The Empowerment Experiment: #WomenWednesday Honors Maggie Anderson

As Black History Month comes to a close, we want to reflect on ways we can all become more mindful of supporting minority-owned businesses in our communities. As a result, we’d like to dedicate this week’s #WomenWednesday to Maggie Anderson – businesswoman, activist, author, and the co-founder of The Empowerment Experiment.

Prior to becoming well-known for supporting black-owned business, Anderson was already an accomplished woman with an MBA and JD from the University of Chicago. She had worked as an aide to Congressman John Lewis as well as a strategy executive in the corporate world. And like all the women we highlight in CiTTA‘s #WomenWednesday series, she was also committed to making a difference.

One Woman’s Quest

In her book Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy, Anderson documents her family’s experiences. “The Empowerment Experiment” was a year-long undertaking in which Anderson committed to relying exclusively on Black-owned businesses, professionals and products. As upper-middle class professionals, the Anderson family thought of their experiment as one way to give back and not forget the communities they came from – and to inspire other people in their position to do the same.

During her time executing The Empowerment Experiment, Anderson found it was difficult to find Black-owned businesses in her local area of Oak Park, Illinois.  She and her family had to drive out of their way to find just one Black-owned laundromat and proper grocery store. She also found that Blacks consumers don’t patronize their own ethnic group’s businesses as highly as other ethnic groups do their own.

As Anderson writes, when combined with the obstacles to capital and resources already facing minority-owned businesses, this widens the wealth gap in America.

After the Empowerment Experiment

Anderson’s experiment has garnered much media and scholarly attention and led to the formation of The Empowerment Experiment Foundation.  Anderson also partnered with Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School to see if her findings could be replicated and analyzed at the national level.

Using data including her family’s experiences, their study with Kellogg proved that close to 1 million new American jobs could be created if Black consumers with household incomes of $75,000 or more were to increase their spending in the community from 3% to 10% of their disposable income.

Anderson hasn’t stopped there. In addition to touring and speaking publicly to raise awareness and support black business, she has launched “Maggie’s List,” an online resource for locating black businesses, service providers, and financial institutions.

As a WMBE, we at CiTTA Partnership support work like this that acknowledges and corrects for the inherent disadvantages in the marketplace. With Black History Month coming to a close, we are happy to highlight Maggie Anderson in this week’s #WomenWednesday – and hope you’ll continue supporting black social enterprise all months of the year!