A racial identity approach to entrepreneurship: the lived experiences of African American and Black entrepreneurs

Susana C. Santos, Eric W. Liguori, Michael H. Morris, Sher Rhonda R. Gibbs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Abstract: We focus on the role of racial identity in the entrepreneurial journey, its antecedents and expected outcomes. Building on entrepreneurial identity and racial identity literatures, we analyze 21 reflective interviews featuring African American and Black entrepreneurs leading successful businesses to develop a racial identity approach to entrepreneurship. Findings uncover that the relevance of racial identity, often perceived as a liability before embarking on entrepreneurial endeavors, triggers entrepreneurial action to escape racial segregation and discrimination. Within the context of the venture, racial identity manifests in two distinct ways: (a) through a value proposition and target market defined by racial centrality and ideology, showing how racial identity may be an asset; and conversely, (b) through racial salience when accessing resources, reflecting racial identity as liability. Creating a venture with a strong racial identity is an essential aspect of its racialized meaningfulness. The entrepreneur aims to provide a racial role model from the African American community to empower future generations and reinforce the perception of racial identity as a valuable asset. Our study challenges the notion of race-neutral entrepreneurship and supports that entrepreneurship is an emancipation mechanism for racial minorities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSmall Business Economics
StateAccepted/In press - 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Economics and Econometrics


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