Black Owned Busi­nesses Expo sees large turnout

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­ Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

Last weekend’s Small Business Satur­day gave lo­cals an op­por­tu­nity to con­trib­ute to the suc­cess of neigh­bor­hood busi­nesses. But at the Wal­dorf Cul­ture Cen­ter, it went deeper: the Black Owned Small Business Expo, hosted by Danielle Jones of Wal­dorf, shined a spot­light on lo­cal en­ter­prises owned by African-Amer­i­cans.

Charles County Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) said the expo had “a great turnout” on her way back for a se­cond go ‘round in the cen­ter.

This is the first year the expo has been held in the Wal­dorf Cul­ture Cen­ter and the first it has been “this size,” Jones said. In to­tal, 53 ven­dors par­tic­i­pated in the event with more than 500 at­ten­dees cir­cu­lat­ing through­out the day.

Jones had to turn down more than 60 oth­ers be­cause they would not have fit in the cen­ter. “I wanted to use the venue be­cause the venue is black-owned,” she said.

The expo’s pur­pose, ac­cord­ing to Jones, was to not only high­light small busi­nesses in South­ern Mary­land and the Wash­ing­ton re­gion, but to put a spot­light on black-owned busi­nesses in com­mu­ni­ties where business own­ers may strug­gle to suc­ceed when com­pet­ing against larger com­pa­nies.

Some feared the event would not gain trac­tion by be­ing called “black­owned,” Jones said, wor­ry­ing it would alien­ate oth­ers.

“Some peo­ple wanted to call it mi­nor­ity, or just keep it small business,” she said. “But that’s not what my goal was. I wanted it to be black-owned for black peo­ple.”

Ul­ti­mately, all peo­ple are wel­come at the expo, Jones said. But the black com­mu­nity needs to be high­lighted — es­pe­cially when it comes to en­tre- preneur­ship, she said.

An­gel Hill, owner of Ther­apy Works LLC, said the op­por­tu­nity to show­case her business and reach out into the com­mu­nity was some­thing she could not pass up. The event gave her an op­por­tu­nity to po­ten­tially af­fect some­one’s life, she said.

Hill is a li­censed clin­i­cal pro­fes­sional coun­selor who started Ther­apy Works in Oden­ton about a year ago. She works to help peo­ple open up and re­lieve stress from their lives, she said, which of­ten in­volves get­ting peo­ple to share ex­tremely per­sonal sto­ries with her.

Be­cause of that, she said, “most of my clients are not in my area” and come from all over the re­gion — in­clud­ing South­ern Mary­land.

“Events like this down here help me reach more peo­ple,” Hill said. “And we need more peo­ple of color par­tic­i­pat­ing in ther­apy. We need this.”

Ven­dors like Hill were very sat­is­fied with the turnout and were able to turn around a lot of prod- uct for good prof­its on Satur­day, Jones said, not­ing that many have al­ready signed on for the next expo.

How­ever, the date of the next event has yet to be de­ter­mined. There will al­ways be one on Small Business Satur­day, Jones said, but after Satur­day’s turnout there are many peo­ple who want to see an­other event for the sum­mer­time.

Jones said she is look­ing into do­ing one then, but still needs to piece lo­gis­tics to­gether be­fore she can guar­an­tee it will hap­pen.

One thing is for sure, though: so long as she is around, there will al­ways be a con­nec­tion for black business own­ers to use and make a mark on their com­mu­ni­ties, she noted.

“We can sup­port each other and we can cre­ate our own lo­cal economies,” Jones said. “Who knows? I have this say­ing, th­ese small busi­nesses can turn into the next For­tune 500 com­pa­nies. You never know.”

The Wal­dorf Cul­ture Cen­ter is filled up to ca­pac­ity on Satur­day af­ter­noon dur­ing the Black Owned Small Busi­ness Expo on Small Busi­ness Satur­day, hosted by Danielle Jones.

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