April 2022

Columbus Urban League, Columbus Chamber expanding minority business incubator

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Taijuan Moorman
April 19, 2022

The Columbus Urban League, in partnership with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, has announced the expansion of a program providing Black-owned businesses with resources and support through the chamber.

Columbus City Councilmember Nicholas Bankston announced the expansion of the Urban Business Connection program — which started in 2021 — on Thursday during a press conference, alongside $175,000 in funding recently passed by Columbus City Council.

With the expansion comes an additional 45 businesses to join the program.

The program has provided resources and support to minority-owned small businesses, including a free membership with the Columbus Chamber with access to high-level consulting, discounts and guidance on marketing and visibility.

Kelly James, owner of Trip Bikes, has been participating in the Columbus Chamber/Columbus Urban League minority business incubator.

A number of civic and business leaders were in attendance at the press conference, including Ohio Senator Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, who said Columbus’ business community should reflect the larger community.

“The business community is also vital for an overall healthy economy that will benefit the people of our region,” he said.

Leaders also spoke about Intel’s forthcoming Ohio chip plant and how the factory stands to affect Columbus businesses.

“We all know about Intel, and we certainly want these businesses, in terms of contracts and the supply chain, to have an opportunity to participate,” said Craig.

“That supply chain is going to be big, it’s going to be huge,” said Columbus Urban League President Stephanie Hightower. “We just want to make sure that, as the (Columbus) Partnership and other businesses talk about prosperity for all in the city of Columbus and this region, that we really are talking about prosperity for all.”

Two of the businesses in the program’s first cohort in 2021, J’s Sweet Treats and Wedding Cakes and Trip Bikes, spoke about how the program has led to new opportunities and partnerships.

Columbus City Councilmember Nick Bankston announces the expansion of Columbus Urban League and Columbus Chamber of Commerce minority business incubator.

“The program has afforded up opportunities to sit at tables that we probably would not have been able to reach so quickly,” said Juana Williams, owner of J’s Sweet Treats, who mentioned a new location coming to the Greater Columbus Convention Center later this spring. “We started our business in 2020, so to have two locations in 2022 is pretty phenomenal, especially in the middle of a pandemic.”

“It’s been essential,” said Kelly James, owner of Trip Bikes, an e-bike startup James says is working with Central Ohio Transit Authority and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. “It’s given me access to companies that I’m currently working with, and that has enabled me to grow my company and hire staff and take part in building this community in a way that I foresaw.”

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