Encyclopedia of African American Business History

By Juliet E. K. Walker | Go to book overview
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MARKETS, PROTECTED, AND BLACK ENTREPRENEURSHIP. Ethnic minority groups sometimes have unique, culturally based consumer demands. Immigrants, for example, often demand ‘‘exotic’’ foods. Such demands can be readily exploited by ethnic entrepreneurs, who have an insider’s knowledge of the distinctive tastes of coethnics. Other entrepreneurs, ignorant of these tastes, are excluded from trading with the group in the relevant fields of commerce. Ethnic entrepreneurs in these fields are thus sheltered from external competition and have what Ivan Light calls a ‘‘protected market.’’ In several areas of commerce, protected markets developed for African American entrepreneurs not only because of the special demands of African American consumers but also because of the refusal of entrepreneurs from other ethnic groups to serve certain needs of African Americans.

African American entrepreneurs have had protected markets in barbering, hairdressing, and beauty culture. One factor in the rise of these markets has been African American entrepreneurs’ insider’s knowledge. Simply put, they are most familiar with the hairstyles and cosmetics demanded by other African Americans. But another factor has been the reluctance of barbers and beauticians from other groups to cater to African Americans. No doubt, this has been due in part to ignorance of the special consumer demands of African Americans. Few white barbers and beauticians know how to properly cut or style the hair of African Americans. Yet the reluctance has also been due to cultural norms regarding the ‘‘appropriate’’ social distance between the races. Many whites still will not serve African Americans in occupations that require close, personal contact.

Undertaking* is another occupation in which African American entrepreneurs

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