Black entrepreneurs share stories, discuss equity

Published 8:00 am Saturday, August 21, 2021

Finding ways to foster equitable entrepreneurship was the topic of a roundtable dinner hosted this week by Heartland Forward and  Builders + Backers.

The groups have partnered to promote the Idea Accelerator Program in Oxford, providing five individuals with $5000 grants each to implement their entrepreneurial ideas.

Joseph Stinchcomb, a member of the Heartland Forward Builders + Backers 2021 cohort, hosted the Equitable Entrepreneurship dinner and conversation at Saint Leo’s on Tuesday night.

Stinchcomb, the bar director of Saint Leo’s and an entrepreneur himself, invited 17 local Black entrepreneurs and 13 potential backers to discuss how to diversify the business community and ensure an equitable share of resources.

“Black entrepreneurship is really underrepresented in Oxford and Lafayette County,” he said. “The $5,000 grant I received is going towards putting Black entrepreneurs in contact with investors, businessmen and mentors to help get them started. Part of it is marketing and up-front costs are a lot if you don’t have the money.”

Entrepreneurs and professionals like Tammy Herod of Tammy’s Hair Gallery, Bernadette Davis of Epiphany Seven, and Deidra Jackson, the interim director of the Tupelo Writing Center came and networked. 

Herod, also a member of the Builders + Backers cohort in Oxford, thinks conversation around diversity and giving minorities access to resources is key to economic and cultural prosperity.

“I think this [event] is needed,” she said. “This network is needed. We as African American community don’t get out and connect with the right people in order to be great business poeple. We need to that to be successful and stay successful–we need a little help and a little direction.”

Herod is carrying out a similar program as Stinchcomb called My Spark Sessions. Herod is mentoring a group of young women in entrepreneurship and helping them learn different business skills that will allow them to go and launch their own business.

All of the guests were split into five groups where they talked about the future for minority and marginalized people in business and professional workspace, while snacking on appetizers and cocktails passed around by servers. 

After discussion, dinner was provided courtesy of Saint Leo.

Stinchcomb plans to hold events like this on a regular occasion and make it sustainable. Builders + Backersis also seeking donations so events can be held twice a year or quarterly.

Heartland Forward is a nonprofit “think and do tank” focused on improving economic performance in the center of the United States. Heartland Forward is based in Bentonville, Arkansas, but their work focuses on the entire Heartland region which comprises 20 states.

Builders + Backers is an organization led by Donna Harris. Donna is co-founder of 1776, on the board of the Global Entrepreneurship Network and has led many significant projects and initiatives across the country. 

Builders + Backers is founded on three years of research with proven frameworks and tools for local entrepreneurial thinkers and doers to equip them to accelerate their communities’ economic engines.