Sister Spokesman showcases Black women-owned small businesses and resources

(Steve Floyd/MSR News)

In the ever-changing, ever-fickle world of economics, knowing about and understanding the tools and resources available to aid your small business is ever more important. Sister Spokesman helped shine a light on local entrepreneurs and small business resources by hosting a “Small Business Showcase” on November 4 at Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis.

Although the event was open for sisters of all races and ethnicities, African American women showed up and showed out as they displayed their businesses and discussed small business information.

Vendors ranged from food, health and wellness and realty services to clothes, jewelry and event planning. The marketplace included Wendy’s House of Soul, Primerica, Lenora Culverson of Keller Williams, N2ME Fashion Boutique and U.S. Small Business Administration, just to name a few.

The guest speakers at the event were: Stephen Obayuwana, director of Business Advising and Capital Funds at Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON); Kenya McKnight-Ahad, president and founder of Black Women’s Wealth Alliance (BWWA); and Shaun McClary of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Panelists (l-r): Stephen Obayuwana, Kenya McKnight-Ahad, and Shaun McClary (Steve Floyd/MSR News)

Moderated by Tracey Williams-Dillard, panelists answered question by Williams-Dillard and attendees such as: What is procurement and why should that matter to people trying to start a business? How does a small business obtain a government contract?

The panelists explained that procurement is the exchanging and purchasing of goods and services through contracts via a bidding process. This usually includes government contracts. McKnight-Ahad stated when discussing the importance of procurement: “While [procurement] has improved, up until about 2010, of the $2 billion spending budget in the state of Minnesota, African Americans…got less than $200,000 of that budget.”

Continued McKnight-Ahad, “We know there is structural racism. There is also a disparity in the [dissemination] of information.” She then asked, “Who knew the state of Minnesota had a $2 billion spending budget?” Less than five people in attendance — including vendors — raised their hands.

McKnight explained that, with emphasis on cooperative economics to uplift the entire Black community, the BWWA holds monthly workshops to better inform Black women about resources like procurement opportunities and home buying information.

In his position at the Minnesota District Office, McClary’s job with the U.S. Small Business Administration is to assist those starting small businesses with the procurement of contracts through the state of Minnesota.

McClary suggests to small business owners and those starting up, “When starting your new business, start with a business plan. Yes, that can be a really intimidating process, but it does not have to be that complex. You have resource partners — NEON is one example. You want to connect with business development centers, [such as] Women Venture, for example.” He stressed that a business plan will help business owners adjust to changes in the market and “changes in your own capabilities; It really helps to stay on track and grow.”

Obayuwana added, “NEON is there to develop a stable community of Black folks. We have the resources [and] we have the services that can provide for those who are thinking about business. We have a program called ‘Thinking about Business’ for those who have a business idea. You can come to this workshop and learn how to increase the visibility, the viability, and the accessibility of your business… We can help you with one-on-one counseling and assessments to get you to the proper area that you need to be in for your business phase.” These workshops are held every third Saturday at NEON in North Minneapolis, noted Obayuwana.

Next up for Sister Spokesman is “Celebrating Moms of All Ages” on Dec. 2 from 12-4 pm at Midpointe Event Center. Do you know a phenomenal mother? Nominate her to be honored at the event by going here . Send questions to Deadline for nominations is November 23.

For more information about small business resources, contact the BWWA at NEON can be reached at  The Small Business Administration can be reached at

Brandi Phillips welcomes readers’ responses to

See video of the panel discussion below, as well more photos by Steve Floyd.