Even though 20 percent of Black Americans start businesses, only 4 percent of these businesses survive the start-up stage. In episode ten of the Future of America podcast, McKinsey’s Monica Toriello joins senior partner Tiffany Burns and associate partner Tyler Harris to discuss the importance of Black entrepreneurs to the long-term health of the US economy, the challenging landscape that they face today, and the launch of McKinsey’s Next 1B accelerator to build Black-owned brands and create Black-owned “unicorns.” An edited version of the conversation follows.
Monica Toriello: Welcome to another episode of McKinsey’s Future of America podcast, where we’ll explore how we can build a future that drives sustainable and inclusive growth. Join us in conversation with leaders who are accelerating progress to grow, broaden, and sustain prosperity for more Americans.
I’m your host for today, Monica Toriello. I’m an executive editor based in New York. Today we’re going to be talking about strengthening Black-owned businesses to accelerate inclusive growth. Joining me in this conversation are my colleagues Tiffany Burns and Tyler Harris.
I’ll just say a little bit about each of them before we dive in. Tiffany Burns is a senior partner in our Atlanta office. She works with consumer and retail companies on large-scale transformation efforts to improve their performance. She also leads what we call “10 actions,” which are McKinsey’s efforts to fight racism and achieve greater racial equity for Black Americans. Tiffany, thanks for joining us today.
Tiffany Burns: Right. Thank you.
Monica Toriello: And Tyler Harris is an associate partner in our Washington, DC, office. Like Tiffany, she focuses on the retail industry. Tyler has extensive expertise in retail operations, next-generation store technologies, and fine jewelry. And she is deeply involved in McKinsey’s work to advance Black-owned companies and brands. Tyler, glad to have you with us.
Tyler Harris: Thanks, Monica. It’s nice to be here.
Monica Toriello: So I’ve told our listeners a little bit about you both. But maybe you can tell us a little bit more about what you do day-to-day and your journey? What led you here? How is it that in mid-2022 you are on a McKinsey podcast talking about the future of America as it relates to Black-owned businesses? Tiffany, let’s start with you.
Tiffany Burns: Great. Thank you, Monica. So, I have, I’d say for the entirety of my time at the firm, largely focused on businesses in the consumer and retail space and have gone through all the functional dimensions of that: operations, thinking about topics around growth, format strategy, and all the work that that entails.
And one of the things that has been the most exciting is continuing to think about how it’s going to evolve and change. How are our consumer preferences changing? How is the broader economic context impacting how retailers operate? There’s been a lot of change in this space. So I’d say a lot of my experience has been tracking those changes and figuring out how we can best enable clients to respond to them and to emerge from them in a more successful position than when they started.
Tyler Harris: And I have a similar angle, Tiffany, in getting involved in this, coming from a retail perspective. And a lot of the work that I do is around retail of the future and store of the future. And in the past couple of years, [I’ve been] kind of reflecting on a lot of the conversations that we’ve had with clients on the topic.
It’s been a lot about technology and a lot about efficiency. And those topics are really important to the retail of today and the retail of tomorrow. But the topic of who is involved and who is included in the retail of tomorrow wasn’t coming up as much as I really thought that it should be.
So we’ve started to see the trends in consumers saying, “Hey, I want products from diverse-owned brands and Black-owned brands.” Being able to help clients get there to meet that consumer need and to write a new future that goes beyond technology and beyond processes was really what got me energized. And I’m also a builder. I love to build and create new things and we’ll talk a little bit about what we are building and creating. That always gets me excited, too.
Monica Toriello: Great. We’re looking forward to hearing your insights on this tremendously important topic. And McKinsey, certainly over the past few years, has published quite a bit on the racial wealth gap and Black economic mobility and Black-owned businesses.
And one clear message is that the success of Black-owned businesses won’t just be good for those Black business owners, but good for the US economy more broadly, and good for society. Say more about that. Why are Black-owned businesses critical to the broader economy and to the future of America?
Tiffany Burns: So, over the last couple of years, Monica, to what you alluded to, we have started to get really deep into the research. Then we stood up a Black economic mobility center, which is really trying to think about the research behind what the economic potential is to greater equality. That is the way I like to think about it. One of those pieces of seminal research was around the Black consumer. And it essentially said that Black consumer spending was around $900 billion in 2019. And then we projected it forward, saying, “OK, what would it look like in 2030?” And the number was around $1.7 trillion.
The growth there is basically faster than [that in] the White counterpart population, largely because we are seeing an increase in education within the Black community, but also because we’re seeing faster population growth. That’s pretty significant.
And that is where a lot of the growth is going to come from. And so that’s why it matters. If you layer on top of that and say, “What’s going on with that spending? And where do things lie today?” that same piece of research highlighted that there was a $300 billion opportunity, a sort of incremental opportunity to getting the right products and services to the Black consumer.
And what we’ve seen historically is that those needs have been unmet and kind of leave a gap and an opportunity that businesses can go after. So, you just step back and say, “Why do we think that the Black consumer opportunity is a big one?” And then in that, we do think that Black businesses can play a part of it.
They won’t be the whole solution, but we definitely think they can play a part of it. And going after a $300 billion opportunity is pretty material. I think the other thing we’re also seeing is if you ask all consumers what they think is important—and this is some of the research that Tyler and I have been involved in around the inclusive consumer—50 percent of consumers will say, “We think it’s really important that retailers should be supporting Black businesses. And we would like to see those products on the shelf because we think it’s a source of innovation and a newness and uniqueness.”
So we’re also seeing the broader consumer say, “This matters. We’d like to see it.” And it will drive purchasing behavior, etcetera. So we think Black-owned businesses are critical for both of those things: to meet the unmet needs that we see today in the Black consumer but also more broadly for all consumers.
Tyler Harris: To build on what Tiffany was saying, for the consumers of today that are being served by your retailer of today, it’s about keeping them, because their preferences have actually changed. And for a while we wondered if the consumer was actually going to vote with their wallets for Black-owned brands or for diverse brands.
And the data is proving out that, yes, they do. So serving their needs is about stabilizing your business as it is today. The Black consumer that Tiffany just described is a remarkable growth engine that folks have not yet tapped into in the way that we think they could and should, first, for their business health and retailer business growth, but also just for serving the consumers that exist in our US population and making sure we’ve got equity from the consumer perspective as well.
For a while we wondered if the consumer was actually going to vote with their wallets for Black-owned brands or for diverse brands. And the data is proving out that, yes, they do.
Monica Toriello: Great. And McKinsey also published a couple of industry-specific reports on Black representation in those industries. There’s one on the film and TV industry, for example. And then, Tiffany, you were involved in one that just came out recently on the beauty industry.
And both of those reports identified specific pain points for Black professionals or Black entrepreneurs trying to make it in those industries. And these are pain points that, for the most part, don’t exist for their White counterparts.
Was any of this surprising to you? And as you’ve studied this issue, what struck you the most about the obstacles that Black people face in the business world?
Tiffany Burns: I think we intuitively knew that it was harder. But what the research enabled us to do is really lay out in a structured way what that journey looks like for the Black entrepreneur. And you talked about [how it is harder] in Hollywood but also in the beauty work that we recently launched.
And, basically, when you map out that entire journey from, “I have an idea” to “I’m running a sustainable business,” to your point, there are challenges all along the way. What we were able to see is how much of those challenges are curtailing the funnel to get successful sustainable businesses.
One of the things I found surprising is just how much of it is about relationships and connection and those sorts of things that are a bit more nuanced and harder to put an actual value on. But when you bring them all together, they result in a funnel that is very tight.
And very few businesses are making it to the other end of the funnel. So when we did some interviews, especially on the beauty side, we talked to a couple of dozen beauty founders to really understand, “What was it like? What did you go through?”
And we heard things like, “I had an idea, a great idea, an idea where I knew that this was a gap in the market. We didn’t have anything for this sort of skin type, etcetera. And the first thing I needed to do was go test it with someone and see how I could get access to the right people.”
Then when you look in the beauty houses and some of the places where you would want to go have those conversations, 5 percent of the folks in the executive positions are Black. So, challenge number one was, “Who do you know that you can pick up the phone and call?”
The next challenge became, “Say I can make it past that. And I sort of can go out there, get the data and the information I need, and start to test it with people,” which is what we know entrepreneurs do. That’s how they function. They get an idea, and they continue to make it better as they test it, and share it with more folks, and sharpen the idea.
But you then want to go after an opportunity. And say you want to go after something around skin care, which requires certain formulations and things. And you need to invest in a chemist—a chemist you can invest in and say, “Help me get the formulation.”
If you don’t have the investment—and we see that Black entrepreneurs are significantly underinvested when compared with their peers, even businesses that look very similar—when you look at the [financing] terms that they’ve both gotten, they’re not at all on the same page.
So that just gives you some of the examples. But those anecdotes, which actually get to the numbers at the end of the day, are pervasive. And you have to have so much willpower and tenacity and resilience as a founder to do all of the things entrepreneurs already have to accomplish on top of the added barriers and obstacles that we see Black entrepreneurs face.
Tyler Harris: Tiffany, your point about the journey is a good one because it’s hard to go on that journey as an entrepreneur regardless. It is a hard path and it takes a lot of tenacity. And doing that as a Black founder is even harder, because of that journey that you described and the fact that at every step of the way, Black founders meet more and harder challenges than your average founder.
That’s what makes driving change on this simultaneously so hard but also so rewarding. Because it’s not the type of thing where you can say, “All right. We need to solve it with a capital infusion, or we need to solve it with this.”
You really have to solve it across the entire journey, targeting each of the different pain points, which usually means it’s not just one person or one entity [responsible for] solving it. One person or one entity is not necessarily going to be really good at helping a founder go throughout that entire journey.
So it takes multiple different entities coordinated to kind of get everyone through that funnel. And I think the journey that you described really resonates with me, Tiffany, because it is what makes this challenge so hard and, at the end of the day when we do crack it, so rewarding.
Monica Toriello: Yes, and I’m going to dig into some of the stuff that you’ve just talked about, Tyler. But I’m going to read a short excerpt from a McKinsey article from October 2020 called, “Building supportive ecosystems for Black-owned businesses.”
I quote, “Black Americans have never had an equal ability to reap the benefits of business ownership. While about 15 percent of White Americans hold some business equity, only 5 percent of Black Americans do. And among those with business equity, the average Black American’s business equity is worth about one-third of the average White American’s.”
And the article goes on to say that the median White family’s wealth is more than ten times the wealth of the median Black family’s. So, like I said, this article is from a year and a half, two years ago. Do you think things have changed since then for Black-owned businesses? Or maybe a more precise question is: What do you think has changed since 2020 and what hasn’t?
Tiffany Burns: Look, I think if we’re really balanced and honest to date, if we look back and say, vis-à-vis 2020, where are we today, I think that the business case for doing something different is starting to emerge and starting to land with folks. And people get it. So I think we acknowledge that we have a problem.
I would say the actors and, what Tyler was saying earlier on, all the different types of stakeholders that are going to need to get involved are also sort of saying, “We have a problem.” And I think we’re starting to see people come together and converge and think about solutions.
I would say that we’re in the storming and forming part of it. But we haven’t yet gotten to the other side where we feel like we’ve cracked it, the initiatives are clear, we’re putting points on the board and really know that we are driving equal progress.
And I think where we are now is we cannot take our foot off the gas. There’s a little bit of an acknowledgment of how bad it [the racial disparity] is. It’s been backed up with facts. People are starting to organize and coalesce around doing something about it. But now we actually have to move to action and make sure that we’re continuing to innovate on the solutions.
They really do drive the impact. So, I would say that, realistically, in my mind, that’s where we are, which is good. Look, the first step is knowing you have a problem, and getting committed [about solving] that problem, then getting prepared to do something about it.
Tyler Harris: I agree. I am personally encouraged by a couple of the success stories that we have seen in the past few years. You have seen a couple of Black-founded businesses being quite successful and selling, [such as] Briogeo and Wella. You have some examples there that we can point to and say, “It is possible.”
And there is a path. That path might be hard. And we have to figure out how to get more entrepreneurs down that path. But we are starting to see a couple of more examples that give us the example to celebrate, a kind of light at the end of the tunnel that for earlier-stage founders, which are in the middle of a really hard journey, can look to for promise. But we are far from as many brands as we need to have at scale.
Tiffany Burns: I do agree with that, Tyler. It was a great experience for me. I think it was about a week and a half ago, when I was spending some time with about 15 or so Black founders of different businesses. And it was super energizing in that context because all the founders were talking about their businesses and what’s going on.
And they were sharing ideas in a kind of a community that they built together. And “Black” describes the race of the folks who were in the group. But if you put that aside, these were fantastic businesses with fantastic value propositions—things that consumers need, [things that fill] gaps in today’s market, where I got a lot of energy because I could see a path and then scaling.
So I think that’s exactly right, Tyler. We’re starting to see some wins. And we’re also starting to see a pipeline, a very exciting pipeline, of businesses to come. And if we can support them and create the ecosystem around some of the pain points that we talked about, the sky is the limit in what we should see in terms of real, live impact.
Monica Toriello: And that’s going to be a great segue into our next segment.
So, Tyler, as you were saying, obviously no single company or entity can change things. It’s going to take the public, private, and social sectors all mobilizing and being committed to achieving parity. Let’s talk about the private sector in particular.
Many companies over the past two years have made public statements about what they’re going to do to combat racial injustice. What have you found actually works? What are companies doing that is truly moving the needle on this issue? And I guess on the flip side, are there things that we’ve found just don’t work? They sound like a good idea on paper, but they just don’t make the kind of impact that they’re expected to.
Tyler Harris: The types of things that companies are doing that work really well are getting specific about what they are trying to do and the metric that they are using to be able to measure success against it.
We’ve seen a lot of companies make some great commitments that are specific and that are actionable. But that kind of routine and diligence around following up in a really truthful way and saying, “Did we make the progress we wanted to? And what are we going to change as a result?” is something that I think we can turn up the dials on a bit.
Monica Toriello: That’s exactly what you are trying to do with this program that you’re now going to be talking to us about. You’re both very involved with Next 1B, which is McKinsey’s accelerator program for diverse entrepreneurs. I do not know a thing about it, so I’m excited to hear you talk about it. So maybe just give us the overview: what it’s for, what inspired it, why it’s focused on the things that it’s focused on.
Tiffany Burns: We did not, in the beginning, start out with the intent to stand up this program. We’ve been reactive and thoughtful about what’s the right way to engage and to help as we’ve gone down the path. And one of the things that we learned early on is that we started with an understanding of what the consumer was doing.
We then understood a big commitment, for example, on behalf of retailers to really want to reinvent, in some places, their merchandise and strategies to include a lot more Black brands. So we said, “Great. Consumers want it. Retailers want to see more of this. Now where are the brands? How can we help them capitalize on this moment and this opportunity?”
And as we dive into that—we’ve had so many conversations with different founders, which I have to say have been super inspiring, understanding their line and how they got to where they are.
I think Tyler and I have done our fair amount of shopping, too, and lots of trying things. And it’s been quite great. “Research at work,” I like to call it. But we found that there are a lot of founders, a lot of Black businesses that are smaller, if we think about where the curve is on revenue for a small business.
And [the revenue is under] $1 million—and there are a lot of new folks getting started in that space. So what we said is, “How could we help those founders in this journey when we know they hit a lot of those pain points really early on, going through the journey?”
That was the starting point. And it really came out of conversations, understanding, and trying to figure out with McKinsey and our platform and capability where we could uniquely have more of an impact. And so that was the start of it.
Tyler Harris: It started with that journey in mind that Tiffany just described and recognizing that for founders, support across that journey is really important. And it has ultimately manifested itself in two programs. The first program is one that we call “Founders.”
It’s tailored toward those early-stage entrepreneurs that Tiffany described and really trying to get ahead of a lot of the roadblocks that they faced early on. And then also building community. We talked earlier in the first section about how Black entrepreneurs disproportionately don’t have the access, community, networks, mentorships, all of those things that we know are so critical.
A quarter of Black entrepreneurs will tell us that not having those things is holding them back. So we’re really trying to create that network for them and a support network of other founders to help them through those early stages.
So that’s program one. It’s a 12-week intensive program that we take founders through to learn about some of the roadblocks early and create those networks. And program two is what we call the “Scaler” program, which is for later-stage [entrepreneurs].
And I use “later” in air quotes because they’re still relatively young brands with revenues typically under $50 million. For those companies, we kind of come alongside them and support some of their growth more one-on-one, really diving into what are the different levers that this business could pull for growth, and helping them action some of those levers.
So those two programs together are aimed at, again, that journey. We’re also taking a little bit of our own medicine and realizing we can’t do it alone.
So we are bringing in different folks to collaborate with us along that journey who have expertise that’s actually really helpful for different stages, too. So we’re taking our own medicine of learning and collaborating with others.
Monica Toriello: And who are some of those partners?
Tyler Harris: The partners we are bringing into this are retailers. They’re the ones that are putting these brands on the shelves. And we are bringing in folks in financing—debt equity, financing—because both end up being quite important.
And then [there are] other folks that we’re collaborating with for other very specific areas. We have executive coaches who are coming along and helping folks refine their pitches and their stories. So it’s those types of players that we’re bringing in along the way.
Tiffany Burns: And we’re also trying to pull some of our internal assets and capabilities into the work because we’ve built automated ways to look at product costs and different things like that.
A lot of times [we provide] analytical understanding to the founders because they are in a place in the build-the-business journey where they probably don’t have access to [those kinds of analytical resources]. The last thing I would say is, I think in some ways this experience will be different than your typical McKinsey experience.
And I venture to say that one of the things we found is there is a lot, back to what Tyler was saying, [of thinking about] just how hard it is to be a Black founder. Doing a program that is agnostic of that and without that realization—we felt like it didn’t work.
We listened to a lot of folks when they talked about their day-to-day. So there’s a lot [of thinking] around mindset and what’s your purpose. I say that it’s not your typical McKinsey experience, but it actually is if we think about senior leadership and a lot of the ways that we help top executives think about purpose, clarity, and impact. That is a big part of the curriculum, and we’ve listened to the founders and feel like that is an important part of the journey for them.
Monica Toriello: Say a little bit about the name, Next 1B. What does that mean?
Tyler Harris: Next 1B is all about building and supporting the next generation of $1 billion Black-owned brands. One billion is important because it’s the unicorn status. Our goal is to create as many Black-owned unicorns or support as many Black-owned unicorns as we can.
Because we know, looking back historically, that the numbers of Black-owned unicorns, particularly in consumer and retail, are less than 2 percent if you get down to the very specific number. So our goal is to break that wide open and create the next generation of Black-owned unicorns.
Monica Toriello: So, it’s an ambitious, and like you said, Tyler, super exciting program. Can you tell a story, your favorite example of impact that you’ve had so far? And then also what’s been the toughest part of this? I know all of it is probably pretty tough. But what’s a surprising part of it that was challenging in a way that was unexpected?
Tiffany Burns: A lot of the elements of what we are building into the program around what the path needs to look like—we have tried them in some testing with clients. And about a month ago, I was with one founder talking about and reflecting on a little bit of that experience.
And that business, when we had started helping support the founder, was probably a more than $100 million business, so a little bit bigger than the ones we’re talking about here. And a couple of years later, after kind of executing on a plan that we helped to develop, it exited at very significant multiples of that, to the point that that founder has now created a fund for other Black founders to help build more Black-owned businesses.
So, the exciting thing was that executing the plays against how to grow the business—which is something we know how to do—can have impact when you have great businesses that have great value proposition.
And I think we’ve seen it work, Monica. And we know that it will work. The question is: How do we just get out there and do more of that work with more founders and make sure that we have all the support around it so that we can support them for the long haul? But I think that’s one of the exciting things.
Executing the plays against how to grow the business—which is something we know how to do—can have impact when you have great businesses that have great value proposition.
Tyler Harris: One of the most challenging or hardest things for me in the process of creating this program was sitting across from the founders that we talked to as we were building it and tailoring it to them and hearing them say, pretty repeatedly, “I don’t think I’m worth it,” or “I don’t think I can do it,” or “I I feel like I should be grateful.”
Those types of mindsets have been ingrained in some of these founders while they are on this really hard road. And hearing them tell those stories, and then being able to help them to look at it in a different way, and say, “No, this is not actually about being grateful. You have an incredible product and an incredible brand.” And helping them see the next horizon and the next direction has been the silver lining of all of that. But I think those conversations and hearing the turn-down stories after turn-down stories is really hard.
It’s hard to hear it. It’s even harder, I can only imagine, to have the business that you are trying to build and having those experiences step by step. So, for me, that has been one of the hardest things about it, but I also think, like I said simultaneously, that is what makes this program so rewarding. Because we are specifically aiming a lot of the programming around that and around mindset, how we get the right mindset to grow forward.
Tiffany Burns: Yeah, I think that’s a great point, Tyler. And I think that when you take that and then say: how we get the confidence to be able to tell those founders, “No, no, no. We can see a different future,” is because we’ve also looked at the data showing that when Black founders and businesses get what they need, they outperform.
That’s what we found in the beauty work. So, when we make sure that sort of contact is lateral and the access to the data and the information and the relationships and the investment and all those things are in place, they outperform. And we’ve also talked to some retailers.
And one of the interesting things is they are seeing a lot of pockets of innovation come from Black founders. There’s a lot of excitement. If you think about within the food space, specifically, there’s a lot of innovation around allergy-free foods, vegan food products.
That’s coming from a group of Black founders who are really driving a lot of that, given that there’s a big movement in the Black community around some of those eating habits. So, the good news is that the more that we can point to those examples, the more that we can reinforce that when we can get this right, the outcomes are just outsize and amazing.
I think that it can combat some of what Tyler was alluding to. But unfortunately, the history and the track record basically says, “If you want to be an entrepreneur in general, good luck. Pick the boulder up and carry it up the hill.” But if you want to be an entrepreneur and you look a certain way, and you don’t have access to certain things, pick up six boulders.
When that’s been the context and you’re basically signing up to do the impossible, it’s really hard to do it not carrying the weight of that every single day. But that’s not the best mindset to be in to really be innovative and drive, which is what I think we would want any entrepreneur to be able to do.
Monica Toriello: Each episode of the Future of America podcast wraps up with a rapid-fire Q&A. And in our rapid-fire Q&A, we’re going to be more optimistic. We’re going to end on a more optimistic note. So, Tiffany, I’m going to ask you a question.
And then, Tyler, you’ll answer that same question. And then I’ll ask you the second question, etcetera, OK? First one: Is there a book or an article that you have recently read that gives you excitement about a more sustainable and inclusive future?
Tiffany Burns: So this one is probably not going to be what you want to hear. But given that I live in the world of McKinsey, I’ve enjoyed a lot of the writing that we have published that I’ve not worked on, from Sven Smit, and Tracy Francis, and others, that really do paint a path to sustainable and inclusive growth.
And, basically, the idea in some of those articles is that growth is the vehicle to which you can get greater inclusion because you have equal access to opportunity and progress. And those things allow you to address inequality, to do all those things.
So it’s been really exciting for me to read some of that because it really does show you how, historically, people thought growth, inclusion, and sustainability are at odds. And the thinking that those colleagues have done is, “No, no, no, it really is an ‘and,’ not an ‘or.’”
And I think that’s an empowering thought. Those three things can get us to a better outcome. So that’s been great. That’s my nerdy kind of work reading. And outside of work I have read Viola Davis’s book about her life and experience, which is super inspiring. I like reading about people and their stories because I find that it allows you to think about your own experiences. And you just learn a lot of leadership lessons from individuals.
Tyler Harris: I want to follow up with that. And as I do, I’m laughing to myself. Because, Tiffany, I clearly need to do more reading that is not McKinsey-focused reading. But my answer to that question, Monica, was going to be the latest Black representation and beauty research that Tiffany is one of our fine authors of.
Not a very creative answer. But I do think it is genuinely a really good read. And I like it for a couple reasons. I think it does a really nice job of storytelling with facts and real founder stories and input that gets out of some of our typical McKinsey writing.
So I think it’s a good read for that. I also like the beauty industry book because there’s a lot happening in terms of Black-owned brands there. And the reasons are numerous. But beauty is a place where Black consumers have been pretty consistently underrepresented and not able to find what they need for a very long time.
And as a result, it’s starting to be a place where a lot of Black entrepreneurs are innovating, and innovating products for Black consumers but also for other skin tones and skin types. So it’s a place where you’re starting to see a busting of the thought that Black-owned brands are just for Black consumers. So, a nerdy answer, but it is genuinely a good read. And I would encourage everyone to check it out.
Monica Toriello: And I will put in another plug for the videos that accompany that article. I thought they were just gorgeous. Anyway, everyone check it out. Next question: What makes you optimistic that we can achieve sustainable and inclusive growth?
Tiffany Burns: I think that we are at a point where we have to grapple with and address and overcome all these things. In our economy in general, we have to have growth. We also have to figure out the sustainability plan. And it has to be inclusive, given the growth in the “other” population in the US is going to be significant and is going to be the majority.
So I think there’s a little bit of “the time is now.” I think there’s broad acknowledgment that we don’t have the luxury of not doing anything, and I think we’re framing the business case. That’s kind of what we know how to do. We’re putting the facts down on paper and making it clear and synthesized for everybody.
But I do think that consumers, business leaders, government leaders, the world, and all those groups are coming to the same conclusion and are engaging with the data and are having the tough conversations. So I feel really good that we are on a path to make a difference.
Like I said earlier, I feel like it’s still early days. And these are very long-term, historic, challenging topics. So will change be overnight? No. But are we laying the groundwork to get there? I think so. Because I think it really is anchored on a strong understanding and then a belief in that we have to do something different.
I think we’re in that belief of needing to do something different, and that will position us to be able to get to something different. So I wake up every day feeling good. I have a two- and a four-year-old. So it makes you think a lot about what their lives are going to be like.
And I’m very optimistic that it’s going to be different. I’m optimistic that they’re going to see people who are leading organizations and starting businesses and creating wealth who look like them, which is awesome. And I’m trying to figure out how I continue to contribute to it. And I feel like lots of folks are doing the same. So it definitely is a positive trajectory.
Tyler Harris: There are two things that make me really optimistic about it. And I’ll take more of a retail-specific lens to it. The first thing is just the consumer. If you really strip it down, retailers exist to serve consumer needs. So, if 50 percent of consumers, both the Black consumer and all other demographics of consumers, are telling us that they want to buy more Black-owned brands, retailers are going to have to serve that need if that’s what they’re saying that they want.
And so to Tiffany’s point of we’re kind of at this point of the inevitable, and now is the time, I do think the consumer really is at the forefront of it, which can drive great change.
And the second thing that makes me optimistic is just all the time that we have spent with some of these entrepreneurs who are creating really incredible product and really sound businesses around that. These conversations with these folks that are starting these businesses are the highlight of what I get to do every day.
So seeing the innovation and what they are building combined with the consumer demand that’s really growing—those are the two things that make me really optimistic. So I am looking forward to seeing more and more on retail shelves.
Monica Toriello: And, finally, what is the one thing our listeners can do today to help promote sustainable and inclusive growth?
Tyler Harris: Mine’s pretty simple. Go support Black-owned brands. If you haven’t bought from a Black-owned brand recently, go search them out and find one. If you need a shopping list, I have many favorites. Start there. That is a very easy way to go support inclusive growth and to support some of these entrepreneurs. Just purchase their products.
Tiffany Burns: Yes, and I think that is the basic right thing. But then, depending on where you operate and which realm you’re in, think about what the implication is for what you can do differently. Because I think as we paint some of pain points, then the mirror is what needs to change and therefore what I can change.
So if you’re in the investing space, that looks really different. If you’re in the education space, that looks really different. We talked about the Black in Hollywood research earlier. But one of the opportunities is: How do we get more people of color by the camera?
There’s a lot of places where folks are saying, “We don’t have enough people.” There’s labor challenges all over. So why don’t we start preparing and training folks who are in lower-wage jobs to do some of these jobs? And I think part of it is in your unique place that you operate and where you have the ability to have impact—what does it look like for you across the dimensions that we’re talking about? And then making a plan to go and do it is what we’d encourage everybody to do.
Monica Toriello: Thank you, Tiffany and Tyler. That was Tiffany Burns, a senior partner in our Atlanta office, and Tyler Harris, an associate partner in our DC office. I’m Monica Toriello. You have been listening to McKinsey’s Future of America podcast series. Thanks for joining us.