Diversity & Inclusion
Delaware / Small businesses

‘Checking the Box’ helped uncover 4,500 more Black-owned Delaware businesses

An advocacy-spurred update to the state’s process for collecting demographic information shows a number 10x higher number than previously identified.

There are more Black businesses in Delaware than you might think. (Pexels/RDNE Stock Project)
In September 2022, after advocacy efforts by the Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce (DEBCC), the State of Delaware began offering businesses the option of reporting demographic information.

Soon after, Technical.ly published a five-part series called “Checking the Box,” underwritten by the DEBCC, aimed at spreading awareness about the newly implemented feature via OneStop.delaware.gov — and why advocates believed it could make a difference in equity in the First State.

Today, we have the first data report showing the numbers since the checkboxes, which allowed business owners to share information about their race/ethnicity, gender, disability and veteran status.

So far, the results are pretty staggering.

Through the most recent census, the DEBCC was able to identify 583 Black-owned businesses in Delaware.

By leveraging the resources available at OneStop.gov, DEBCC identified over 5000 Black-owned businesses.

Through the most recent census, the DEBCC counted 583 Black-owned businesses in Delaware. But by leveraging the resources made possible through the demographics boxes on OneStop.gov — resources that wouldn’t have been possible without the DEBCC’s advocacy — the organization ultimately identified over 5000 Black-owned businesses.

“This invaluable data translates into increased support and resources for these businesses, enabling them to thrive and contribute more meaningfully to our community,” Ayanna Kahn, founder and president of the DEBCC, told Techical.ly in an email.

The numbers

About half (21,950) of the 44,636 applicants chose to check the box. Of those 21,950 applicants:

  • 5,362 were Black or African American
  • 2,922 were Hispanic American
  • 263 were Subcontinent Asian American
  • 1,544 were Asian or Asian-Pacific American
  • 373 were Native American
  • 9,416 were Female Veterans
  • 1,813 were Service Disabled Veteran
  • 526 were Individuals with Disabilities

Why these numbers matter

One of the things the COVID pandemic shed light on was the lack of accounting for people who were being underresourced. When schools had to shift to virtual classes, it quickly became clear that no one knew how many children in the school system lacked a computer at home.

By the same token, Black businesses were being denied vital PPP loans in 2020. It soon became clear that no one knew how many Black-owned businesses even existed in Delaware, let alone the number being denied loans.

“When the pandemic hit, we had [Black business owners] saying they didn’t qualify or got denied for pandemic relief,” Khan told Technically in 2022. “Then, [the response was], ‘We don’t know that’s true because we don’t ask for that information.’”

Another big issue is supplier diversity. While the fight for equity in state contracting has become increasingly more difficult since June 2023, when the US Supreme Court overturned affirmative action and prompted legal attacks on organizations and firms with equity missions, the lack of data could only make things worse.

Procurement set-asides for minority-owned businesses were outlawed in 1989. Instead, the federal government has the 8(a) Business Development Program. This program is race-neutral but meant for “socially disadvantaged” businesses and geographic areas — which often, in effect, mean Black, Indigenous or recent immigrants.

Each state has its own supplier diversity methods, if they have them at all. Nearby Maryland, for example, has a goal — not a quota — of 29% of contracts going to minority- or women-owned businesses.

When businesses identify as being minority-, woman- or veteran-owned, it makes it easier for the states to see how many companies in different industries would fall under these supplier diversity standards, as well as identify gaps where certain demographics are underrepresented.

Next step: simple certification

Certification, a more formal identifier for minority businesses that may be directly tied to opportunities, is set to be simplified on the state level with a new portal to open in the near future.

“We’re thrilled that the data has been released, revealing demographic information for Delaware businesses, paving the way for more tailored support,” said Khan. “We eagerly anticipate the next phases in our inaugural Check the Box campaign, aimed at simplifying the certification processes with a certification portal which the state is currently working on and establishing goals for all state procurement opportunities.”

In the meantime, the DEBCC encourages businesses to register or renew via OneStop.delaware.gov —and to check the box.

“Your participation ensures accurate representation and opens doors to opportunities previously unavailable,” Khan said.

Register via Delaware One Stop

Companies: Delaware Black Chamber of Commerce / State of Delaware
Series: Checking the Box

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