STEVENSVILLE — In 2014, in the throes of a divorce and in charge of two kids, Maxine Whitlock, an accountant born in the Caribbean, pleaded with her manager to keep her corporate job. Telling him that she’d work extended hours whenever they needed her, she said she similarly needed the job “to keep my life going.”
“You already know the story,” Whitlock said with a chuckle.
Within 30 days of that conversation, Whitlock, a Navy veteran who’d received the company’s highest honor only a few months earlier, received an exit package
As a woman of color, Whitlock sensed the forces behind her company’s spontaneous, if irrational decision. The event forced a decision out of her: downsize and enterprise.
“Women are some of the biggest small business owners,” Whitlock said. “We find that we can’t get anywhere in our careers, and then it’s just faster for us to go, you know what, I’m just going to do my own thing.”
Quickly, and after a bit of rebranding, Maxes Taxes was born. A full-service tax and accounting firm in Stevensville, Whitlock’s small business has grown into a prosperous resource for other local companies in navigating the minefield of small business bookkeeping.
But Whitlock is only one CEO in Maryland’s comparatively impressive number of minority entrepreneurs. According to a January report on economic diversity from Business.org, Maryland ranked 7th in the United States, with 19.3% of its small businesses owned by minorities.
“We are very pleased that Maryland ranks so high,” said Andrew Griffin, vice president of government affairs at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.
“There is still work to do, but it reinforces that advocacy efforts on behalf of the business community can help foster a supportive climate where minority-owned small businesses thrive.”
Of Maryland’s 604,176 small businesses, 116,369 are owned by minorities, the report details. Those numbers, however, do not translate proportionately to Eastern Shore communities that are predominantly white.
“I have a house in Laurel, Maryland, so I know what it’s like over on that side,” said Derick Daly, Trustee President of Polaris Village Ministries in Easton and the Founder of Building African American Minds, Inc. “But over here, we have just a lack of minority businesses.”
According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2012, 538 of Talbot County’s 5,538 recorded firms were minority owned, while only 216 of Queen Anne’s County’s 4,907 firms were owned by minorities. That’s 9.7% and 4.4% for Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, respectively.
Though the numbers have not been updated officially in almost a decade, in Talbot’s case, they’re still indicative of the county’s economic makeup, according to Cassandra Vanhooser, director of the Talbot County Department of Economic Development and Tourism.
The Business.org report was calculated through the Small Business Association’s 2020 small business profiles, annual portraits of the health and economic activity of local establishments in each American state and territory.
According to those profiles, as of 2018, Talbot, Caroline, Kent, and Queen Anne’s counties were among the highest self-employed counties in Maryland, ranging between 11.1 and 16.9%, though statistics concerning race and gender were not specified.
In terms of national figures, Hawaii, one of the country’s most diverse states, ranked first in the nation, with 39.1% of its small businesses owned by minorities. New Mexico was next with 32.5%, and California, with a nation-leading 1.2 million businesses accounting for 29.3%, was third.
As the report points out, however, the country’s most diverse states do not occupy a single region. States from both coasts, the West, and the South are ranked in the top ten.
“No matter where your state falls on our list...we encourage you to actively find and support minority-owned small businesses in your area,” writes Chloe Goodshore, the author of the report. “Doing so benefits local individuals and businesses, sure, but it also supports the local, state, and national economy – and every boost matters in this post-pandemic world.”