Columbus Black Owned Businesses Will Get Free Columbus Chamber Membership

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The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Urban League will work together to benefit 30 black-owned businesses in the city.

As part of the partnership, funding from the CARES Act will support the one-year membership in Chambers for Businesses, which includes access to high-level advice, marketing support and other benefits. Additionally, the House aspires to connect black-owned commercial vendors to House member companies, with the goal of increasing spending with them by $ 1 million. The 30 companies have already been identified.

“It is about advancing these entrepreneurs in our community, by bringing them, hopefully, more business and more contracts than they have had the opportunity to obtain on their own”, House President and CEO Don DePerro told The Dispatch. “I knew the Urban League had a huge presence in the black business community, and we needed help with the diversity of our membership. It’s just a perfect marriage.

The program, which DePerro says is worth $ 50,000, continues the work of the league’s Minority Small Business Resiliency Initiative, which was established last year to help black business owners level the playing field. of the game through access to capital. The initiative secured $ 7.6 million in funding and saved or created approximately 1,250 jobs.

“Certainly the social justice movement and COVID-19 have highlighted the disparities that have existed for decades,” said Stephanie Hightower, President and CEO of the Urban League. “We now see an opportunity for Columbus to set a national trend when it comes to helping our minority businesses grow. It’s about creating an infrastructure where really everyone in our community can thrive.

The program helps remove barriers for some small businesses that cannot afford membership fees, said J. Avéri Frost, who manages the league’s Minority Small Business Resilience Initiative.

“Being part of a chamber of commerce helps, not only through access to different supplier diversity initiatives or general sales, but it helps with legitimacy,” said Frost, who is also an executive director. of the Central Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce. “If people are not from here and are planning to do business in the city of Columbus, they check the chambers of commerce to see who is available. So being on this platform is very important.

The 30 participating benefits span a variety of industries, from IT and retail to healthcare and foodservice. Juana Williams, owner of J’s Sweet Treats and Wedding Cakes on Parsons Avenue, called the support a blessing.

“We haven’t had a lot of opportunities to network with other business owners,” said Williams, 49, who operates the bakery with her daughter and another employee. “The House was phenomenal. They already told us about a marketing plan and put us in touch with someone from Yelp so we can (increase) our presence. They come and they buy things.

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce and the Columbus Urban League have teamed up to offer 30 black-owned businesses, including J's Sweet Treats and Wedding Cakes on Parsons Avenue, free Chamber membership for one year.

Williams ran her bakery away from home for years. She knew it was time to crack open a brick and mortar when her husband accidentally used her ingredients to make breakfast.

“He had the nerve to make eggs,” said Williams, who appeared in a cake decorating segment on the Drew Barrymore Show last year. “And I came down like, ‘What are you doing? I have cakes to pay for! ‘ And he said, ‘It’s time for you to go, honey. You have to find another place to do it. “

Buttercream Cupcakes at J's Sweet Treats and Wedding Cakes on Parsons Avenue.

Last month, Williams celebrated her first birthday on the South Side, which was no small feat amid the pandemic. And the House and the Columbus Urban League have come forward to congratulate her.

“Historically, black-owned businesses don’t see the foot traffic and support that a lot of other businesses do,” Williams said. “So it is very important that the House comes together with us.”

Entrepreneur TJ Johnson said she was thrilled when she found out her business was included in the program.

“We are looking to increase our market share,” said Johnson, owner and president of Tra’Bian Enterprises, a recruitment and IT solutions company in Dublin. “We want to be more visible, and we can bring it through the House. We have incredible visibility thanks to the Urban League, but it just gives us a better opportunity to bring communities together. I think this partnership brings cultural richness to the House.

Johnson didn’t think about becoming an entrepreneur until she was laid off during the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009. Today, she celebrates her eight years at Tra’Bian, which has eight employees and over 50 cents. -treaters.

Johnson credits the Urban League with helping support her during the pandemic.

“They focused on ensuring that African American businesses had access to capital,” she said. “On top of that, webinars and business speakers have really played a vital role in the success of our business. Without their advocacy and support during this tumultuous time, I don’t think we would be where we are.

And membership in the Chamber will only propel the company to greater success.

“Ultimately, these collaborative efforts will make Columbus a better place to live,” she said. “It’s just wonderful, encouraging and empowering.

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