Linking business with black creativity

Photo by Tiffany Johnson Panelists of the Black Bloggers Minnesota and Black Minnesota Creators brunch (l-r) Edgard-Pepin Konde (moderator), Jackson K. George, Nazsare English, Kimberly Holifield, Cearah Hamilton, Karl Benson, Brianna Carey.

Do what you love and make money at it

Just off of the bustling intersection of 50th Street and France Ave. in Minneapolis, black business owners, creators and influencers gathered for an event intended to uplift entrepreneurship and creativity within Minnesota’s black communities. 

This event was a public brunch and panel discussion held by Black Bloggers Minnesota (BBM) and Black Minnesota Creators (BMC). “Our goal is to support black creatives, black entrepreneurs, and black-owned businesses here in Minnesota and outside of Minnesota,” said Hope James, founder and CEO of BMC. James recognized the need for a network that connects black creatives and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to be successful. 

The panelists explored the possibilities and shared practical advice on what it means and what it looks like to create a professional career doing what you love. Panelists included Karl Benson, president and CEO of the Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce; KMOJ host and event planner Kimberly Holifield; Jackson K. George Jr. who works with Liberian and African immigrant communities; influencer and social entrepreneur Nazsare English; and radio personality and public figure Cearah Hamilton. 

According to ProjectDiane2018, since 2009 less than half a percent of raised venture capital funds has gone to black women entrepreneurs. All the while, black women make up the largest group of emerging entrepreneurs in the United States. 

“It’s about solving a problem that I’ve seen in Minnesota. If you do the math, [the black population] in Minnesota is like a peanut. We need to do better in our communities. We have to start using ourselves,” said James.

There are about 300,000 blacks in the entire state of Minnesota, which has a population of over five million. 

Photo by Tiffany Johnson Black Minnesota Creators founder Hope James

Bolstering black creativity

This notion was shared by Karl Benson. He said the goal of the Chamber is to connect black businesses in Minnesota to the resources they need to take their businesses to the next level. 

“Our population isn’t that big. But if we at the Chamber can take this buying power and strength-of-knowledge and put it in front of the Targets and the 3Ms, that’s where we begin to move the needle. And the Chamber is the hub of that wheel,” said Benson.

The Sept. 28 brunch and panel discussion was held at The Riveter, a co-working space started by women located in Edina. It has a bright, open floor plan for co-working and event planning space. 

“In less diverse communities, it’s important that we are actively engaging across communities of color, or gender, of how people identify,” said Riveter community manager Teresa Esler. “There is an awareness that we need to be more inclusive in the professional community, because that’s how we are going to be the most successful.”

While The Riveter is an organization created with women in mind, their facilities are welcoming to everyone. Although the industry of bloggers, influencers and entrepreneurs is experiencing an influx of black women, black men are also a part of this emerging group, although their presence has been less visible.

In an age where entrepreneurship is on the rise globally, recognition of what it means to be an entrepreneur is becoming more the norm. “As black men we’ve found ways to make money out of what we love, whether that be photography or being a chef… We are now at a point where we can make a business out of that, we can make money off of that. It is work,” said Benson.

Together the panelists symbolized the inevitable intersection of creativity and business and how this intersection is maneuvered and leveraged within black culture. “When we [black people] were forced to come here against our will and stripped of our culture, we had to create a culture. That’s the most creative thing ever,” said Hamilton.

Creativity as a means of survival has birthed not only the work of Black Minnesota Creators and Black Bloggers Minnesota, but also that of many of the brunch attendees and undoubtedly many more black people in Minnesota. 

“We as a people know how to make something out of nothing,” said Holifield. “That is very creative.”