Unassuming Capitol event ad gives Black entrepreneurs unexpected, but ‘needed’ boost
Several Black-owned businesses in the metro are reporting a “big boost” ahead of Black History Month.
It started with one local entrepreneur, Sheletta Brundidge. She put up some billboards across the Twin Cities a couple of weeks ago to promote her Feb. 16 event, “Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol.”
The ad simply features the event details and a picture of 15 other business owners who plan on attending, and for at least several of them, what happened next was totally unexpected.
“Sometimes I just sit there on the other side of the road, and I’m like, ‘That’s me. I’m up there,'” said a beaming Tasha English as she stood underneath a billboard near I-94 at West Broadway and North Washington Ave in Minneapolis.
English owns TaJ English Photography, a passion for her since she was “about 10 years old.”
In the last two weeks since the billboards went up, she said she’s added three new clients after a roster of 15 for the entirety of the past year.
“I’m actually going to make a few more phone calls today,” she added.
Fellow entrepreneur Shontel Booker, who owns Dream In Color Healing, said on Sunday that her business has also “been crazy, crazy busy.”
Booker offers several services, but she’s a yoga instructor first and foremost, something she said she “fell in love with… after a car accident.”
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS visited a packed Sunday class for kids at the Jimmy Lee Recreation Center in St. Paul. Prior to the billboards, a full class was pretty unheard of, she said. Now, she said that’s the case for just about every class.
“Actually, I’ve got to fix my website. My website kind of crashed this morning,” she said, adding she believes that’s due to the large uptick in reservations and general website traffic.
Another featured business owner, Adrianna Willis, said not long ago, she was starting to think she’d made a mistake by opening her self care business, Mind the Crown. But in similar fashion, once the Capitol event ad went up, the calls started coming in.
“It really was a boost that I actually needed because it’s scary being a full-time entrepreneur, especially at this stage in the game of being 56,” Willis shared.
Asked to react to the community support, she said, “It says a lot because one of the things that Black-owned businesses don’t have the opportunity to is capital. So that makes it even scarier.”
Realtor Michael Roberts, who started Roberts Properties during the COVID-19 pandemic, said business has been good since the beginning, “even in an economic downturn.” Regardless, he, too, said he saw a welcome boost from the billboard ad.
“Calendar’s been running full, everything’s been beautiful,” he remarked.
All of the above entrepreneurs said it’s about more than money for them. It’s also about community and making Black entrepreneurship less of a hard-fought exception and more of the norm. That’s something Roberts said he plans to pay forward.
“I didn’t think I would be sitting here thinking about generational wealth for my kids but real estate and a lot of things allowed me to do that today,” he shared. “And I’m here to help other people learn and jump that gap as well.”
They are all hopeful for continued momentum in February, coinciding with Black History Month and the event.
The goal of Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol is to draw lawmakers’ attention to these types of businesses and the historic barriers they face, according to Brundidge.
It’s scheduled for Friday, Feb. 16 at 11:30 a.m. in the State Capitol Rotunda.