Maxine Whitlock of Maxes Taxes

Maxine Whitlock, a Navy veteran born in the Caribbean, founded Maxes Taxes in Stevensville shortly after an unexpected termination in 2015.

STEVENSVILLE — In 2014, in the throes of a divorce and caring for two kids, Maxine Whitlock, an accountant from the Caribbean, pleaded with her manager to keep her job. She was willing to work extra hours whenever they needed in order to keep her life going.

“You already know the story,” Whitlock said with a chuckle.

Within 30 days of that conversation, the navy veteran who’d received the company’s highest honor only a few months earlier, received a severance package.

As a woman of color, Whitlock sensed the forces behind her company’s spontaneous decision. The event forced a decision: 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 say, you know what? I’m just going to do my own thing.”

She moved quickly and rebranded herself, calling how business Maxes Taxes, a full-service tax and accounting firm in Stevensville. Since that time Whitlock’s small business has grown into a prosperous resource for other local companies in navigating the minefield of small business bookkeeping.

Whitlock is only one CEO in Maryland’s 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 percent 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 which are predominantly white.

“I have a house in Laurel, so I know what it’s like over on that side. But over here, we have just a lack of minority businesses,” said Derick Daly, Trustee President of Polaris Village Ministries in Easton, and the Founder of Building African American Minds, Inc.

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 percent and 4.4 percent for Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties, respectively.

Though the numbers have not been updated in almost a decade, in Talbot counties case, they’re still indicative of the county’s economic makeup according to 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 percent, 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 percent of its small businesses owned by minorities. New Mexico was second with 32.5 percent, and California ranked number one with 1.2 million businesses, accounting for 29.3 percent, was third.

As the report showed 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, author of the report. “Doing so benefits local individuals and businesses, but it also supports the local, state, and national economy – and every boost matters in this post-pandemic world.”

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