This Black Friday, rather than rushing around Walmart, consider supporting local businesses at the second Black Business Expo.
“Folks are going to be spending money for Black Friday, then come and spend money for us, too,” said Sabrina “Heymiss Progress” Madison, creator of the event. “These are businesses that really truly get down to the heart of sustaining families and sustaining communities … You can actually witness where your money is going.”
Holiday shoppers can browse over 60 vendors at the expo this Friday, Nov. 25, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at The Village, 2300 S. Park St.
The first Black Business Expo was organized by Madison this summer. She carries a variety of titles, including consultant, connector, motivational speaker and “socialpreneur,” all of which are part of her effort to empower the Madison black community. She organized the first expo to connect black entrepreneurs, companies and clubs to each other and the community after attendees of her popular Black Women’s Leadership Conference expressed a need to network. July’s expo was a success, with over 350 people flocking to the Urban League of Madison's space on Park Street.
“We stopped counting at 350,” Madison said. “They literally packed that place.”
Vendor Jasmine Banks, who sells natural beauty products and candles through her company Perfect Imperfections, is eager for round two of the expo.
“The first one was phenomenal, the turnout was great, my sales were great, the vibe and the energy was great,” she said. “Truthfully, I’m excited to recapture the vibe; I’m excited to be in the room.”
The upcoming expo has relocated to a larger venue to accommodate 20 additional vendors. Titled “Black Friday Edition,” Madison hopes that shoppers will spend some of their holiday dollars on the featured products, which include clothing, beauty products, cookies, artwork and jewelry. Admission is free and gift wrapping will be provided.
Madison is happy to announce that the expo will host popular vendors from last time, like Solitude Scents candles, as well as new vendors, like African N American Fits, a company created by Yankuba Janneh that sells African-made clothing in American styles.
“To have him in this space with his clothing is going to be really empowering for folks who haven’t had access to that kind of clothing,” Madison said.
Latisha McDuffy of Mo’ Betta Butter Cookies saw a noticeable increase in sales after she participated in the last expo. She jumped at another chance to sell her old-fashioned butter cookies and connect with area businesses.
“It was just nice to see all of the different small black businesses that I had no clue that were in town,” she said. “It just gave me hope, that, oh wow, I really can pursue my dreams opening up a cookie business ... It’s kind of what inspired me to keep going with it.”
Co-working and leadership development companies will also be spotlighted alongside retail products.
Adorable.io, a local software company, created a website for the event and attended the summer expo. Adorable's president, Jim Remsick, will use the time to promote IT careers and recruit for its YWCA-partnered program, YWeb Career Academy, a web training program for women and people of color.
“(Sabrina) is empowering the community around her, encouraging them to get active and build businesses for themselves. And anything that we can do to insist and encourage that, that’s what we want to do,” Remsick said.
Roxie Hentz will be at the expo as the founder of CEOs of Tomorrow, which provides entrepreneurship workshops and classes for kids. High schoolers can earn college credit for the courses.
“I heard about the expo and how fabulous it was,” Hentz said. “Small businesses are the major economic driver in the United States, and with business comes opportunity and an opportunity for financial independence and leadership.”
She’ll be there promoting her classes as well as a business started by some of her students over the summer. A team of high schoolers created a company called Embracing Gender Equality and will be selling bracelets that read, “The soul has no gender.”
“They want to focus on the strength of all people, no matter the gender,” Hentz said. “It’s definitely in the political climate today, one of the major issues.”
At noon, local motivational youth speaker AJ Carr will give a talk. Carr, just 13 years old, started an organization called Building Bosses to teach youth about leadership and service. He will talk about the challenges and opportunities associated with entrepreneurship, Madison said.
Madison plans to host a summer and winter expo every year, to continue to elevate black businesses and local shopping. She’s grateful for all the community support that have made the expos possible.
“Madison has it’s issues, we definitely have to work out our growing pains,” Madison said. “But I also want to say that Madison is a definitely a community that if you provide the opportunity for folks to show up, they will.”