Now Shaunie Grigsby knows why her palms have been itching. On August 1, the first day of Black Business Month, an unexpected check for $1000 landed in Grigsby’s hand.
“I believe in that old Black superstition that says when your palms itch, it means money is coming your way,” said Grigsby, the owner of Flava Cafe, the first Black-owned coffee shop in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood.
“And now I know why. It’s because of a magnificent gift from a woman I now think of as my fairy godmother,” she said.
The $1000 gift to Grigsby came from broadcaster/podcaster and community activist Sheletta Brundidge, herself a small business owner as the founder of SHElettaMakesMeLaugh.com, a podcasting platform that applies Black voices.
Brundidge has decided to surprise five Black women who own businesses, showing up at their storefronts complete with bouquets of flowers and some out-of-the-blue green.
“I know how hard these women work,” Brundidge said. “As Black women business owners, we don’t have role models. We don’t come from families where people have been entrepreneurs. So we have to support and bless one another.”
Grigsby is about to celebrate her cafe’s first year at the intersection of University and Dale in St. Paul. While calling her work “the hardest, loneliest thing I have ever done,” Grigsby is finding success and support and she appreciates the validation in Brundidge’s grand gesture.
“Sheletta values me. She knows about the long days and she knows that I am deserving,” Grigsby said. “Her presence today is an affirmation that I’m doing the right thing.”
Brundidge knows from personal experience that finding funding and capital is tricky, often involving time-consuming paperwork and complicated application forms. That’s why she was motivated to hand out no-strings-attached money to her fellow female business owners.
Brundidge also made a friendly ambush at Lutunji’s Palate, a cafe and bakery in the Elliot Park neighborhood in South Minneapolis. Baker Lutunji Abram began her business by catering out of a commercial kitchen five years ago; she’s had her cafe storefront for a year and a half.
Grateful tears ran down Abram’s face as Brundidge embraced her in a hug and handed her the $1000 check. “You know that you are a blessing,” Abram told her. “You see what it takes to move ahead and make it.”
Miriam Gutzmann, a frequent customer at Lutunji’s Palate, happened to be in the cafe to witness Brundidge’s arrival and was delighted by her presentation.
“I’m a total fan of everything Lutunji does, especially her peach cobbler. She’s such a positive presence in the neighborhood,” Gutzmann said. “No one could be more deserving.”
“I heard that (former Vikings Hall of Famer) Randy Moss saw a Black woman with a chicken restaurant on Instagram and liked her post. Now he’s invested in her business and he’s there in an apron serving up chicken for customers,” Brundidge said.
“I said, more people need to do that for Black women business owners in Minnesota. And then I said, I guess I’m ‘more people.’”
As Black Business Month continues, Brundidge has some additional plans to support—and surprise—Black women business owners throughout the month of August.
Next week, Brundidge will select five different Black women entrepreneurs to be featured on Clear Channel Outdoor Digital Billboards. Their businesses will be promoted on billboards stationed around the Twin Cities metro area.
The week after that, Brundidge will partner with a local television station and her production company will produce TV commercials for another five Black women business owners that will appear on local airwaves.