Why Access Is What We Really Need As Black Entrepreneurs


Marketing Access for All

When starting a business, or taking one to the next level, it can be incredibly exciting and overwhelming to create a cohesive brand identity and marketing strategy that not only appeals to your current or target base, but also reaches future customers that are not yet familiar with your services. 

Aside from technology and social media trends changing at light-speed, one of the bigger challenges right in front of us is often overlooked - the lack of access to technology itself in underserved communities. It can be hard to even begin brainstorming a brand identity when you aren’t familiar with design and social media terminology, website prices, and a whole host of other components that come into play when creating an online presence or marketing plan.

A Chicago-based innovator and business owner who is creating solutions to this challenge is Lesley Etherly, Founder and CEO of CNTXTR. CNTXTR is a two-pronged organization that operates as a full-service marketing firm, as well as an education-based social enterprise that teaches creative skills people can then provide as a service to others. In speaking with her, Etherly stated that as consumers we sometimes ‘come across poorly designed websites and immediately judge them and overlook them. The real issue is the lack of knowledge and skills for the person who has to create their own website because of high design costs. This then fails to accurately represent or communicate the excellent ideas and solutions of people in the community, leading to misrepresentation and perpetuated oppression.’

When taking the leap to bridge that digital divide, whether you are in the “do-it-yourself” or “hand over to the professionals” camp, it is important to go in with a few key pieces of foundational knowledge. Prepping yourself - even researching just a little more than you have before - will result in a much more positive experience, both with the DIY approach and the hiring of a designer or creative firm. If you don’t have a website, a great first step is checking to see if the web address you want is available. From there, think through some of the items below.


  1. Make a list of brand logos and ads that you like and start to think about why. Is it their color? Shape? Texture? Overall tone?

  2. Taglines are gold. Dig deep and distill your ‘value proposition’ (what you do and why you are unique) into something concise, engaging and memorable.

  3. Know your strengths and your blind spots. Do an internet search for brands even remotely similar to yours to get a feel for how they look and speak to their audience.

  4. Start somewhere and start simple. Check out a variety of free or inexpensive apps such as Canva and Easil for designing social media graphics. Additionally, sites like UpWork and Fiverr are great for finding a freelance designer whose portfolio aligns with your desired look, at an hourly or base rate that fits your budget. 

A Forbes article from August 2018 notes that “64 percent of consumers make a purchase after viewing a branded social video.” This could be as simple as a product demo on your Instagram story or talking directly to your followers about something new you are introducing. Forbes also states that “consistent brand presentation across all platforms increases revenue by up to 23 percent.” Now is a great time to re-group, re-energize and roll out a fresh marketing presence that will get your business off the ground or leveled-up for continued success.



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