April 2021

New initiative aims to boost sales for Black-owned businesses by $1 million

Courtesy of Columbus Business First
By Hayleigh Colombo
April 19, 2021

A new initiative aims to generate $1 million in increased sales to Columbus-area Black-owned businesses.

The partnership between the Columbus Urban League and the Columbus Chamber grants membership to 30 Black-owned businesses, including Bake Me Happy, Camelot Cellars, Teltron Design Group and Green Office Furniture Solutions.

The businesses, from the logistics, retail, healthcare, IT and technology industries, also will receive access to high-level consulting, social media help and marketing support. The businesses are all existing Urban League clients.

Columbus Urban League president and CEO Stephanie Hightower said both the social justice movement and Covid-19 pandemic have “illuminated the disparities that we know have existed for decades.”

“We see an opportunity now for Columbus to set a national trend when it comes to helping our minority businesses grow,” Hightower said.

Don DePerro, president and CEO of the chamber, said existing Chamber members have been looking for ways to boost spending on goods and services with Black-owned firms.

DePerro said, “Businesses right now – large and small – because of what’s been going on in our country, are very much attune to diversity and minority-supplier programming.”

The new partnership is a way to make that happen, he said.

“We look at this as a tremendous opportunity,” DePerro said. “One of my board members, who is a top C-suite executive with a large employer, said ‘Get us the list right now. We want to start using these companies.’ We’re serving as the convener and the connector.”

Averi Frost, program manager at the Columbus Urban League, said the goal of $1 million in sales to the Black-owned firms is substantial and meets the urgency of the moment.

“I think it is an aggressive goal, but I like that,” Frost said. “Too often we go for conservative, feel-good touches, but this may be a little more intensive. We should see some job creation out of this. We’ll see some good activity.”

DePerro likened the 30 participating businesses to Columbus Business First’s Fast 50 program that highlights the fastest-growing local businesses.

“They’re nimble, fast-moving, going places, and they just need guidance and support,” DePerro said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

Though the partnership covers membership for one year, DePerro said he wants this to be a long-term partnership. That could happen, he said, if other companies in the community sponsor minority-owned firms that otherwise might not have the funds to join the chamber.

Beyond the goal of increased sales, DePerro said chamber members have access to a slew of discount programs, health insurance, workers’ compensation and other perks.

“We’re engaging these 30 incredible entrepreneurs in many, many different ways,” DePerro said.

Frost said the partnership is “a great example of ways that we can think creatively” to push real change for minority-owned businesses.

Last year, many Black-owned firms got a boost after the summer’s racial reckoning, but Frost said that activity must be sustained. It’s not about going to a Black-owned bakery once, Frost said, but thinking about who is regularly catering your large corporate functions.

“That’s the next step for this,” Frost said. “You don’t have to change your bottom line, but work us into what you’re already doing. Hopefully this encourages other companies and corporations to have creative conversations with us.”

The full list of participants: Angela’s EyeGlass Parties; Bake Me Happy; Black Kahawa Coffee; Camelot Cellars; Diidz (Justdiidz); Elite National Building Services; Exquisite Wines; Gaddis & Son; Green Office Furniture Solutions; Harrison Transportation Management; iSecurity (TripBikes); J’s Sweet Treats and Wedding Cakes; Jaeluxe Shoetique; Kennard L. Brown; Lifestyle Café; Lloyds of Columbus/; My Mama’s Sweet Potato Pie Co.; One Research and Development; Precise Mobility Solutions Inc.; SavKon Construction; SGEQUIP; Spin City Trucking; Sprout Early Education Center; Teltron Design Group; The Diva Movement; Touchstone Hospitality IV; Tra-Bian Enterprises; Trust Us Transportation; WATT 1 Electrical Systems; and Wemblr.