Minnesota celebrated their first-ever Black Entrepreneur’s Day at the State Capitol on Friday, February 3rd and Comcast was proud to sponsor this historical event.
The vision began last year when Sheletta Brundidge of ShelettaMakesMeLaugh.com, facilitated a small business panel at a Comcast RISE Day event where Comcast RISE recipients were celebrated and empowered. She heard the advice to all small business owners to call their legislators for more support and took on the challenge to rally Black-business owners at the State Capitol and “knock on their doors” instead.
The event brought owners of some 250 Black small businesses to the halls of state government to spotlight their unique needs. “Strong Black businesses are the backbone of our community and are good for everybody,” said Brundidge, founder of the ShelettaMakesMeLaugh podcasting platform. “We led with love and love is contagious. It opens doors.”
Hundreds of attendees including Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov Peggy Flanagan, Senator Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Attorney General Keith Ellison, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove, President of Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jonathan Weinhagen, and dozens of House and Senate representatives gathered to kick off the opening ceremonies.
Black business owners were able to directly hear from elected officials on key initiatives such as the proposal highlighting small businesses owned by people of color. Currently, $2.5 million dollars is being proposed towards Launch Minnesota which provides additional grants to entrepreneurs. The proposal is also including additional dollars towards the Angel Tax Credit that provides a 25% credit to investors or investment funds in startup companies and 12 weeks of medical leave and up to 12 weeks of family leave for all working Minnesotans, including small business owners and those self-employed.
Otis Artis, the Midwest Region’s Comcast RISE coordinator, also spoke at the event and shared what Comcast has been doing to support small businesses over the last two years, “Over the past year, just here in the Twin Cities, we’ve awarded $2 million, $10,000 each-to 200 small businesses. On top of that another 200 plus in Marketing and Technology makeovers, ,” said Artis. “I’ve worked personally with a lot of you today and countless others on the Comcast started the Comcast RISE program, which started in the heat of the pandemic to help those small businesses continue to strive forward. We’ve got an ongoing commitment to help you thrive and today is another example of that.”
Among the speakers, Comcast RISE recipient, Dana Smith of MinnyRow Market shared the unseen challenges as she and her co-founder and husband, Peter made the difficult decision to close their business last November. Dana also asked that people of color business owners be provided more access to capital and services the State provides. Following the kick-off, Black business owners and allies were directed to meet with House and Senate representatives and tour the State Capitol.
The vision of Black Entrepreneur’s Day is not a one-time event but an annual gathering to promote open conversations between Black business owners and state legislators.
To view the kick-off event and hear from all the speakers, click here.