Black Business Strategies Program Expands Entrepreneurial Opportunities • Long Beach Business Journal


Kevin Lee-Wellington, owner of Fluffy Snowballs on Long Beach Boulevard, was less than 10 months into running his New Orleans-style shaved ice business when he contacted the local Black Business Strategies program, which aims to reduce inequality. In front of black-owned small businesses.

Lee-Wellington, who has 15 years of business experience, said he didn’t feel like a novice in the entrepreneurial world, but was challenged by ongoing marketing issues and a lack of access to capital.

Over 12 weeks, Lee-Wellington attended virtual workshops and received training and business strategy guidance from black business strategy educators.

By the end of the program, Lee-Wellington said he felt improved confidence in his marketing skills and target audience.

“I came in with 15 years of leadership experience as vice president of operations for American Foods, a multi-million dollar corporation, and I still find it extremely valuable, and I’m extremely proud to be part of the team. ” said Lee-Wellington.

The idea of ​​a partnership between Long Beach City College and the Cal State Long Beach College of Business at the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center to create a program focused on black business owners came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the community said. Darric Simpson, leader and president of the Miller Foundation.

“Black businesses are traditionally the heartbeat or cornerstone of our communities — a sense of pride, employment, a sense of involvement,” Simpson said.

Epidemic challenges

Addressing the inequities many black business owners face, especially after the pandemic, is a key goal of the program, Simpson said.

Black-owned businesses have experienced the highest rate of closures of any group since the outbreak — the number of black-owned businesses fell by 41 percent from February to April 2020, according to Reuters.

To help overcome those and other challenges, the core principles of Black Business Strategies are to provide capital, education, mentoring and technical assistance, said Senior Advisor and Program Manager Joseph Jackson.

“Many business owners get so wrapped up in their day-to-day work that they lose sight of other important and key aspects of success,” Jackson said.

Over the course of 12 weeks, participants will study business units that are important to any business owner, including financial aid, marketing strategies and more, Jackson said.

“Those specific issues translate well not only to new business owners, but to individuals who have been in business for a long time and want to refresh their understanding of certain key issues,” Jackson said.

Even before the pandemic, black businesses faced disparities in access to finance and capital, which hindered their ability to be sustainable, Jackson said. Meanwhile, there is a lack of awareness and access to business support services.

“The goal was to focus on this underserved community, make sure they’re aware of the resources available, and curate webinars that touch on key topics important to business success, empowering them and making them available. We hope to make their dreams for the organization a reality,” Jackson said.

Finding new opportunities

As a result of the expertise he gained in the program, Fluffy Snowballs has earned seven certifications, including distinction as a minority business, Lee-Wellington said.

The business is certified by the Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, which has created the opportunity to open in California airports. Certificates from The United States Black Chamber of Commerce and the City of Long Beach, Lee-Wellington said.

Applying for these certifications is “not a very easy process,” Lee-Wellington said, and Black Business Strategies was able to guide him through the applications.

“I found the program very insightful in terms of what it did for me,” Lee-Wellington said. “You go above and beyond and make sure you’re dealing with experts in terms of your business.”

Lee-Wellington says he encourages any black entrepreneur to get involved in the group in the future.

“BBS is important to Long Beach because we all know that black and brown people are marginalized and excluded from the process,” Lee-Wellington said.

Especially since the pandemic, many entrepreneurs have realized that they can no longer depend on government assistance and have had to figure out how to create opportunities for themselves, Lee-Wellington said.

“Having a BBS program allows entrepreneurs to gain insight that they normally wouldn’t,” Lee-Wellington said. “It gives you an opportunity to invest in your brain.”

Lee-Wellington is looking for ways to expand his business beyond traditional brick-and-mortar and into catering and creating merchandise — ideas that grew out of his time in the Black Business Strategy suite, he said.

Lee-Wellington said Fluffy Snowballs has increased its revenue since being part of the program, and is experiencing the biggest sales month in the company’s history.

“I’ve run companies as an employee, but never as a CEO,” he said. “It helped me change my perspective by looking at everything in my business.”

New team

On September 22, the Black Business Strategies Program launched its fifth cohort of Black Business Owners.

As of 2020, more than 42 businesses have graduated from the program, including other Long Beach businesses such as Village Treasures, Forgotten Images and Dream Crater Studios.

Current participants are from Los Angeles and Ventura counties, and represent businesses in landscape design, early childhood education and development, cleaning, healthcare and more. The current group includes one Long Beach business: Learning Associates, LLC.

Each participant has specific outcomes they want to achieve, including expanding their business, increasing sales potential, and achieving their vision for their business.

“Every new member seemed very enthusiastic and eager to get started and the interest level was definitely high,” Jackson said. “We have seen this with previous teams as well. With each new group, the power seems to expand as they realize what can be achieved with some information.

Jackson hopes to implement a support network and a searchable database moving forward, which can serve as a resource for alumni and current Black Business Strategy participants, he said.

Simpson said he hopes to continue the program to raise awareness among young people to show future entrepreneurs that their skills will give them the strength to build a career.

Additionally, he hopes to create a support network of paint business owners who are not only technically savvy, but also show how we can be corporate citizens in the community, Simpson said.

He said he hopes participating businesses will reach a point where they can give back or get enough employees to volunteer.

“Business and life are about relationships,” Simpson said. If you’re not too worried about the doors being open, you can look forward to tomorrow and next week.



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