The population of Memphis, Tennessee is 63% black. Over half of the local businesses are black-owned; if you’re a black entrepreneur, it regularly tops the list of best places to start a businesses. But a 2012 study found that black-owned businesses take in less than 1% of all the money spent in the city. Women-owned businesses–particularly those owned by women of color–also struggle.
Part of the issue, says Joann Massey, a businesses consultant who now heads up the Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance, is how Memphis spends its money. Cities contract with vendors for everything from paper and pencils to construction work and technology services. In Memphis, as in most cities, those vendors are typically run by white men.