BELOIT—Rock County Jumpstart (RCJ) Founder Genia Stevens is excited to invite community members to a celebration of Black small business owners’ hard work.
“With the pandemic, we have some businesses that have really pushed through and done some really great things and just kept going and stayed the course,” Stevens said. “We have a lot planned for the day to reintroduce the community to Rock County Jumpstart and what we do.”
A free Black Business Month Celebration is planned for 5-8 p.m. on Aug. 13 at the W B Kennedy Masonic Lodge in Beloit, at 2034 Liberty Ave. The event is open to the public.
This upcoming celebration will be held roughly 18 months after an original Jumpstart launch event was postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of the original plan to introduce the organization to the community, Stevens said the celebration will now double up as both a recap on what they’ve been up to and where the organization is heading after the past year and a half.
“I would really like for the community to come out and get to know these folks,” Stevens said. “All of our businesses have great things.”
Matthews Family Trucking, owned by Byron and Cristy Matthews, will be recognized as “Business of the Year.”
Ron Whitley, President of Father & Sons Cleaning, will receive the “Mentor of the Year” award.
Other business owners receiving accolades will be Tennisha Loggins, owner of Snacks and Stuff, being named “Most Resilient.” Blessed Divine Creations owner Paquita Purnell will be named “Best Peer Supporter.” The honor of “Best Peer Supporter” will also be awarded to Vickie Lynn, who runs the Black Women in Business Expo and owns Noni Lynn’s Naturals.
Whitley said he is humbled to be a mentor for others locally. He added that he is happy to pass along tips and ideas, because tapping into available resources offers value and insight for new business owners.
“I’m more than happy to do it. Running a small business is challenging,” Whitley said. “I’m working with these business owners who are learning, growing and doing incredible things in their spaces as well.”
For new business owners, Whitley said a key component to their success involves developing positive relationships with clients over time. Additionally, having dialogue with the community at large also is beneficial in expanding their clientele and networking with other entrepreneurs.
Additionally, Whitley said organizations such as Rock County Jumpstart offer more than business resources—it also provides a strong support system where business owners can interact to stay motivated and focused.
“It creates confidence among the group when you have supporters cheering you on,” Whitley said.
The timing of the upcoming event is great, Whitley said. He added that Stevens and others involved in Rock County Jumpstart deserve much credit for their efforts to help business owners.
The celebration also will be crucial in terms of inviting community members to learn more, make connections, establish partnerships and keep the momentum rolling.
“I think the connections and partnerships are going to be good for both sides. Face time with folks in the community is going to be huge,” Whitley said.
Stevens said the important role mentors like Whitley have played in the organization has been amazing.
“Ron has done an amazing job working with business owners,” Stevens said. “They love him and he just does an amazing job of being there for them on many levels.”
In addition to mentorships, Jumpstart has also provided tips on how entrepreneurs can seek out connections and build client relationships at places such as dairy expos, farmers markets, antique stores.
There have also been crowdfunding programs and presentations on how to acquire business loans that have helped business owners along the way. Stevens said.
Corey Montalvo, who owns Montalvo Moverz and helps run a family landscaping business, said he is excited to network with other business owners and community members.
“If you get together and work as a whole, it’s that much easier,” Montalvo said. “It’s all a networking circle. We all lift each other up.”
Montalvo said one of the many lessons he’s picked up so far as a business owner is that client relationships can form in even the most unexpected scenarios.
For example, during a recent vacation out of state, a hotel employee mentioned they needed some help moving and offered to fly Montalvo out in order to help. He walked away from that experience with added confidence as he continues to build upon and expand his business network.
The folks at Rock County Jumpstart have provided valuable information and encouragement along the way, and Montalvo said he experienced a series of major steps forward in his life during 2020.
He remains grateful for the mentors who continue to offer support, and he hopes to one day become a mentor for others and help pay it forward.
“Just to have somebody in your corner, to say ‘don’t give up, you got this,’ I love it,” Montalvo said.