People Behind the Business: Black History Month Feature

Why should you choose black owned businesses? People First Economy believes that by supporting black owned businesses, you are “building a more inclusive economy that leads to more community wealth. One report from McKinsey & Company noted that closing the wealth gap could add $2 – $3 trillion of incremental annual growth to the US GDP” (American Independent Business Alliance). But supporting these businesses during February (Black History Month) or during August (Black Business Month) won’t get us closer to closing that wealth gap. We need to do better and continue to support black owned businesses every day. A few of our Local First & Good for Michigan participants shared that there are multiple ways the city could assist in closing that wealth gap.

Stingray Advisory Group, is a professional services firm and is based in Grand Rapids. They support clients throughout the country and their primary focus and mission is on helping small businesses thrive by identifying their target audience through data analysis and the development of actionable plans for growth. Leandra Nisbet, owner of Stingray Advisory Group, shared that the community of Grand Rapids has supported her business through its “available programs and resources. We are a certified micro local business entrepreneur or an MLBE and being able to use that designation to look for opportunities for collaboration, connection with fellow Black-owned businesses, as well as, looking for opportunities for business growth and being able to look at contracts and opportunities throughout the city and various departments by utilizing that certification has been great.” By providing a space to find and collaborate with local black owned businesses foster community. At People First Economy, we believe in supporting communities by making it easier to search for businesses via our directory by providing tools to narrow down your search in finding black owned businesses. 

Jumping to our next member, Daddy’s Dough Cookies! This bakery started in 2015 and specially crafted their recipes to provide cookies, brookies, skillet cookies, & delectable tiny creations. You can find their treats at Family Fare, Bridge Street Market, online, or at the Fulton Street Farmers Market. MarcQus Wright, the co-owner of Daddy’s Dough Cookies, shared that he believes the Grand Rapids community could best support their business by having thecities work with businesses, especially black businesses, in a way that can remove as many barriers as possible to make it easy to do business with the city, to participate in events (such as festivals) because there’s a lot of stuff happening in the city of Grand Rapids, and a lot of times we don’t know about it until it’s already happened. By creating more accessibility for black owned businesses to participate in city wide events, buying a building, or even developing their business within the city creates economic diversity. To close the wealth gap, we must remove barriers from black owned businesses for future success. 

Bright Spot Cleaning is a local cleaning service based here in Grand Rapids. Egide, took over Bright Spot Cleaning in September 2023. When he started, he was the only employee. Now, he has three employees outside of himself and has clients in Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Walker, and Caledonia. Egide shared with us that “what is important is not about the ratio or the color of the business owners, but I think the city should create an environment for everybody. It would provide great opportunities for everybody to get involved and have all the information they need to be successful and to be organized by the quality of the services they provided and not just by the color of the race. Again, by providing opportunities where the city takes priority in building an environment that promotes economic diversity can help close the wealth gap!

Lisa Baker, a licensed therapist at her business, Inspiring U Therapy, has been working within the community helping children and young adults cope with their mental health as they navigate life. Lisa shared with us that when it comes to seeking support from the city, she “would love to see our community embrace that mental health is real. It’s important that we realize the stigma of mental health is prevalent in many communities of color. I think that having some tools and letting people know that there are safe spaces out there available to seek help because many times people feel like they must embrace this within themselves and there are resources available. One of the things that I developed was the pocket grounding kit and the pocket grounding kit was established to help those that may be suffering or feeling some anxiety, depression, negative thoughts. It is designed with written material in both English and Spanish. It has a video component that is in English, Spanish, ASL and closed caption. Trying to reach those individuals that have been marginalized is valuable to me.” Within business, mental health is important. It’s a known fact that when there are money stressors, it affects your ability to care for your mental health. It should be noted that when we support black owned businesses, we are adding to the wealth pool for their community thus adding more value into opportunities to care for their mental health. 

Arick Davis, the co-owner of Last Mile Cafe, has been in business for 2 years! Prior to owning the cafe, Arick has been involved with multiple organizations providing guidance to future business owners on claiming their own success. They themselves are a valuable asset to the community & they shared with us that “As a black business owner here in Grand Rapids, the city has been great in a lot of ways. I think one way that it could be better is by offering more ways of funding for minority owned and black-owned businesses to be able to grow and get access to the capital that we need. If the city provided resources and capital to all black owned businesses, we would see the wealth gap close.

To recap, “leaders must take an approach that is fully rooted in the human perspective, directly engaging diverse voices and giving decision-making authority to the communities they seek to empower” (McKinsey & Company ). To close the wealth gap for our black communities we must listen to them and provide spaces where they effectively voice their dreams, concerns, and needs. It builds a more inclusive economy – one of our main initiativesincreases the communities’ wealth and cultural vibrancy!    

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