MUSKEGON, MI – The first Black Business Expo in Muskegon will feature dozens of local businesses and provide education for entrepreneurs this summer.
Black Wall Street Muskegon, an organization formed to empower Black-owned businesses with resources and networking opportunities, is hosting the one-day event at the new Van Dyk Mortgage Convention Center on June 19.
“It’s the first of firsts,” said Black Wall Street Muskegon Founder Lashae Simmons II. “The first Black Business Expo held at the convention center. It’s making history.”
The expo is broken into two parts: an educational symposium and a vendor showcase.
The symposium features a “Million Dollar Roundtable” and breakout sessions that will provide information for business owners looking to grow their organization.
Speakers include Jemesha Smith, the CEO of Peachy Pure, William Roberson, CEO of Shoreline Staffing, Michael Buxton, CEO of Load A Spud, Te Dan Smith, a business attorney, and Ed Garner, regional director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, an organization that provides free assistance for businesses.
“We’re going to focus our topic on financing and financing alternatives,” said Garner. “Because one of the primary things that small businesses need, but particularly minority small businesses, is access to capital.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research reports racial disparities in access to startup capital make it more difficult for Black entrepreneurs to raise funding for their ventures.
“The goal is really to help as many businesses as we can,” Garner said.
The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to noon and general admission is $30. A virtual option is available for $15.
More than 60 Muskegon businesses will be participating in the afternoon Vendor Showcase, which also features live entertainment and a fashion show from local designers who make their own clothing.
This portion of the expo is free and open to the public.
“These business owners will be able to market their products, sell what they have or just give information about what they have,” Simmons said.
Eccentric Bijouterie Boutique is one vendor included in the line-up.
Owner Tishley Janeene launched the handcrafted jewelry business about six months ago, primarily selling her products online.
“I’m looking forward to people being able to actually see, feel and touch the jewelry and see how it actually looks for them versus just seeing it online,” Janeene said.
The expo will be Janeene’s first in-person vending event since starting her business.
“An opportunity for so many people to see what Muskegon has to offer,” she said.
Black Wall Street Muskegon has envisioned bringing businesses together for an expo since launching two years ago. Simmons says she optimistic about the future of Black entrepreneurship in the area and she hopes the organization continues to facilitate business growth.
“I hope that this is the start of the ecosystem that Black Wall Street Muskegon wants to build. This is just one platform, but we want to expand it to become an even greater resource,” said Simmons.
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