Issa Rae on Leaning In to Support Black Businesses

Image: courtesy of American Express

Though most know her for her work in television and film, Issa Rae is a portfolio entrepreneur who has her hand in many pots. In addition to owning HOORAE media company, which includes her signature properties such as Insecure, A Black Lady Sketch Show, and the forthcoming Rap Sh*t, the California native is also a partner of Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen in Inglewood and co-owner of Sienna Naturals. Amongst the tapestry of strategies that Issa has utilized to grow the business of Sienna Naturals as of late, she recently underwent the process of certifying the haircare brand with the ByBlack business directory —an initiative founded by the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by American Express—and she’s encouraging other Black business owners to do the same.

“Amex has launched a By Black platform that helps Black businesses do more business,” Issa tells EBONY. “It’s a certification program for Black-owned businesses to officially come out as one. There’s basically going to be a directory of accredited Black businesses.”

Unlike some other business directories, which require founders to pay a fee to be included in the directory, ByBlack is free. “It’s super easy. It’s quick. I think a lot of people would assume that they have to pay to be a part of it. But that’s not the case,” explains Issa. “It’s completely free. You answer a few questions and you get the credibility of the accreditation.” In addition to signing up for ByBlack, the serial entrepreneur placed emphasis on the importance of community and the concept that when Black entrepreneurs ban together, we are all better as a result. “The mentality that there can only be one is a myth,” emphasizes Issa. “So many in this generation are saying, ‘No, we can all succeed together.'”

Echoing sentiments similar to those often expressed by fellow actress Gabrielle Union, Issa makes a conscious effort to use her celebrity influence and platform to spotlight other Black-owned businesses—even those who are in her same industry and could technically be considered competitors. Despite owning a coffee shop, she frequently showcases other coffee shops on her television shows. “My advice for Black business owners is to find community and uplift one another,” says Issa. “We’re not the only one in the community. Business is business and it’s competitive—but we don’t have to be competitive in our support.”

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To learn more about ByBlack, click here.

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