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VIEWPOINT: Use of electronic payments expands opportunities for African-American businesses

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By Stephen Gilchrist
S.C. African American Chamber of Commerce
Published Feb. 18, 2016

Black History Month marks a time when the nation honors the significant contributions African Americans have made throughout society. That includes early pioneers, who during our nation’s time of segregation, took it upon themselves to expand opportunities for people of color.

Before serving as a South Carolina state senator, Herbert Fielding ran the largest African-American-owned and operated funeral home in the state. He was active during the Civil Rights Movement and often paid for the bail of civil rights activists, picketers and demonstrators.

Stephen GilchristGilchrist
The continued accomplishments of black business leaders are important in shaping our modern workforce and economy today. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners, the percentage of S.C. businesses that are owned by African Americans grew from 12.2% in 2007 to nearly 17% in 2012. That’s significant growth in just five years.

As their businesses continue to grow, it’s important for African-American business owners to embrace the latest technologies, particularly as we move closer and closer to a cashless economy. According to a study on payment preferences conducted by TSYS, 43% of consumers prefer to pay with a debit card while 35% prefer paying with a credit card. However, in stark contrast to these consumer preferences, the National Federation of Independent Business found that only half of small businesses accept electronic payments.

The economic impact of running a cash-only business is significant considering that here in South Carolina, there are more than 379,000 small businesses, which employ approximately half of the state’s private workforce. Consumers may choose to shop elsewhere if a business does not accept their preferred payment method.

That’s one of the reasons that I became an advisory board member for Master Your Card, a community empowerment program developed to gain insight from and to educate small-business owners as well as financially underserved consumers. Through this program, we’re working to develop strategies, education and technology solutions to meet their needs with the goal of helping them join today’s modern economy.

I’ve seen firsthand how electronic payments help small businesses better compete with larger retailers and service providers. Accepting electronic payments also means no more waiting for checks to clear or transporting cash to the bank. Owners also have access to immediate and accurate accounting, and more detailed record keeping and reconciliation.

But business owners need support in making the transition to electronic payments. Fortunately, financial institutions, payment processors and programs like Master Your Card are working with them to accomplish this goal and also stay ahead as new technologies, such as mobile payments and EMV chip cards, are introduced.

By embracing electronic payment technology, small businesses offer their customers greater convenience, safety and control. With the smart and effective adoption of these tools, African-American business owners can seize the opportunity to continue growing and reaching new markets.

Stephen Gilchrist is president and chairman of the South Carolina African American Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Master Your Card African-American advisory board.

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