institutional barriers, the professionals at the helm are jumping over systemic hurdles to create generational wealth. But what are the core challenges for Black professionals who are becoming entrepreneurs or taking on a side hustle? 

  • Connection & Networks: 

    • Nearly 1 in 4 Black entrepreneurs believe the top challenge they face as a business owner is lack of mentorship and limited networks

    • 58% of Black business owners believe they would be more successful if they had a stronger network

  • Training & Education:

    • Nearly 1 in 3 Black entrepreneurs (31%) find their support network via online communities like LinkedIn

    • 26% of Black business owners turn to online communities like LinkedIn for advice

As leaders, we can intentionally create spaces to help Black professionals and entrepreneurs thrive in and outside the workplace. Every day, our teams are identifying opportunities to connect with and amplify the voices of underrepresented professionals. I definitely feel a responsibility to pay it forward whenever the opportunity arises. Networks and creating community matter–particularly when you’re facing institutional and generational headwinds to your success.  

  • Black Entrepreneurs Full-Time

Fostering encouraging work environments for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship and new business ventures take many forms—exploring an intrapreneurial track within a large organization, expanding a side hustle or entirely venturing out on your own. Our survey showed that nearly 50% of Black entrepreneurs who also have a full-time job feel that remote work has allowed them to pursue their business ventures more freely. Companies who put employee well-being first and allow employees the freedom to be their authentic selves will find themselves successful when it comes to nurturing a supportive work environment. Regularly hosting moments to enable employees to learn or explore new skills prove essential to today's working professional and entrepreneur. Here’s what Black entrepreneurs say they need to feel supported in the workplace:  

  • Career Mobility: Black entrepreneurs would consider staying at their corporate job if they had more transparency in decisions that impact their career (i.e., promotion, pay, performance management) (40%)

  • Equitable Benefits: Black entrepreneurs would consider staying at their corporate job if they had higher salary/bonus (50%), more competitive benefits (i.e., health insurance, tuition reimbursement, 401k) (32%) and more professional development opportunities (29%)

  • Encourage Entrepreneurship: We found that 45% of Black entrepreneurs with full time jobs feel supported by their workplace.

At LinkedIn, we trust each other to do our best work where it works best for us and our teams. This requires that we lean into flexibility as our workforce continues to develop their careers in this new normal. As the world of work continues to shift, our focus is on intentionally addressing equity and inclusion within our workforce, across our customers and for our millions of members. 

To further help elevate, amplify and support Black businesses and entrepreneurs, LinkedIn announced a new, $500,000 grant to support programs and organizations that advance and accelerate Black entrepreneurship. Since 2020, LinkedIn has donated $5 million in funding and services to organizations that support economic and workforce development within the Black community. We’re also launching a Black Entrepreneurs Summit and unlocking LinkedIn Learning courses mapped out below to help educate and propel entrepreneurs forward. Want to participate in the conversation and create excitement and awareness around the journey of the Black entrepreneur? Join us for a month of great content and tag #WelcomeProfessionals on LinkedIn! #BlackHistoryMonth


Continue learning the skills needed to thrive as a Black entrepreneur

Join LinkedIn’s Black Entrepreneur Summit to learn live from experts. One of the best ways to learn is to join your community at a live event. On February 22nd, me and my collegues at LinkedIn are hosting live events with LinkedIn Learning instructors on the LinkedIn platform to equip Black entrepreneurs today. RSVP at one of the links below:

Learn the right skills for entrepreneurs. We're offering LinkedIn Learning courses for free to help you take advantage of the Great Reshuffle. Check out this unlocked content anytime from February 14, 2022 - March 14, 2022.