GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Every plate of soul food coming out of the Candied Yam’s kitchen is helping create a legacy for Jessica Ann Tyson.

Her 44th Street restaurant employs 15 people and she’s now set to open a second location on South Division in Grand Rapids.

Tyson’s success has come with a lot of hard work.

Jessica Ann Tyson, the owner of The Candied Yam. (May 31, 2022)
Jessica Ann Tyson, the owner of The Candied Yam. (May 31, 2022)

Most minority entrepreneurs face a steep learning curve when it comes to knowing where to turn for help.

“Then when you turn there, you’re busy running your business. What’s your marketing plan. Marketing what?” Tyson said, describing her early experiences.

Then there’s getting financing.

“You haven’t had savings or opportunities to save through that generational wealth,” Tyson said.

Ciarra Adkins is out to change that.

“Our mission is to center racial equity and economic justice in the BIPOC community … communities of color for those who are unfamiliar with the term,” said Adkins, the founder and president of the Aqume (pronounced Acme) Foundation.

Described as the first Black-founded and -operated foundation in West Michigan, Aqume’s goal is providing economic justice by helping people of color find their way through red tape and other obstacles.

It’s also about making decisions once they’ve cleared those hurdles that help benefit their communities.

“The nation is going through one of its greatest wealth transfers in history. So really positioning the BIPOC community to capitalize and learn about estates and financial literacy, trusts, etcetera,” Adkins said.

The foundation is geared to help individuals, families and minority-owned businesses.

“One of the biggest things we’re excited about is offering fiduciary services, where we offer executive leadership and training to corporate boards and nonprofits, as well as helping them stand up so they can do good work in our community,” Adkins said. “We really want to have an autonomous presence. But we want to work collaboratively with other philharmonic endeavors in the community. Because it’s so important.” 

For Tyson, it’s an effort she says could make a big difference now and in the future.

“It spoke to the needs of the minority community,” she said.