Local Black-Owned Businesses Celebrate Juneteenth

(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The Juneteenth flag waved at the Colorado Capitol on June 19, commemorating the day Union soldiers marched to Galveston, Texas in 1866 to inform thousands of enslaved people that they were free. This is the third year Juneteenth has been celebrated in Colorado as an official state holiday.

Colorado Springs marked Juneteenth all week, beginning with the Juneteenth festival on Friday, June 14. On June 19, many black-owned businesses celebrated and honored their heritage.

“My favorite part about Juneteenth is serving as a black person, as my shirt says ‘Juneteenth I’m black every day but today I’m blackity’,” said Latoya Taylor, bar manager at Club Tilt & Grill.

In recognition of Juneteenth, Americans celebrate and recognize the invaluable contributions that generations of Black Americans have made in communities, to the economy, and the world.

Rafael Thompson, owner of L Seven Premium Fragrances said he’s proud of how the city has come together this week.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing to recognize all people. You know, I don’t look at color as a color, but I feel like it’s important to recognize everything that we’ve been through, the struggle, and just the, you know, how we’ve overcome all of this,” he added.

One of the many ways people are celebrating Juneteenth is by highlighting local black businesses. Taylor said it’s important to hire diverse people in the community.

“I would say the importance of employing other people in the community is giving them a chance. The ones that didn’t get a chance somewhere else that are trying to work. So, we’re open freely to give anyone a chance,” she said.

From 2002 to 2017, the number of Black-owned businesses increased by 31% nationwide. Despite this encouraging growth, Black business owners continue to face hardships.

“I’ve experienced a lot of challenges. I was operating in the malls and unfortunately, we don’t have as much freedom to just go out there and do what we need to do. So it’s, it’s been rough,” added Thompson.

In 2019, Black-owned business sales totaled $217.3 billion with an annual payroll of $40.5 billion.

“It’s been a blessing for us to be able to just, you know, have loyal customers. But yes, it’s been rough out there just as a whole for sure,” said Thompson.

A 2021 poll ranked Colorado Springs in the top 25 cities for Black economic strength. In 2021, 6.5% of the city’s population identified as African American.

“When you hire people in the community, that’s our very own. It’s people who understand where we’re coming from, and what we’re doing. They have the experience already, so they’re starting all over again, getting somebody that doesn’t even know and understand where we’re coming from,” said Jennifer Smith, the Co-founder of OneBodyEnt Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs supports Black-owned businesses through the Colorado Springs Black Business Network and the Colorado Springs Black Chamber of Commerce, which works to advocate for minority businesses.

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Historic Mpls. Building Reopens As Black-Owned Business Incubator

A historic south Minneapolis building that was set on fire during the unrest after George Floyd’s death has reopened following a $30 million renovation.

Redeveloped as a Black-owned business incubator, the Coliseum will be home to the relocated Du Nord Social Spirits along with a New Orleans-style restaurant, Lagniappe, set to open in late summer or early fall, and several other small businesses.

Du Nord owners Shanelle and Chris Montana purchased the Coliseum building, along with architect Alicia Belton, business consultant Janice Downing, and the community development company Redesign.  

The building, two blocks from the city’s former Third Precinct police station, was heavily damaged by fire and water from the building sprinklers during the 2020 unrest following the murder of George Floyd. It has sat vacant for more than three years.

“This isn’t just a building, this was a part of a major racial reckoning in our community, a call for justice and this building is a part of that story,” Redesign Executive Director Andy Hestness said at a ribbon-cutting on Wednesday.

The ribbon-cutting was held to coincide with the Soul of the Southside Juneteenth festival. 

Since the Coliseum building reopened for tours during the city’s Doors Open event last month, people have been pleasantly surprised by the restoration work, Belton said. The building is filled with artwork and has community meeting and work spaces.

“As part of the healing in the neighborhood, this is a place where people can do life,” she said. “Where you want to come and meet your neighbors to grab a cup of coffee.”

Shanelle Montana said she and her husband, Chris, have lived in New Orleans for the past four years and were inspired to bring a bit of that experience back to Minnesota where they are originally from.

“[New Orleans] brought this warmth and spicy, colorful nature to our lives and we’re hoping to bring a little slice of that here to Minneapolis and to Lake Street,” she said.

Du Nord, the first Black-owned distillery in the country, closed its south Minneapolis cocktail room in 2020 due to the pandemic. The cocktail room stayed closed after it was damaged during the Floyd protests.

Montana said the couple hopes to open the revived Du Nord and Lagniappe in August or September. She said their goal was to create a semi-formal space where the bar will provide more traditional night food such as po’ boys and will incorporate distilled liquors from all over the country.

“I look forward to someone walking through the doors on a cold winter evening, [or] a crisp fall night, and getting this rush of color and spice,” Montana said.

Architect Alicia Belton and investor Janice Downing speak to media and the development process that culminated in the grand opening of the re-developed space on June 19, 2024.

” data-medium-file=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-2962-300×200.jpg” data-large-file=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-2962-1024×683.jpg” src=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-2962-1024×683.jpg” alt >

Architect Alicia Belton and investor Janice Downing speak to media and the development process that culminated in the grand opening of the re-developed space on June 19, 2024. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Taylor Smrikarova, real estate development director and project manager at Redesign, said the restoration is just the beginning and is an example of the equitable development the community deserves following the murder of George Floyd.

The Coliseum will allow Black businesses to own the real estate alongside their businesses and build intergenerational wealth, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said at Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting.

“It has been a right that has largely been denied to our Black community for so many generations,” Frey said. “Right here on East Lake Street, we’re going to make sure that difference is made.”

Council Member Robin Wonsley said the project, spearheaded by Black business owners, helps neighbors see the area redevelop with equity and justice at the center.  

“I thank all of the co-owners for being a beacon of hope in a moment where it feels uncertain of what we’re going to do in this area,” she said.

Funding for the project included a city loan, along with historic tax credits, state and private dollars and federal energy funding.

When the three-story Freeman’s Department Store opened in 1917, it was at the heart of a thriving business district. The building underwent several remodels in subsequent decades and was home to a Denny’s restaurant and a health clinic before it was damaged, then boarded up in 2020.

Owner and tenant Belton said she and Dowling had been looking to purchase a building for many years and were encouraged by Smrikarova, who was a client of Belton’s at the time, to pursue the project. Its space, its history in the neighborhood and its access to nearby light-rail and bus lines were attractive, she said.

“It’s a bit larger than we anticipated, but you walk through the space and you say ‘You know what? This feels right,’” Belton said.

Downing owns CommonSense Consulting@Work, and Belton owns Urban Design Perspectives, an architecture firm. They said they hope to continue to grow their practices and do work in the surrounding area.

A sprikler damaged wall remains as a reminder of the damage the building sustained after unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder.

” data-medium-file=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-3034-300×200.jpg” data-large-file=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-3034-1024×683.jpg” src=”https://sahanjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/TheColiseum-3034-1024×683.jpg” alt >

A sprikler damaged wall remains as a reminder of the damage the building sustained after unrest sparked by George Floyd’s murder. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

As part of the restoration process, some of the history of the building was preserved, including a wall on the second floor that’s a reminder of the fire damage caused during the George Floyd protests in 2020. 

Redesign’s Hestness said during the fires, heat and smoke traveled through the building, and as the sprinklers went off, the smoke mixed with the water creating a drip pattern down the walls across the second floor.

“We wanted to save that and have a remembrance to that time, that protest and also to George Floyd,” he said.

Another aspect that was preserved was the remnants of a staircase down the basement wall to represent the story of being an entrepreneur on Lake Street and having a dedicated basement and commercial hub for the neighborhood.

While the history of the building remains, there is plenty of room for growth with 30 spaces curated for tenants. Downing said they hope to occupy at least 25% of the building this year and reach 85% to 95% occupancy by its fourth year.  

“I really want to work and smile and see other people like me using the building,” Downing said.

The Coliseum building, seen in June 2019 and June 2020.
Source: Google Street View (left), Collin Hausman via Google Street View (right)


Black Owned Businesses Honoring Juneteenth

WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) – Juneteenth is a celebration of freedom, equality, and opportunity. One way that this is acknowledged is through the creativity within black-owned businesses.

Black-owned business owners in Wichita Falls said being a business owner is honoring all those before them.

Black-owned businesses make up 3.5 million businesses in America, but being a black business owner was not always a reality.

Black entrepreneurs explain because of those before them, they are able to follow their dreams.

“God moves through your calling. It is a beautiful thing no matter how much money you make. We are always chasing a dollar, and of course, you want more for yourself, but when you wake up every day and love what you do I can conquer every day.” The owner of Rica Dolls Jerrica Castle explained.

Juneteenth commemorates the day when 250,000 slaves of Texas became the last bastion of slavery.

“If we’re all not free, then no one’s free. I think Juneteenth marks the independence of everyone in this country.” The owner of 1925 Nova Cree Calloway said.

But it wasn’t until 1900 to 1930 that Jim Crow created more segregation, but also an opportunity for entrepreneurship, known as the golden age of black-owned businesses.

During enslavement and segregation, black skin and hair were disfavored.

Today the goal of these business owners is to make sure their clients feel beautiful in the skin they are in.

“Black culture and hair, I don’t care how it’s done up you’re going to feel good and you’re going to feel like you can bust through the walls. It’s very important that I embrace that with my clients. It’s my job to make sure all of my clients leave out of my chair feeling spiritual, mentally, and of course their hair.” Castle said.

“All the products I make are catered to the black experience. It’s for everyone, but it’s definitely catered to the black experience. To kind of help some of those things that we have when it comes to our hair care and our skin care. So, it’s something that’s made for us by us.” Calloway shared.

These owners want to use Juneteenth to encourage the community to follow their dreams no matter their skin color, and to have confidence they will achieve any business venture they may put their mind to.

Copyright 2024 KAUZ. All rights reserved.


New App Helping Black-Owned Businesses Form Community, Reach New Clientele

NEW YORK (WABC) — A new app called Blapp is not only creating a community among Black-owned businesses, but it’s helping them reach new clientele.

In fact, it even provided a boost to a staple in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, that was just targeted by a hateful bias attack.

Frantz Metellus still remembers how it felt to see racial slurs spray-painted across his restaurant.

Eyewitness News was there in March as he looked for answers as to why Rustik Tavern, a prominent restaurant and community fixture for 16 years, could earn the ire of anyone.

“We’re a community amenity, that’s what we consider ourselves, that’s why Rustik was open,” Metellus said.

Just a couple months later, business is back to normal thanks in part to a swift community response and the Blapp app.

“Blapp works, and it’s a platform where regular people can go on and find black-owned businesses,” Metellus said.

Jon Laster is a comedian-turned-app developer who took all the emotional turmoil he felt in 2020 after George Floyd’s murder and transformed that feeling into a way to help others.

“We see these things happen and we go out, we march, we yell, we scream, but those aren’t sustainable changes,” Laster said. “Blapp is helping these businesses by simplifying people’s desire to help.”

And statistics show that desire clearly. From 2022 to 2023, the U.S. Census showed that the total number of Black-owned businesses in America increased by more than 20,000.

Annual receipts rose by $40 billion and they added 100,000 new employees.

“Not only is the demand there, but if you make it easier, imagine what the real potential is, it’s off the charts,” Laster said.

So what’s next for Blapp? Laster says adding more businesses from across the country, increasing funding and growing to promote businesses and services.

With Blapp, businesses often overlooked are getting the chance to draw new eyes one tap at a time.

“The people who come in contact with Blapp say the same thing…’please keep going, it’s working, this is what we need, you’re allowing people to find us in a super swift and easy manner,'” Laster said.

ALSO READ | List: Free events for summer and Juneteenth in NYC

NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Laurie Cumbo speaks on free events on Juneteenth the city this summer.


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At The Lay Out In Brooklyn, Black Joy And Western Fashion Tookover

This ain’t Texas, this is The Layout at Fort Greene Park. On Sunday, June 16 the historic park was filled with joy, cultural expression, and Black economic empowerment as thousands of attendees—many in their best western fits—gathered for The Layout’s fifth annual Juneteenth event. Founded by Emily Anadu, Bri McClain, Brittney Escovedo, Michael Oloyede, and Cyrus Aaron after the murder of George Floyd, the Brooklyn-based community initiative aims to create moments for Black people to reclaim space, time, energy, and most importantly each other, in its mission to center Black joy. 

To kick off the celebratory function, a community floral wall built by attendees placing flowers, paint-by-number style into a mural was a picture backdrop for the action-packed day. There was plenty to do and see as this year’s event featured a Black business marketplace, entertainment, family-friendly activities, residents around the tri-state, and diverse local cuisine with vendors. Families, business owners, and pedestrians enjoyed sounds by Quiana Parks, DJ 9am, DJ King SZN, Olivia Dope, and the BLKID Twins as they danced under the shady trees and mingled over picnic blankets.

For those looking to be more active, community members could participate in the BuyBLK. ByBLK. Pop Up—The Layout’s small, Black-owned business initiative that included a pop-up market featuring over 40 Black-owned businesses—or basketball-related activities run by The Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty. The best part of it all? The Lay Out continued its partnership with The Infatuation to support One Love Community Fridge as they distributed 750 bags of fresh produce to NYCHA residents in Fort Greene.

Activities and sights were abundant, but no New York event would be complete without a crowd of eclectic, fashion-forward attendees stealing the spotlight. Riding boots, protective vests, and cowboy hats at every turn were seen amongst the crowd. Call it the Cowboy Carter effect. Saddle up and follow along as Vogue takes you inside The Layout’s Juneteenth celebration, featuring some of the best rodeo-chic summer styles and more.


T.D. Jakes And Wells Fargo Award $500k To Black-Owned Businesses In Pitch Competition

Ameka Coleman knew she would win the top prize of $200,000. She had prayed for it.

As she woke up on Friday at the Residence Inn in Downtown Dallas, she felt calm. God had prepared her for this moment. She filled the hotel bathroom with steam from the shower and the day’s worship song: “Big,” by Pastor Mike Jr.

“(My God) He’s working (He’s working) A miracle (A miracle) Just for me (Just for me) And it’s gonna be (And it’s gonna be big).”

Coleman styled her hair with the same Strands of Faith products she’d sell the judges on later that afternoon: a lightweight moisturizing cream and a creamy twisting butter.

“This is already mine,” Coleman, 39, said to herself before heading to the pitch competition at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. “This is already mine.”

Ameka Coleman at the Good Soil Forum Seed Pitch Competition, June 14, 2024 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas.(Arcelia Martin)

The seed pitch competition was a part of the Good Soil Forum, a project put on by Dallas megachurch pastor’s T.D. Jakes Enterprises, LLC. The Good Soil group aims to highlight the nation’s, as well as Dallas’, Black business and cultural scene while bringing thousands of people and dollars to North Texas.

The Shark Tank-style pitch contest encourages minority small business owners and entrepreneurs like Coleman to compete for grant prizes.

“I can feel a certain sense of anxiety in the room,” the megachurch leader said as he kicked off the event.

Each contestant had five minutes to sell their company and how they’d use the cash to a panel of judges. The second-place winner would take home a $100,000 grant, third place and the best entry from Dallas each would score a $75,000 grant and the most improved participant would get $50,000.

At the inaugural Good Soil forum in Orlando last year, the total grant pool was $250,000. The conference brought more than 2,500 entrepreneurs, according to T.D. Jakes Enterprises.

This year’s startups ranged from a training hub for basketball and volleyball athletes to a platform that matches employers to certified workforce rental homes.

“This competition is more than just a platform for pitching business ideasc— it’s a catalyst for change and a powerful vehicle for empowering underserved entrepreneurs,” said Michael Phillips, the chief operating officer of T.D. Jakes Enterprises.

Bishop T.D. Jakes, senior pastor at The Potter’s House, is creating a nonprofit foundation to promote education, job training and collaborations with business.(Tom Fox / Staff Photographer)

Coleman’s haircare company specializing in revitalizing textured hair using cruelty-free ingredients was founded in 2018 in Pearl, Mississippi. The idea is whether someone’s hair is kinky, coily, curly, wavy, straight or in locks, their strands are beautiful, she said.

“Can you believe that 80% of Black women feel like they have to switch their hair up from its natural state just to fit into corporate America?” Coleman said during her pitch. “That is totally unacceptable.”

Since starting her company, Cole said she has garnered more than 45,000 customers with a 68% retention rate, boosting the company to a $3.6 million brand. Strands of Faith has an exclusive contract with Premier, a leading group purchasing organization for hospitals across the country.

The additional capital will go toward hiring staff to introduce the product at 50 new hospitals, scale production and invest in purchasing raw ingredients, Coleman said.

“We know that small businesses and entrepreneurs are a vital part of our economic ecosystem and supporting their growth is more critical now more than ever,” said Michael Martino, head of Consumer, Small and Business Banking, Diverse Customer Segments at Wells Fargo.

The bank and the pastor entered a 10-year partnership last yearrevitalize neighborhoods and drive economic opportunity. Wells Fargo said it could give as much as $1 billion in capital and financing to the effort, in addition to grants from the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Dallas-owned QTP Foods scored second place and won the host award for a total of $175,000. Leah Whiten is the owner, head baker and operations and distribution manager for the company selling her grandmother’s pie recipe.

Atlanta-based Fruition Hat Company took home third place with a $75,000 prize, and Good News Fitness, an Upper Marlboro, Md. coaching brand, earned $50,000 as the most improved.

Outside of the contest, Good Soil hosted fireside chats with Black business leaders sharing how they scaled their projects.

One entrepreneur included Charles King. After King graduated from Howard Law School with an interest in becoming a talent agent, he took a job in the mailroom at the global entertainment firm William Morris Agency. He was making $300 a week, with nearly $100,000 in student debt, but was able to build connections and score meetings with agents. Eventually, he became an agent in training and ultimately became the first Black partner at the agency.

Then he left William Morris to start his own film production company, MACRO Studios. Since starting in 2015, the company has made nearly 20 feature films and two T.V. shows and collected fifteen Oscar nominations and three wins. MACRO’s projects include “Judas and The Black Messiah,” “Sorry to Bother You,” and “Fences.”

Co-founders and CEOs of The Fearless Fund Arian Simone, center left, and Ayana Parsons, center right, speak to journalists outside federal court in Miami, on Jan. 31, 2024. A U.S. federal court of appeals panel suspended the venture capital firm’s grant program for Black women business owners, ruling that a conservative group is likely to prevail in its lawsuit claiming that the program is the discriminatory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)(Rebecca Blackwell / ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Atlanta-based Fearless Fund works to grow the share of Black-owned businesses receiving venture capital dollars. Arian Simone, the firm’s CEO, said she knows it’s not easy raising capital as a Black woman.

That’s why her VC shop raised $60 million to invest early-stage dollars in businesses owned by women of color, Simone said. Through Fearless Fund, Simone has been able to cut seven-figure checks for Black women entrepreneurs, a stark step-up from the typical $30,000 fundraise, she said.

The top quarter of companies backed by the fund are earning eight-figure revenues, Simone said.

But her work to back Black entrepreneurship has hit a legal wall. A U.S. federal court of appeals panel suspended the firm’s grant program for Black women entrepreneurs. The court ruled that the grant program likely is discriminatory.

“Now this is crazy, funding Black women is violating a Civil Rights Act?” Simone said Friday.

The suit was brought on last year by a group led by Edward Blum, the conservative activist behind the Supreme Court case that ended affirmative action in college admissions.

Ameka Coleman at the Good Soil Forum Seed Pitch Competition, June 14, 2024 at the AT&T Performing Arts Center in Dallas, Texas.(Arcelia Martin)

The weekend pitch competition was the third largest of its kind and was supported by Dallas’ Small Business Center as an educational platform to build capacity for growth and success, said Joyce Williams, director of the center.

“It’s the first step in a multi-year plan to cultivate a thriving cultural hub for music, entrepreneurship, and innovation in Texas – a space where inspiration meets practical tools to empower business growth and lasting success,” said Phillips of T.D. Jakes Enterprises.

Before leaving Dallas, Strands of Faith’s Coleman attended service at The Potter’s House and stopped by a FedEx to mail home her oversized check to Mississippi. The cost of shipping a $200,000 check a couple of states east? $75, after the mail worker saw what she could do to lower the price.

“I won a big award and I’m still being frugal,” Coleman laughed.

Here’s what to know, where to go for Opal’s Walk on Juneteenth

Opal’s Walk for Freedom starts at 9 a.m. Wednesday, June 19, beginning at the African American Museum of Dallas at 3536 Grand Ave.

Opal Lee gets keys to new home on family’s Fort Worth lot

The Grandmother of Juneteenth – who lost her house on the same lot to a racist mob 85 years ago – smiled as she took the key to the 1,700-square-feet, three-bedroom gray house, paid for by the community.

JPMorgan Chase sued for allegedly retaliating against Plano H-1B worker

A former vice president of product management at JP Morgan Chase & Co. alleged that the financial firm unlawfully retaliated against him after he complained about race and national origin discrimination, according to a federal lawsuit filed Monday.


New $250-Million Federal Fund To Invest In Black, Indigenous And Female Entrepreneurs

Open this photo in gallery:

Benoit Loyer, a partner and broker at the commercial real estate agency Trillion and member of the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj in Quebec, said financing for businesses owned by First Nations, Métis and Inuit people can help advance economic reconciliation.ROGER LEMOYNE�/The Globe and Mail

Business Development Bank of Canada is committing $250-million in financing, training and investment funding for companies led by Black, Indigenous and female entrepreneurs.

The funds are aimed at addressing a lingering gap in support for entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities who face obstacles because of systemic racism and discrimination, BDC said Wednesday. Despite a dip in the total number of entrepreneurs in Canada, the number of Indigenous and Black-led businesses is on the rise.

“It is part of our mission to make sure that all entrepreneurs, and certainly those that are underserved for whatever reason, are getting what they need,” said Sandra Odendahl, BDC’s head of sustainability, diversity and social impact.

“And we still see the need, definitely in the Indigenous and Black community and actually, even among women – who are not a minority. We see that and hear from them that they still face barriers that we think we can help them to overcome.”

BDC is a Crown corporation that provides financing, investment capital and advisory services to small and medium-size enterprises. The bank estimates that over the past decade the number of Black-owned businesses in Canada with employees has grown more than 60 per cent and the same statistic for Indigenous-owned businesses has grown more than 8 per cent.

In 2020, the Canadian Council for Indigenous Business reported that Indigenous people in Canada were creating new companies at nine times the national average. Female entrepreneurs lag behind men in earnings, but the number of women-owned businesses in Canada is also rising annually, reaching 18 per cent of all Canadian businesses in 2023, according to the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.

The bank is creating two $100-million funds to lend and make equity investments to Indigenous and Black-owned businesses. Another $50-million will be set aside for loans and training for entrepreneurs whose companies generate revenues of less than $3-million. The educational aspect is directed at businesses that require help with aspects such as devising their business plans or cash-flow projections.

Farnel Fleurant, founder of employee benefits platform Workind, said the financing is good news for Black entrepreneurs like herself who face difficulty accessing capital or building networks.

“In the business world, people have unconscious bias, and people invest in people that look like them. So, if all the people who invest are a white male of 60 years old, they will invest in only those people,” she said.

Ms. Fleurant said her company is in the midst of commercializing its product and she hopes to benefit from BDC’s new financing in the form of loans or training.

Benoit Loyer, a partner and broker at the commercial real estate agency Trillion and member of the Mi’gmaq community of Listuguj in Quebec, said financing for businesses owned by First Nations, Métis and Inuit people can help advance economic reconciliation by increasing the number of Indigenous people hired and improving their visibility in the corporate world.

He said Trillion is most likely to make use of the program to help increase its market share and create more jobs.

“Right now, we are representing clients in Quebec, but by expanding and getting access to some of the funding, we would definitely be able to reach more people and implant ourselves in the rest of Canada,” Mr. Loyer said.

BDC said the programs are in addition to a $500-million fund it set up two years ago to invest in companies that are majority-owned by women. A new Inclusive Entrepreneurship Team within the bank will be in charge of the initiatives.


Black-Owned Businesses Celebrate Juneteenth In The Valley

The celebration Tuesday night commemorated freedom, equality and opportunity, organizers say.

PHOENIX — Tuesday night was a celebration of Black-owned businesses and their successes in the Valley.

The Arizona Black Chamber invited dozens of entrepreneurs from the community to its Juneteenth Vision Forward celebration.

As much as the event was about honoring Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, the message was also about how these Black-owned businesses can move forward and grow more successful in the future.

The celebration commemorated freedom, equality and opportunity.

 “It is something that I’ve always dreamed of,” said Celeste Talley about creating her own business called Simply Celeste’s Catering in Phoenix.

Talley got her start in 2016 and worked to establish her business and now even caters to professional sports teams in the Valley.

“Eventually grew into doing private chef events and celebrity chef for the likes of the Phoenix Suns and some of the Arizona Cardinals,” said Talley.

Talley endured struggles like any other business during the pandemic but also found issues unique to her.

“I have struggled just being a Black business owner, just not having access to certain information,” said Talley.

Talley said it was difficult to secure a loan to get her business started, an issue those with the Black Chamber say is common and one they want to fix.

That’s why the organization helped create the Impact 2025 program.

The program is designed to help Black and minority-owned business owners secure opportunities for growth, including helping them get bank loans and networking with other business owners.

The chamber’s president and CEO Dr. Velma Trayham said such programs are needed for success.

“We all know that poverty is a state of mind, and when entrepreneurs are given access, access to information, access to capital, access to resources, we can see a lot of economic mobility here in Arizona,” said Trayham

Talley said she wouldn’t be where she is today without the program. 

“Without that program, I wouldn’t be able to know about the opportunity,” said Talley,

The Chamber also announced a new internship program for Black youth. The hope is that internships will get kids interested in becoming entrepreneurs themselves.

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Juneteenth Extravaganza Brings Together Small Business Owners, Successful Pros

Two-day business summit celebrates Columbia’s history of black owned businesses while seeking to help entrepreneurs build for the future

COLUMBIA, S.C. — One group of local business owners couldn’t wait until Juneteenth to celebrate the history of Black-owned businesses in Columbia.

Dozens of local entrepreneurs gathered together Tuesday at 1208 Washington, the historic venue in downtown Columbia, for Juneteenth Extravaganza, a two-day summit where those in attendance were hoping to learn more about how to promote and supercharge their businesses.

The event was also a tie-in to Wednesday’s premiere of a new documentary on what’s known as “Columbia’s Black Wall Street,” a region in downtown Columbia that operated decades ago during segregation and provided business opportunities to Black business owners.

Tuesday’s summit featured successful speakers from the worlds of business, film, television, even health and beauty products, who sought to inspire other business owners to take chances and to not fear failure.

Ayesha Driggers is the Director of Columbia’s Office of Business Opportunities. She said events like these are essential for the community.

“It’s important to the city because as we move forward, we want to make sure that we honor those legacy businesses that are coming forward, but also to make sure that we encourage our creatives, so those that are in the film industry, those artists, those, television actors, we want to make sure they know they also have a place in the history of our city.”

The event also included plenty of networking opportunities, panel interviews and various workshops focused on the essentials of starting and running a business. Topics included business law, the importance of accounting, and how to best incorporate ethics and integrity into a business.

Driggers said her office is available year-round to support Columbia-based businesses, even if they’re just getting started.

“We can help with the planning phase on how to get started on their business. How to create a business plan, and just having that discussion on what free resources are available,” she said.

The Juneteenth Extravaganza summit wraps up Wednesday evening with a red-carpet premiere of ‘Columbia’s Black Wall Street’ at the Nickelodeon theater, followed by a party at the Columbia Museum of Art, featuring a concert by Kenny Lattimore and Susan Carol, among others. The premiere starts at 5:00 p.m.


Delicious Foods By Champaign-Urbana Black-Owned Businesses – SPlog

We celebrate Juneteenth tomorrow, Wednesday, June 19th. Juneteenth is a holiday that centers the accomplishments and contributions of Black Americans. Celebrations should have good food, and those looking for Black excellence in our local food scene will find many, many delicious options.

With more than twenty restaurants, food trucks, shops, and bakeries, this list has delicious foods and drink by Black-owned businesses to enjoy in Champaign-Urbana this Juneteenth — and all year ’round.

Alyssa Buckley

Neil St. Blues restaurant

This Wednesday, June 19th, Neil St. Blues of Downtown Champaign is hosting a Juneteenth Day party with a dinner buffet, a D.J., and drink specials. Neil St. Blues serves flavor-packed Southern food six days a week, but their brunch is exceptional. Learn what makes the Sunday brunch so good in my June Five Things list and in this review of 2022’s Juneteenth brunch. Check out our interview with the restaurant owner, and visit their website for more information.

Alyssa Buckley

Stango Cuisine + Stango Bites food truck

Run by Chef Mubanga Chanda, Champaign’s first and only Zambia restaurant Stango Cuisine has a dine in location in Champaign and a food truck that serves the restaurant’s popular bites all over town. I’m obsessed with Stango’s beignets, but aren’t we all? Stango’s beef handpies are my favorite savory food, but I love so much of the Zambian menu. The saucy, spiced wings are fire. Chicken curry and beef samosas are both great, too. For more about the food truck eats, read Remington’s recent review of the Zambian food, or click to Stango’s site.

Jerk rib tips at Wood N’ Hog; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Wood N’ Hog restaurant

I recently had the jerk tips at Wood N’ Hog and was blown away by the delicious flavor of those tender tips. Here, I also love the pulled pork sandwich (as evidenced here, here, here, here, here, and here). Honestly, everything this Urbana barbecue joint makes tastes good. I like the fried catfish, and I love the fried chicken wings — like, really love them. I also enjoy the fried drumsticks with mix sauce and the pulled chicken sandwich, too. Currently, the restaurant only operates out of their Urbana location as the Champaign location is now home to Stango Cuisine dine-in and for Wood N’ Hog catering. For more info, check out Wood N’ Hog’s website here and Carl’s full restaurant review here.

Mashed potato parfait from Brien’s Bistro truck; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Brien’s Bistro food truck

The food truck by the name of Brien’s Bistro slings fun twists on classic eats. My review of dinner from the truck published yesterday. Spoiler: go for the mashed potato parfait. It’s a crazy delicious take on loaded mashed potatoes with saucy pulled pork, barbecue sauce, and cheese sprinkles over garlicky, from-scratch mashed ‘taters. Check out the Brien’s Bistro’s site here, and follow the silver truck on Facebook.

Alyssa Buckley

Sepelas Restaurant

Sepelas Restaurant offers upscale Congolese cuisine in Urbana. The restaurant opened last year by immigrants of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had always dreamed of opening an African restaurant. I like the restaurant’s grilled chicken and grilled pork, but the steak kabobs and plantains are insanely good. The plantains here are excellent because the chef slices them thin, so there’s lots of crispy, caramelized deliciousness around every bite of warm plantain. Be careful with the pili pili, the African hot sauce, because even a drop is extremely spicy. For more about the food, peep Carl’s full review of the African takeout and Sepelas’ website.

Alyssa Buckley

Sooie Bros Bar-B-Que Joint

Champaign’s Sooie Bros Bar-B-Que serves slow-cooked barbecue ribs, brisket, pork, and burgers plus housemade classic sides. The restaurant first opened in 2022 in a different location before re-opening in 2023 at the spot they are now at the corner of Kirby and Neil. For more about the food, check out Carl’s restaurant review, and follow the barbecue joint on Facebook. No matter what, save room for dessert because Sooie Bros has the most amazing bourbon butter pecan cheesecake.

Alyssa Buckley

Alexander’s Primetime Seasonings & Rubs

This Champaign-Urbana spicemaker sells seasonings and rubs at the Tuesday farmers’ market. I am a fan of Alexander’s Primetime chicken seasoning, but the garlic-herb is so good I bought the giant size. That one has a mix of garlic powder, onion powder, dried cilantro, thyme, basil, and oregano — and it goes great on everything. If you’re not sure what spice to buy, talk to the owner because he’s chatty and knows his seasonings.

Cool Bliss Popped Bliss popcorn; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Cool Bliss Popped Bliss shop

Neil Street shop Cool Bliss Popped Bliss makes amazing fresh popcorn and delicious dipped desserts. Gourmet popcorn flavors include caramel, cheesy bacon, cheesy ranch, cashew crunch, birthday cake, devil’s dust, and more. CBPB also sells tasty sweets like chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate-covered Twinkies. Read Caitlin’s recent review, our pandemic interview with the owner, and see the full menu on Facebook.

Chicago dogs from Come Get This food truck; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Come Get This food truck

Come Get This food truck has a full menu of summer eats. From Chicago hot dogs to a Philly steak to Boo Boo burgers, the food truck serves a satisfying meal. Find the truck at events and parked around Champaign-Urbana. Check out our reviews of the truck’s food here, here, and here. Follow the truck on Facebook for hours and locations.

Rib ribs with beans and coleslaw from Mama Duke’s food truck; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Mama Duke’s food truck

Mama Duke’s sells great barbecue and saucy sandwiches from a food truck with a smoker on the back, but my favorite thing here is Mama Duke’s baked beans. These barbecue beans have ground beef in it, making the side deliciously meaty. Catch the truck occasionally at Riggs and at events around Champaign-Urbana-Savoy. On Juneteenth, the truck will be at Colbert Park from 2 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday. For more about the food, check out my full review of the truck or the truck’s Facebook page.

RiPoppedIt; Photo by Alyssa Buckley


A gourmet popcorn business, RiPoppedIt sells colorful, freshly popped popcorn in lots of yummy flavors. Find RiRi’s popcorn on Saturdays at Urbana’s Market at the Square or pre-order pretty popcorn favors for an event. RiPoppedIt’s most popular flavors are cinnamon roll, banana pudding, and salted caramel pecan, served in varying sizes. If not picked up at the farmers market, flavored popcorn is available for pickup at Hunny Bunny Bakes’ cooperative Neil Street storefront. For more about the artisan popcorn, read our exclusive interview with the owner, and visit RiPoppedIt’s website.

Beer cheese burger by C&C Kitchen food truck; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

C&C Kitchen food truck

Owned and operated by Curtis and Cameshia McGhee, C&C Kitchen food truck offers yummy Southern-style American eats at affordable prices. Sometimes it’s parked at Riggs for dinner, and I love when they have the beer cheese burger topped with beer cheese made from Riggs beer. Carl loves the truck’s rib tips and potato salad. For more about the food, read Jess’ review of C&C’s consistently delicious food, and follow the truck on Facebook.

Niece’s Pieces brownie pan; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Niece’s Pieces Brownies bakery

The home bakery called Niece’s Pieces makes deliciously decadent brownies by the slice or pan. I love the toffee brownie most because those candy pieces are baked in, adding even more sweetness to the dessert. These brownies are addicting! I love the rich, fudgy chocolate texture because it is gooey yet somehow still firm. Buy Niece’s Pieces brownies at the farmers market on Saturday mornings. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Ashar African Market; Photo by Tias Paul

Ashar African Market grocery store

Opened in 2017, Ashar African Market is a small grocer in Urbana off Cunningham Avenue. Fresh produce arrives to the store every Monday. The shelves are stocked with African goods and international products. Find yummy snacks, ingredients for dinner, and edible gifts among the store’s variety. For more about the grocery, check out our interview with the owner.

Best of Africa; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Best of Africa grocery store + Mama’s African Kitchen

Co-owned by Congolese immigrants Memoire Budimbu Mabiza and Lisette Mbaki, Best of Africa‘s new location is now open. In what used to be I Heart Mac & Cheese, Best of Africa grocery store has shelves with all kinds of food: African products, pantry goods, snacks, peanuts, produce, and frozen meat, plus housewares and clothing. I’m awaiting the re-opening of the grocery’s restaurant Mama’s African Kitchen; owners say the restaurant will re-open at the new location soon. Check out a walk-through of the new location here, and visit the store’s website here.

Red velvet bundlet at Nothing Bundt Cakes; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Nothing Bundt Cakes bakery

Opened in 2020, Nothing Bundt Cakes is a dessert shop specializing in bundt cakes of varying sizes and flavors, each with signature stripes of sweet cream cheese frosting. Smile Politely’s resident dessert expert Matt loves the strawberry one. I like them all: red velvet, the vanilla, the chocolate, the pecan praline, and chocolate chocolate chip. For more info, check out the cake shop’s website here.

Beef and potatoes at Les Gourmets Cuisine; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Les Gourmets Cuisine

Inside Urbana’s Broadway Food Hall, Les Gourmets Cuisine is open six days a week with a menu of tasty African cuisine. The food hall vendor’s menu offers poulet mayo, tilapia, fufu, kwanga, fried rice, and more for dine-in and carryout. Learn about this beef steak with a side of potatoes in my full restaurant review of Les Gourmets Cuisine. For additional info, visit the restaurant’s website or Facebook page.

Bulls beef from Garro’s Taste of the City; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Garro’s Taste of the City food truck

Garro’s Taste of the City is a food truck with a menu of Chicago eats that regularly parks at an Urbana Shell gas station. I am obsessed with the red truck’s Italian beef (a lot), but the truck’s gyro fries and crispy wings are awesome, too. Garro’s wings have the same delicious salty, lemon-pepper seasoning as his fries, and I love it. We named Garro’s Taste of the City the BEST new food truck of 2022 because it’s delicious. Catch my full review of the truck’s eats here, and follow the truck on Facebook.

Sugga Shaii’s Sweets; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Sugga Shaii’s Sweets

Anybody with a sweet tooth probably already knows about Sugga Shaii’s Sweets. Her dessert food truck comes to the Saturday market with yummy treats and sweets. Jess loves the chocolate turtles; I love the cupcake in a jar, but everything she makes looks good. For updates on what’s baking next, follow Sugga Shaii’s Sweets on Facebook.

Alyssa Buckley

Leeyah-Symone’s Lemonade Stand

Leeyah-Symone’s Lemonade is an occasional vendor at Urbana’s Market at the Square. The colorful lemonade stand offers homemade lemonade and pink lemonade made with cane sugar by the bottle. Both my kids and I enjoyed the sweet drinks from the market. Learn more about the business from their website.

Viola Davis cake by Field of Sweets; Photo by Alyssa Buckley

Field of Sweets

Last but not least, admire this cake by home baker Tiara Winfield, who won last year’s Edible Book Festival. Her cake inspired by Finding Me by Viola Davis is one of many stunning cakes and cupcakes the home baker has made with intricate details for events and birthdays. Read our interview with the talented local baker, and follow her on Instagram.