Juneteenth: Why It Should Be Observed in Your Small Business


The newest federal holiday is fast approaching, but Juneteenth is still an overlooked or misunderstood day for many Americans. It’s an important day to honor, especially as a small business owner. Let’s dive into why Juneteenth matters and four ways your business can honor and celebrate the holiday.

What Is Juneteenth?

Juneteenth marks the effective end of slavery in the United States. Although slaves were officially free on January 1, 1863, as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves weren’t instantly freed, and word traveled slowly. It wasn’t until 1865 (nearly two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation!) that troops arrived in Texas to ensure all slaves were freed.

Juneteenth, recognized annually on June 19, is the longest-running African American holiday. It became a federal holiday in 2021, the first new holiday in nearly 30 years. Even with its profound significance, only around 40% of U.S. companies provided Juneteenth as a paid holiday last year — up from 9% in 2021.

Why Businesses Should Honor Juneteenth

No matter your business type or location, honoring Juneteenth is important. Doing so cultivates inclusion and diversity and establishes your business as a place that welcomes and celebrates employees and customers of all backgrounds. As a small business owner, you also have the opportunity to set an example for other entrepreneurs in your industry or local area. While you have many other responsibilities and demands on your time, prioritizing inclusivity shows that you care about individuals and your community.

Recognizing Juneteenth creates an inclusive workplace culture and reinforces the date's significance. Observing this holiday also affirms the oppression and inequality that the Black community has faced and allows us the time to reflect on how we can do better in the future. By celebrating Juneteenth, you can honor the past and look toward the future.

How to Observe Juneteenth in Your Business

There are a number of ways you can observe and honor Juneteenth in your business. Here are just a few ideas to get started:

  • Give employees a paid day off to reflect and honor the historical significance. Encourage employees not just to treat the day like a vacation but to reflect, volunteer, learn, and join community events to mark the importance of Juneteenth and contribute to causes that are important to them and marginalized groups. You can even participate in local events, rallies, or celebrations as a company.
  • Create employee resource groups. No matter the size of your business, you can create Employee Resource Groups for employees with similar backgrounds. These voluntary groups create a more inclusive workplace and can be focused on anything from race and ethnicity to sexual orientation, hobbies, interests, gender, and more. ERGs build a sense of community and can serve as a resource for employees to share experiences, learn, and grow together.
  • Address bias and discrimination with employees. Juneteenth is a great time to start a dialogue with employees about prejudice and equality at your company and in society at large. Depending on the needs of your team, you can host group discussions, bring in speakers to discuss unconscious bias, hold small-group sessions for employees to ask questions or share concerns, or open up for individual feedback or questions. The goal should be to be open and find common ground and areas for improvement, not point blame or cause a larger divide.
  • Update your diversity plan and educational resources for employees. Meet with your HR team to discuss your recruiting strategy, including how to bring in a more diverse employee base as your company grows. These plans can also include employee training and educational resources, such as guest speakers, interactive workshops, DEIB webinars, and more. Be sure to get feedback and insights from employees about what they want to learn.

Juneteenth is an excellent opportunity for small business owners to not only reflect and honor a historical day but also look to the future and find new ways to build community and grow. By setting an example for your employees, customers, and other businesses, we can all work together to make the world more welcoming and inclusive.

Disclaimer: Fundbox and its affiliates do not provide tax, legal or accounting advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal, and accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction.

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Tags: Running a BusinessStarting a BusinessHuman Resources