In celebration of Black History Month, Neighborhood Youth Services is hosting a community showcase Friday of Black-owned businesses.
The Northland Black Business Showcase will feature Black entrepreneurs, artists and small-business owners from Duluth and Superior from 3-6 p.m. at the Washington Recreation Center, 310 N. First Ave. W., Duluth.
“I know, even for myself, there are a lot of these businesses that I just haven’t heard of and even businesses that haven’t heard of each other,” said Pez Davila, program director at Neighborhood Youth Services. “So it’s just a good time for some marketing and community outreach for them, and help them get some more business — especially in these tough times with COVID and everything.”
Local restaurant owners, including Spoon’s Bar and Grill, of Duluth, and Stop N Go Pizza, of Superior, will be selling food, while other vendors will have clothing, hair accessories, soaps, backpacks and more. Superior Kuts will be giving haircuts for $5.
Organizers are expecting about 20 businesses to participate in the showcase and are still accepting late entries.
“This is our month to celebrate African American entrepreneurs as well as historic figures,” said Fateemah Jihad, owner of Fancy Empire in Duluth. “It’ll be very empowering to be in the same space and share our ideas and creative niches.”
Jihad sells luxury hair extensions, wigs and eyelashes. She and other participants, such as Jasmine Flowers, owner of the boutique Blessing Royal Collection, are looking forward to networking with other business owners and promoting their products to the community.
“I just started my business when COVID started, so I haven’t really been out exploring other people of color’s businesses in the community,” said Theresa Wanless, owner of the online clothing store Minnesota Girl. “I think this will be a good platform to build those relationships.”
Nate Elsey Williams recently moved to the Duluth area and is looking forward to promoting his business, Northside Bags, which sells solar-powered backpacks to charge devices.
“I want to bring attention to my backpacks and become more immersed in the community here,” Elsey Williams said. “The biggest thing about Northside is to try to get more African Americans out to the outdoor industry.”
Kia Ronning has dual roles in the Northland Black Business Showcase. She is program coordinator for Neighborhood Youth Services, and also owns Keek’s Creations, where she makes custom shirts, hoodies and mugs. She hopes this event will not only help local small business owners get their names out in the community, but also inspire the children in the Neighborhood Youth Services program.
“It’s exciting for our kids, to show them what they can do with their lives when they can see other people in their community doing great things,” Ronning said.
Davila said some larger businesses in the area plan to attend to learn about the businesses and support the community. The event is open to the public, and masks will be required.