GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starting a business can be a huge challenge in itself and historically Black entrepreneurs have had an even greater disadvantage.
“I think there are so many barriers that are here and I think the businesses you see of color that are making it work are putting in significant effort just to like be here and have the doors open,” said Arick Davis, co-owner of the Last Mile Cafe.
The cafe opened in December and in that time has quickly become a staple for many people in the Boston Square neighborhood.
“We get a lot of community support,” Davis said. “People are excited to try us. A lot of people love the coffee, I think they love the mission.”
Davis grew up in the neighborhood and recalled not having many places to go. His goal in opening the Last Mile cafe was to offer a space for community members to come together. Although he’s achieving that goal, the process of getting there wasn’t easy.
“I could sit here and talk for an hour about all the challenges and hurdles that we faced from the beginning until today and challenges that we are facing now,” he said.
While he believes there are plenty of resources for entrepreneurs in the city as well as across the state, he feels they’re not always as accessible to the Black community. It’s an obstacle Amplify GR and Spring GR say they’re trying to help tackle.
“We have opened the doors to neighborhood food entrepreneurs who are interested in learning and growing and being a part of the kitchen incubator program,” said Latesha Lipscomb, director of engagement and relationships for Amplify GR.
Kzoo Station, also in the Boston Square neighborhood, will soon offer a space for startups to get their footing until they’re ready to open a brick-and-mortar.
“There are a lot of Black and Brown people that are in the food entrepreneur space, and so we wanted to be able to support a landscape or programming that would help them grow and activate their business even further,” Lipscomb explained.
Stephanie Rucker, who has lived in Boston Square for more than two decades, is taking advantage of that opportunity.
“The biggest thing for most people who are trying to launch a business is like, where do you start? Where do you go?”
Rucker is in the process of getting licensed for her LLC, Tweety’s, which offers vegan soul food.
“I didn’t know much about it, so partnering with the Kzoo station is it’s going to give my business the chance that it needs.”
Eventually, Rucker will work alongside 20 primarily Black and Women-owned businesses in the incubator kitchen, who are also pursuing their culinary dreams.
“I’ve lived here in the community for 23 years, and I’m so excited for the opportunity and the growth that has come into my neighborhood,” Rucker said.
You can learn more about the opportunities available to local food entrepreneurs at Kzoo Station here.