GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — August is National Black Business Month. It’s a time to put a spotlight on locally-owned businesses in the West Michigan area.
Across America, Black-owned businesses can face great adversity. Here in Grand Rapids is no different, but several local Black-owned businesses are persevering, striving for success and inspiring others to do the same.
Local business owners told News 8 that Black Business Month is needed.
“Because of the inequities and some of the systemic racism they go through a lot of different phases,” explained Jamiel Robinson, the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses Founder & CEO.
Grand Rapids has more than 400 Black-owned businesses and Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses is an economic development and business entity that has been facilitating Black-owned business growth in West Michigan for the last 10 years.
“We offer different workshops, different speaker series, as well as technical assistance to Black businesses,” said Robinson.
Paula Hawkins-Guy was awarded a GRABB award last year and is an occupational therapist that runs R3 Station.
“It actually stands for rehabilitation, restoration, relaxation station. So we try to incorporate all the entities that make the body heal and make us whole into one place,” said Hawkins-Guy.
People have been coming to R3 Station for over 23 years, including some big names.
“Floyd Mayweather, Dave Harris an NFL player, I’ve worked with the late Bernie Mac, the gospel artist Marvin Sapp,” said Hawkins-Guy.
She too has had to overcome adversity in funding, location and more, but says groups like GRABB help support local Black-owned businesses.
On Grand Rapids southeast side Muse Grand Rapids is an interactive art gallery with two locations.
“As a Black business owner in Grand Rapids, I feel like sometimes there’s challenges in terms of breaking barriers,” said Stephen Smith, the Muse GR owner.
Muse GR allows up-and-coming businesses to utilize their space and launch their own business.
“It’s just really cool to have a space that we’re able to encourage other creatives so even during this month we had “Off The Top” clothing line come in here and we had Kobe Miless doing photography. It’s just really cool to empower other creatives,” said Smith.
With the purpose of empowering change and working toward an anti-racist society, Justice 4 All is a social justice apparel company in Grand Rapids that is “spreading awareness with style.”
“Challenge and disrupt America’s post-racial fallacy in order to stimulate actionable dialogue between individuals,” said Julius Rogers, the Justice 4 All creator and owner.
Justice 4 All has two collections, one informing the public about redlining, a racial practice of housing segregation in Grand Rapids. Ten percent of proceeds from his online sales goes directly back to the community.
But Rogers also said it’s not as easy as a Black business owner.
“I have an MBA. I know a lot of the baseline and foundational practices that need to be enacted in order to really create an entity in general and even with that knowledge, there are still barriers that present themselves in order to stop me from reaching where I want to ultimately reach,” said Rogers.
Business owners tell News 8 how they are continuing to work past adversity and be a positive impact in the community and the economy during Black Business Month and beyond.
You can support a Black-owned business in several ways, including sharing information or making a purchase or donation.
Visit the GRABB website to see a full list of the Black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids.