By Starlett Quarles
Family, did you know that as a collective, we are actually trillionaires? Not billionaires, but trillionaires! According to a recent Nielsen report, black buying power is more than $1.2 trillion annually. And we only make up 14 percent of the population.
If that’s true, why do so many of our communities look the way they do? Why don’t we see more black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in our communities across the country? Why do we lack anything? What are we spending our trillions on, and to whom are we giving away our economic wealth?
As we all know, sustaining a family legacy and creating opportunities for intergenerational wealth are not traditional topics of conversation around the black family dinner table. So I wanted to talk to entrepreneur and Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee owner, Karim Webb, about what he believes is impacting the power of our economic mobility and our need to begin teaching and exposing our youth to the legacy of entrepreneurship.
SQ: In your opinion, why don’t we talk more about building legacies and creating intergenerational wealth?
KW: As a people, our outcomes are informed by the legacy of our experience in this country and all of the remnants [from] what we’ve experienced. And so I think, by and large, a great percentage of our people are just struggling to keep their heads above water. They’re thinking about self. And legacy building and wealth generation is a luxury for people who are in survival mode. So I think that’s why it’s not a bigger part of the conversation. [Creating] generational wealth is not something that is high on the priority list for a lot of African Americans.
SQ: People often say that wealth is a mindset. What is the paradigm shift we need to recognize that, as a collective, we’re worth more than $1 trillion?
KW: Well, first of all, it’s an entrepreneurial mindset. Because when you’re an entrepreneur, there’s an element of self-determination. So when you own [a business] you’re comfortable with a certain amount of risk, and you’re making all the decisions. You get to choose who you hire if you have a business that employs people. You get to choose where to locate your business. And you’re responsible for creating relationships to be able to sell your products or services. So you exercise this muscle of self-determination.
And when you don’t exercise that muscle, you might be a little oblivious to it; especially if you live in communities where entrepreneurship is not a part of your everyday existence. [Or] you don’t live in communities where there’s people that look like you who own businesses or provide services.
SQ: You were fortunate enough to be raised in a family business. What were you taught about leaving a legacy growing up?
KW: Really I was taught that what was [expected] of me was integrity … doing the right things for the right reason and responsibility. And I think if your principles are aligned with those values, then leaving a legacy is going to be part of it. And legacy is not only wealth. There’s the legacy of morals … values and examples.
So if you are responsible in one area of life, more than likely the practice of being responsible and making those types of decisions will carry over into the way you view your finances.
SQ: You employ a lot of black youth. What do you teach them about the power of entrepreneurship?
KW: What I teach them is that they’re worthy of creating whatever they want to create for themselves. That’s first and foremost. I’m an entry-level employer by and large. And a couple of our locations are in marginalized communities. So the young people [in these communities] oftentimes haven’t experienced the positive modeling that we’ve talked about. What they see on their phones and on social media, or the lives they see people leading, or the choices and experiences their having, just aren’t available to them.
And I think what that can equal in their psyche is that, “All this stuff is for somebody else. It’s really not for me.” When you feel that way, what’s implied is, “God loves them. God doesn’t love me.” And I think what comes after that is, “I’m not worthy.”
So the first thing I think that young people have to get and accept is that they are worthy. And God loves them just as much as He loves anybody else they’ve seen on TV. And that they’re worthy of creating what they want for themselves and their lives.
And as a business person that’s the best thing I could begin to teach somebody, because it’s hard to hold someone accountable for their productivity when they don’t believe that no matter what they do they’re not worthy. But when they start to believe that they are worthy, then there’s a reason to do the right thing and be consistent at doing it because that can lead to something. They believe that what they want … they’re actually worthy of and believe it’s possible [to achieve].
SQ: In your opinion, what’s the black man’s role in creating a legacy for his family and community?
KW: In the United States, black men need to be [better] educated about the environment they’re living in. You can’t compete effectively if you’re ignorant [of] the playing field. You got to understand the game. As a black man, you are playing a different game. And part of the playing field is understanding how the legacy of slavery and white supremacy has impacted your family, and really your existence.
Black men need to begin to try to wrap [their] brains around what does that mean. So that [they] can do [their] best not to be affected by it, because it permeates almost every experience that you’re going to have day in and day out. And being ignorant isn’t going to help you. You need to have a sense of awareness and put it in its proper perspective.
So I think [the black man’s role] is to understand the playing field. Be committed to being prepared … and executing. There’s no excuse for not executing. When opportunities come, you have to compete. And you’ve got to be in a position to win. Do the best. Be the best. Get the best results. Measure your results. Take responsibility for your results. Don’t put the blame on anybody else other than you for what’s in front of you.
And if you’re doing those things, then you’re giving yourself the best chance to get the best outcome over and over again. As black men, we have to realize don’t give our power away. We keep our power by understanding the landscape and making the decision to be excellent day in and day out.
Starlett Quarles is a Gen X advocate, public speaker and host of the internet TV Talk Show, “The Dialogue with Starlett Quarles.” For more, visit www.TheDialogueLA.com.