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3 entrepreneurs on the impact of being featured in Jay-Z's Black business ads

Jay Z
Frederick M. Brown | Getty Images

As the push for supporting Black-owned businesses continues to grow, rapper and business mogul Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter is doing his part to ensure that Black entrepreneurs get the exposure and advertisement that's needed.  

Earlier this month, Carter and his entertainment agency Roc Nation partnered with the National Newspaper Publishers Association to buy full-page ads spotlighting local Black-owned businesses in 35 Black-owned newspapers across the country, the agency tells CNBC Make It. With the local newspapers selecting the featured entrepreneurs, dozens of Black-owned businesses were highlighted in the Michigan Chronicle, The Washington Informer, The Dallas Examiner, the Houston Forward Times, the Arizona Informant and several other publications between July 1 and July 7.

At the top of each spread, Carter and his team stated, "This ad has been created to bring attention to Black-owned businesses. Historically, Black people have been murdered for owning, thriving and being successful. To that, we say never again. Roc Nation is committed to supporting Black entrepreneurs, their dreams, and companies. We challenge everyone to do the same."

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, small businesses across the country have taken a hard hit due to the ongoing closure of restaurants, event spaces and other service sector businesses. When looking at Black entrepreneurship specifically, a recent report finds that the number of working Black business owners has fallen by 40% since the start of the pandemic, a dip that is far steeper than other racial groups. 

CNBC Make It caught up with three entrepreneurs whose businesses were featured in Jay-Z's ads to get insight on how they've been affected by the pandemic and how exposure from the business mogul has impacted their company. 

1. Ian Callender, co-owner of Sandlot Southwest

Sandlot Southwest co-founder Ian Callender with his business partner Kevin Hallums.
Photo credit: Ian Callender

Business: Sandlot Southwest is a cultural arts event space in Washington, DC.

Effect of the pandemic: "Unfortunately, our business is one that has been impacted exponentially," Callender says. "Our business has been closed since March and we are unable to open due to the type of phase that the city is in. We're also relocating the site that Sandlot Southwest has been in for the past year because the developers are planning to demolish the building."

Callendar adds that the "silver lining" in this situation is that he and his business partner, Kevin Hallums, have a good relationship with the developer and will soon be moving to a newer space owned by the same developer in the southeast region of Washington, D.C. "I think they understand what we brought to the table as far as the type of experiences that led to community engagement," Callendar says in regards to his event space hosting private events, day parties and other social gatherings for the community. 

Impact of Jay-Z's ad: "The exposure has brought a lot more traffic to our website, and a lot more people are following us on Instagram and Facebook," says Callender, whose business was featured in an ad in The Washington Informer. "We always welcome new folks getting introduced to our brand."

Moving forward, Callender says he hopes that Jay-Z's Black business ads will help more entrepreneurs receive the capital they need to stay afloat during this time.

"I think in the Black community we always have issues with access to capital, especially when you look at it from a systemic standpoint with real estate and mortgage and loans," he  says. "We're always at a disadvantage. So to be able to see a list of Black-owned businesses, where you know most of them have probably created their experiences from the ground up without any support, is big. And I can only imagine how amplified those businesses and voices could be if there was that direct access to capital through the Roc Nation enterprise."

2. Kim Roxie, founder of Lamik Beauty

Lamik Beauty owner Kim Roxie.
Photo credit: Kim Roxie

Business: Lamik Beauty is a natural and organic cosmetics company based in Houston, Texas. 

Effect of the pandemic: From 2004 to 2018, Roxie owned a brick-and-mortar location for her company Lamik Beauty. In 2018, she closed her brick-and-mortar store and pivoted to an e-commerce shop, which she officially launched in 2019.

Calling her e-commerce shop "Lamik Beauty 2.0," the Houston-based entrepreneur said before the pandemic she would still host pop-up events and community gatherings to bring women together and promote her business. She had plans to promote her company further at South by Southwest in March of this year, but due to the coronavirus pandemic the event has been canceled until further notice. "I'm happy we launched when we did because our e-commerce business is what's being there for the customer right now," she says. "The beauty industry is not like usual anymore and I'm so happy that I pivoted when I did so that I could be ready for this time right now."

Impact of Jay-Z's ad: "For me, it was like I'm visible," says Roxie, whose business was featured in an ad in the Houston Forward Times. "For me, that visibility is huge because everybody knows that when you're underfunded most of the time your competitors are beating you at advertising and marketing. So for me, having that ad was just like, 'Wow' because I can only imagine how huge of a check it takes for advertising costs and marketing costs."

Roxie adds that the ad also felt like a huge endorsement from Jay-Z and his team as "a business that you should see." With the newspaper spread running up until Black Out Day on July 7—a day where community leaders called on consumers to only shop Black—Roxie said her company has seen a roughly 30% increase in sales since the ad was released. 

"We got visibility from people that maybe we wouldn't have gotten before," she said. "So [the ad] was like strategically timed." 

3. Tremaine Jasper, founder of PhxSoul.com

Tremaine Jasper, founder of PhxSoul.com.
Photo credit: Tremaine Jasper

Business: PhxSoul.com is a website that spotlights black-owned businesses, cultural events and news in the Phoenix, Arizona area. 

Effect of the pandemic: "It's been a slow year obviously because of Covid-19," says Jasper, while explaining that there has been very low demand for ads on his site because of the pandemic.

While there is a lot of uncertainty about when local events will take place again or when local businesses will re-open under normal operations, Jasper says he plans to hold on to his site for as long as he can as its been a great "information resource" for Black residents and visitors in the Phoenix area. 

"I launched the site in 2006 after I started noticing a lot of Black people were moving to the area from the East coast and the Midwest," says Jasper who is a Phoenix native. "The Black community is relatively small in the Phoenix area so I launched the website in response to a lot of requests from people that were moving here and didn't know about entertainment, Black-owned businesses, or just where to find Black community events."

Impact of Jay-Z's ad: Since his company's feature in Jay-Z's ad in the Arizona Informant, Jasper says advertisement inquiries have gone up and he's received more engagement and followers on social media. 

"I'm truly honored," says Jasper, who was given a heads up by his friends at the newspaper that he would be featured. "I'm a big fan of Jay-Z and Roc Nation and I feel honored that the Arizona Informant suggested that I be part of the list."

CNBC Make It is NOW STREAMING on Peacock. Find our original programming in the Channels section.

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