BELOIT—A virtual business expo is planned for November with the hopes that it will promote support for Black business owners.
Rock County Jumpstart will host its first Black Business Week Expo in a virtual event set for Nov. 23—28.
On the final day, a socially distanced in-person gathering will be held on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28. This pop-up finale will take place from noon—5 p.m. on Nov. 28 inside The Birch Room located at Boundaries Bar & Grill, 3807 S. Riverside Dr, in Beloit.
Genia Stevens, Founder and Executive Director of Rock County Jumpstart, said a launch event originally planned in March had to be postponed due to COVID-19.
After meeting with advisory board members recently, Rock County Jumpstart decided to move forward with a mostly virtual event.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), an area organization focused on highlighting issues related to race and equality, also is helping with the business expo.
“Showing Up for Racial Justice is partnering with us to really help engage the community to put out a call for allies to create a more equitable Beloit,” Stevens said. “What I’m really excited about is seeing more organizations getting involved in this. I’m extremely passionate overall about getting our Black small business owners more visibility, particularly at a time when people are thinking more about shopping.”
Yusuf Adama, a leader of SURJ, said representation in all aspects of life is important for Black Americans.
He said he is excited for the upcoming business expo and how it can help advocate for local small business owners.
Historically, Adama said, many Black business owners have been economically disadvantaged and did not receive the same exposure as other entrepreneurs.
“The fact that this is happening is much, much needed and helps get those ideas out there,” Adama said. “I really hope this really inspires some community togetherness as well.”
The business expo will take place during a crucial week for holiday shopping, overlapping with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and just before Cyber Monday.
All participating small businesses will have 15 minutes to share a video or presentation about their business, showcase their product and to introduce themselves.
Black small business owners in Rock County are being given first pick through this Friday, Oct. 30.
After then, business owners elsewhere from around the Stateline Area will have their chance to sign up for a 15-minute presentation. The final deadline to register is Nov. 6.
As of Wednesday, Stevens said 29 vendors and five speakers were signed up for the business expo.
To register a business for a time frame in the event, visit rockcountyjumpstart.org.
All vendors and sponsors will be listed on the Rock County Jumpstart website, along with a schedule.
The general public can watch live streams of the business expo by visiting Rock County Jumpstart’s Facebook page, which will include links to access Zoom.
Live streams of the event will take place each day from 5—8 p.m. But in case any viewers miss that window, recorded videos from the event will be available anytime on Rock County Jumpstart’s website.
Tennisha Loggins, owner of Snacks and Stuff Truck, is among the local small business owners planning to participate in the virtual event.
Loggins, who is originally from the Chicago area and recently moved to Beloit, said Stevens and other Rock County Jumpstart leaders have been key mentors. Loggins said as a new small business owner, she is very grateful for their one-on-one coaching methods.
“I was totally excited when I heard about it and signed up to be a part of it,” Loggins said. “I was just totally excited that somebody was doing this and she was offering her services for free. Its beautiful to be a part of a lot of this growth.”
Loggins said she is eager to learn more about business strategies, make new connections with other people and grow her platform in the future.
Snacks and Stuff Truck is a mobile food trailer selling all sorts of snacks and treats, such as “throwback candies.” Loggins said she felt inspired to launch her business after moving to Wisconsin and missing some of her favorite childhood treats. Growing up, Loggins said her family traditions involved cooking foods popular in either inner city Chicago or down south in Mississippi.
Corey Montalvo, another participant in the upcoming expo, will present alongside his friend Victoria McAlister for their co-owned business, Crowned Cravings. They sell salads, infused waters and other healthy foods, with a focus on maintaining healthy lifestyles.
“I’m just excited about the whole thing and being able to introduce what we’ve got going on,” he said.
Montalvo, a Beloit native, said he owns multiple small businesses, and Rock County Jumpstart has helped him with marketing, website design, networking and overall customer exposure, giving him a tremendous step forward.
In many ways, Montalvo said, 2020 has actually been a great year. He feels very optimistic about the future as a small business owner.
He said Rock County Jumpstart has helped various local businesses to reach many new opportunities for success. Small business owners around Beloit in large part are looking out for each other and encouraging other entrepreneurs and local youths to pursue their goals, he said.
The article was updated at 2:45 p.m. on Nov. 1, 2020, to reflect a change in location for the in-person pop up business event.