African American entrepreneurial experiences: An analysis of social resources and adaptive strategies

Sharon Nicole Angela Parkinson, Purdue University


Small business ownership among African Americans has been on the rise during the past decade, yet existing sociology of entrepreneurship research has not kept pace with the growth of black owned small businesses. Therefore, this qualitative analysis examined the experiences of African American entrepreneurs in a midwestern metropolitan area and identified the personal resources of entrepreneurs, and the social resources and contextual conditions that enhance or inhibit African American small business development. Interviews were conducted with twenty-two black entrepreneurs who either employed an “ethnic business approach” by gearing products and services specifically to the African American market, or a “global business approach” geared toward a diverse market. Entrepreneurs were asked how they dealt with common business problems that included: (1) acquiring the information needed to establish and maintain their businesses, (2) obtaining financial resources, (3) acquiring business training, (4) recruiting and managing competent workers, (5) managing relations with customers, (6) finding and working with suppliers, (7) dealing with competition, and (8) protecting their political interests. They were also asked to discuss adaptive strategies used to acquire the social resources needed to sustain business enterprises. Findings revealed that racism was the contextual condition that most inhibited African American small business development, and the most challenging business problems were obtaining financing and dealing with competition. Entrepreneurs were, generally, successful in creating adaptive strategies, with the exception of developing strategies for protecting their political interests. This study also contributes a substantive theoretical framework, “The Social Resource Theory of African American Entrepreneurship,” that may be used in future investigations of African American entrepreneurship. ^




Major Professor: Robert Perrucci, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Black Studies|Sociology, Theory and Methods|Business Administration, Management|Economics, Commerce-Business|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies

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