GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spring GR is a nonprofit organization in Grand Rapids that has been helping small business owners and entrepreneurs for the last eight years. Its goal is to give anyone with an idea for a business or who has started one the resources they need to succeed.

Attah Obande, the vice president of business and talent development at Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, previously worked with Spring GR.  

He described it as a “grassroots business training program with the premise that there are a lot of people in our community with great ideas for business and service, but they don’t have the acumen to make them sustainable businesses.”

Spring GR offers a 14-week training program for underserved entrepreneurs to give them the support they need and connect them to the resources in the city to help them grow. More than 800 entrepreneurs have graduated from the program.

Grand Rapids is known for being a great place to start a business, but Obande notes it’s not the case for everyone.

“Unfortunately, it’s also one of the worst financially for African Americans and Hispanic entrepreneurs,” he said. “This is really an opportunity to give them the resources that are already available in the city.”

Charity Christine partners with the organization and helped organize the Juneteenth Festival, which will take place outside John Ball Zoo from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

“The goal for this event is to simply celebrate Juneteenth, get people to understand the meaning of Juneteenth, and also support our small businesses. There are a lot of businesses that do not have a storefront or don’t always have the best marketing online. Opportunities like this give businesses a little push,” she said

There will be networking opportunities and the chance to explore what each vendor has to offer at their business and buy their products.

The event is welcome news to Raven Hancock, owner of PocaStylez Beauty Lounge on 28th Street in Wyoming. She recently graduated from the Spring GR Small Business Accelerator program.

Hancock opened her salon about a year before the pandemic hit and struggled like other businesses when it was forced to close during the lockdown.

“I lost a lot of workers. Right now, I’m trying to pick that back up. I tried to make wigs and stuff at home and sell those from home,” she said.

Hancock thinks the program would be a huge benefit to anyone thinking of starting a business.

“It was wonderful. I learned about my numbers and what to charge so that I can break even at least and make a profit,” Hancock said.

There is a significance for why organizers chose this event to coincide with Juneteenth. Many people still do not understand the holiday’s meaning, and they want to use it as an opportunity to educate.

“Juneteenth really is symbolic of the end of black bondage in America. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1868, the news did not get to Galveston, Texas, until 1865. So over 250,000 enslaved black Americans learned about this. But it is not lost on us that the fight for social justice policy still continues,” said Obande.

Obande also pointed out that one of the ways to help is to close the wealth gap, and one way to do that is through business.

Hancock is looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity to promote her business.

“I do feel like my business will grow and I’ll do whatever it takes. Whatever I learned, I’ll make sure I use those tools to get to where I want to be,” Hancock said.