KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — August marks National Black Business Month. It's a time for Black businesses and Black entrepreneurs to be recognized and celebrated for their successes, milestones and historical progress.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Black business owners account for about 10% of U.S. businesses and about 30% of all minority-owned businesses.
Broker Nikitia Thompson of Realty Executives said she sees a lack of representation in her business, and in many others.
"How I even started and decided to go into business ... I was sitting around and talking to some friends and I said, 'You know, there is not a Black-owned real estate company. Somebody needs to do that,'" Thompson said.
She decided to make that change, stepping into the real estate business.
"I believe diversity is important," Thompson said. "I think equity is important."
Some owners said it's vital to recognize Black-owned businesses all year long.
"It not only supports the local economy, but it's really good for the Knoxville community as a whole," said Knox Upholstery owner Rachel Fletcher.
She is another successful Black business owner in Knoxville.
"I like to basically just pull off all the fabric, go down to the frame rebuild it up from scratch, and dress it up in new fabric," Fletcher said.
Just like her, Angela Banks has her own passion through her business Angela B Elegant Creations.
She said it's important to support all locally-owned businesses.
"Every month should be supporting all businesses," Banks said. "Not only Black-owned, every small business because together we could do a lot. Divided we fall."
Thompson has her own billboard in East Knoxville serving as a reminder that Black men and women are needed in all types of jobs, and that they can aspire to own their own businesses too.
"It's the best place to put where Austin-East students and Vine students walk back and forth, so they can see one day they can own their own business," Thompson said.
The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce estimates there are at least 500 Black-owned businesses here.
August has been recognized as National Black Business Month since 2004.