BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – As “Small Business Week” comes to an end, one business owner and local nonprofit organization want to encourage a specific group of entrepreneurs to invest in opportunities that can push the community forward.

The Black Chamber of Commerce was nonexistent in North Baton Rouge for a long time. However, over the last four years, the organization strived to bridge the gap and create meaningful partnerships in the business environment.

“There was no chamber that was active in North Baton Rouge or anywhere that had Black attached to it,” said Aaron Franklin, Chairman and Founder of the Black Chamber of Commerce.

Over the last decade, businesses have encountered much adversity. Rebuilding after natural disasters, a global pandemic, and now the risk of another recession. 

“Life is going to life. Life is going to do what it does,” said Franklin.

Franklin said the Baton Rouge area lost about 55-60% of Black-owned businesses.

“The reason why is because people stopped shopping. The majority of the Black businesses are either insurance or financially related, right? Most of them are just first-time entrepreneurs, right? So you have a couple of them that have retail stores, but how can you pay your bills without having an income,” said Franklin.

Franklin said earning trust and strengthening the relationship between business owners and the community is key.

“We advocate, we’re trying to get people contracts. Like, we’re in the middle of driving connections, driving contracts, partnering with the state, local, so we can get people money,” said Franklin.

The goals are to inspire, educate, and cultivate economic success in the capital region.

“So that is a 501(c)(3), so we can actually receive donations and stuff like that so we can actually push the chamber forward. Because we have to as a community, invest in organizations like that in order to like really make a dent,” said Franklin.

According to Franklin, small businesses are the backbone of any community.

“We see it constantly in every other community. They work together. They move together. They spend together. They invest together, but that’s a level of trust that we as a community must reach,” said Franklin.

Despite the inflation, Franklin is confident that Baton Rouge can bounce back from hardship if we take advantage of the local resources.

“Now, I will say there’s a resurgence of Black businesses that are coming up now. People are opening daily,” said Franklin.

As a business owner, realtor, and founder of the Black Chamber, Franklin is committed to making his hometown better.

He plans to open a bar and winery downtown in the near future.

“People don’t stop drinking. In regards to any type of thing. People are going to drink so create the product that you love the most. Just create it,” said Franklin.

In addition, the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and Foundation hosts events throughout the year, like the Business Expo, to encourage networking with other business owners.

Earlier this week, Governor John Bel Edwards tweeted the link to the Small Business Loan application. You are encouraged to apply if a natural disaster has impacted your business.