Black Business Town Hall meeting talks uplifting Black entrepreneurs hit hard by pandemic – WESH 2 Orlando

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Resources, knowledge and connections. That’s the mission of a Black Business Town Hall meeting in downtown Orlando at Mad Cow Theatre Thursday night.

Experts in the field helped with everything from access to capital.
“Know what other resources exist out there. The traditional banks are not the only source of capital for you,” Janice Lopez, vice president and senior business consultant for J.P. Morgan Chase, said.
And to startups.
“Anytime you can get free resources, take them and take the nuggets and then apply them,” said Aretha Simons, founder of Multiplying Talents.
Black-owned businesses were hit hard during the pandemic.
Stefan Gillam is the director for the Black Business Summit and Expo and for Legacy Ventures which is the nonprofit putting on the town hall event.
“Black businesses were suffering disproportionately during the pandemic and we saw a lot of black businesses that had just gotten started prior to the pandemic that instantly saw devaluation in the organization,” Gilliam said.
Shontel Fountain has two businesses, Mobile Notary Services and Prolific Lawn Care 352 of Lake County.
Mobile Notary Services is a 24/7 business and does everything from property closings to a wedding officiant at your convenience. She says the pandemic was really a challenge.
“It really affected me going into people’s homes, and I understand that from a safety standpoint. However, financially it was a grave burden for me and so I’m hoping to learn here how to be more efficient and how to be more effective for my consumers and for my clientele,” Fountain said.
“What we’re trying to do here is trying to give them resources, answers. Connect them with people that can help them, pull themselves up and pull themselves out and make sure they have all of the opportunities that are on the table,” Gillam said.
There are resources for Black and brown businesses to take advantage of including the Forward Cities Initiative.
“It’s actually a group out of North Carolina that has come into Orlando to do basically an audit of our black business ecosystem and they are looking to make sure we are connected, as a people, we are unified in our goals and we are all on the same page as we march forward,” Gilliam said.
He says there’s even help with rent.
“Like if you have a business in downtown Orlando, there are opportunities. If you missed rent, the city of Orlando has programs you can tap into that will help you pay that rent off so you can get back to scale,” Gillam said.
Thursday night’s town hall is part of an ongoing effort to help black businesses.
It’s a prelude to the Black Business Summit and Expo that’s coming up in April all to strengthen entrepreneurs in the community.
The Black Business Summit and Expo is April 1 through April 3 at the Marriott Orlando Downtown.

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