“The most important thing about business is promotion,” said Valerie Samuel, business specialist and loan officer for the Harlem Business Alliance (HBA), just one of the major points she made at a recent monthly “Guide to Business Hustling Workshop” the HBA holds at its Small Business Support Center (Malcolm X Boulevard and West 125th Street).
The free workshops, held twice a month, assist Black businesses in the community and promote entrepreneurship. The workshops help the HBA reach a broad range of audiences and better serve the community.
The HBA, a nonprofit organization established in 1980, offers other events focusing on topics such as financial literacy, general legal advice, business development, and marketing on social media.
The HBA is not just a place of business support, but a place for creative services for beginning business owners to build their pre-ventures. Services include a content studio for podcasts and photo shoots; private conference rooms; and basic copy, fax, and scan services.
A recent creative workshop was filled with female business owners in Harlem aiming to gain insights and 1:1 support for building their business ventures. The workshop detailed digital marketing and promotional strategies.
“I want to learn how to build my business on my social media,” said Natasha Burrell of Hula Hoop Fit 366. Her business is centered on transforming the classic hula hoop into a fun fitness program that can be done at home. “I incorporate fitness videos on my Instagram, but I want to get more professional in promoting my product.”
This is when Samuel brought on the lean business model canvas, a start-up plan that can help businesses like Hula Hoop Fit 366 create a professional business plan to grow their companies and gain investors. During the workshop, Samuel also mentioned the business planning app Centro, which takes a fun, creative approach to writing a business plan. “This app is a useful tool in writing a business in today’s digital market,” said Samuel.
“This [workshop] is something that can help with growing my business,” Yvonne Jewnell of Harlem Fashion Week told the AmNews. Jewnell came to the workshop to learn about the services of the HBA and how to use the creative workspace as she prepared for Harlem Fashion Week.
Besides social media marketing, the workshop also covered the financial services the organization can provide. “That’s something I like to learn,” said Lashon Ruth Kempson of Harlem Quality Tees, an independent T-shirt printing company in Harlem.
“Supplies for a business are expensive, down to the cost of T-shirts,” said Kempson. Samuel introduced the service of CDFI microloans, community-based loans with the mission of promoting economic development in urban areas.
“We hope to have applications for our microloan fund open back up in late 2024,” said Abby Clarence, the HBA’s director of operations. “We often partner with organizations in Harlem and throughout NYC to ensure participants get classes from experts in their fields.”
The HBA has a partnership with Verizon for its Small Business Digital Ready Grant that has opened a new round of grant funding of $10,000 to give small businesses the tools to thrive in today’s digital economy. The grant application includes completion of the two of 40 available online courses. The deadline for the grant is December 20, 2023. More details can be found at the Verizon Grant Information Page.
“I want to use these resources to build my blog,” said Duicemaria Caedazo, a blogger and freelance journalist who was looking for ways to fund her business idea. “I came in today just to find a way to get started.”
The workshop ended with a tour of the bright-colored creative space that showcases merchandise for Black-owned businesses in Harlem.
According to Ayesha Delk, program assistant with HBA, “The main goal [is that] the workshop participants should leave with actionable takeaways, new connections, and invaluable information that help them start, scale, and sustain their businesses.” The HBA will continue holding these workshops until the end of the year, on November 30, December 14, and December 28. A, all from 10 a.m.–12 noon. To register for these workshops, go to Eventbrite or call the Harlem Business Alliance at 212-665-7010.