Black Entrepreneur State Fair is a success for its second year
This week marks the second Black Entrepreneur State Fair, an event aimed at supporting locally owned black businesses. The fair runs until August 28 and is located in South Minneapolis on Chicago Avenue and Lake Street, just outside of Midtown Global Market.
It started last Sunday in a festive atmosphere. The fairgrounds took up almost an entire block, which was packed with vendors selling a variety of goods from jerk chicken and stuffed turkey thighs to plants and artisanal goods.
Upon entering the fair, after paying a $ 5 entry fee and receiving a wristband, the first thing visitors will notice to their left is the kids’ section which features inflatable houses, ice cream trucks, and ice cream. makeup. Not far from where the kids can let off steam is the main stage where a DJ works diligently to keep the mood going with a mix of hip hop and R&B songs.
The rest of the Fair is filled with dozens of vendors.
The origins of the fair
The fair is the brainchild of Destinee Shelby, a Minneapolis-based serial food entrepreneur who has hosted numerous events dedicated to showcasing black businesses in cities. She has been on the food business scene since 2016 after launching Baked Brand, a cake and custom catering business that now serves as an umbrella for her other businesses.
Shelby was inspired to create the fair following civil unrest in the Twin Cities last year that was sparked by the murder of George Floyd by police. Many BIPOC-owned businesses were severely damaged in the weeks following Floyd’s death and coupled with the closures brought on by the pandemic, these businesses found themselves in a vulnerable position.
According to the Lake Street Council, more than 100 minority and immigrant-owned businesses suffered damage along Lake Street, totaling nearly $ 250 million in destruction. Many businesses remain closed or have closed indefinitely.
According to the creator of the Fair, promoting the work of underinvested companies influenced her decision to create the event. Although last year was a bit difficult due to COVID-19 restrictions, there were still 50 vendors who attended the fair, according to Shelby. This year there are 77 providers, including six community resource organizations such as Unidos and Minneapolis Public Schools.
Midtown Global Market was so impressed with Shelby’s work at last year’s “Black State Fair” that they reached out to her partner for other events over the past year. This partnership allowed the Fair to take place again just outside the market building.
Shelby, the self-proclaimed “Lake Street Baby,” was born and raised in the South Minneapolis neighborhood and wanted to do her part in rebuilding her neighborhood. His decision to host the fair on Lake Street was intentional. “The decision I made to use Lake Street was kind of to bring in that healing energy that the event had after all the civil unrest that happened,” she said.
Shelby is also working with Midtown Global Market to launch its first restaurant in September. The Kitchen by Baked Brand will be housed inside the market and will offer a variety of foods and include a juice and cereal bar.
According to Fair officials, around 2,000 people attended on the first day. They pointed out that the large number allowed most of the vendors to recoup their costs for their stands. Many food vendors had reported to Shelby that they had sold before the end of the day on Sunday and Monday.
“It was amazing. There’s no way I couldn’t go back,” said Jasmine Greene, owner of Roots of Ruth, a source of organic body butters and scrubs. Greene said it’s was her sophomore year and she didn’t want to miss this year’s event.
Greene said most of her clients on Sunday were black and that she was encouraged by the enthusiastic support from the community. “It’s amazing to see people who look like me supporting me. I think there’s this stereotype that black people can’t stand or whatever, but they came out today. “
Kotiareen Taylor of K’s Revolutionary Catering also has a stand at the fair where she sells her Stay Well Tonic, a naturally sweet drink with turmeric and ginger. “We are so honored and blessed to be a part of it,” Taylor said. She shared that while entrepreneurship is not new to the black community, the exposure of this event was helpful in gaining notoriety. “We’ve always been able to make ends meet in one way or another. It is just wonderful that we can be showcased at this time.
“I think it’s a beautiful thing to see everyone supporting everyone,” said Na’Dasia Johnson, who came to the fair to support her family’s food business, Everybody Must Eat.
Zayuoya Tinsley is a recent arrival from Twin Cities and said she thinks attending the fair is the best way to get to know the community. “I love that they have a woman and a man who sell books that have all been written and illustrated by People of Color,” she said of Crown and Writer owned by Crown Shepard.
Tinsley found some items a bit expensive, but felt the investment in her community was worth it. “It’s difficult to start from the bottom without support. That’s why I chose to support black-owned businesses, ”she said.
Shelby noted that the fair has come a long way since it was first held and plans to continue making improvements. Things have gotten a lot more expensive to set up, however, she says she doesn’t want to overcharge vendors for their participation.
Minority-owned businesses in Minnesota have lagged behind their white counterparts for years despite recent progress. In 2017, 11.1% of businesses were owned by People of Color, with 58,000 of Minnesota’s 522,144 businesses, according to a report from the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. That’s almost double the 6.3 percent they owned 10 years ago.
The pandemic has made things more difficult economically, with more than 40% of black-owned businesses closing between February and April last year according to a federal report.
However, despite these challenges, black businesses are showing no signs of slowing down in their goals of financial independence and black women are leading the charge.
Open to everyone
Last year’s fair received reactions from some Minnesotans who viewed the nature of the event as discriminatory and unfair due to the annual State Fair being closed due to COVID.
Shelby said she wanted to be clear: while the event supports black entrepreneurs, it welcomes all races. “I feel like a lot of people are not open-minded to really see what it is,” she said. “We’re not just saying black people, you can’t come if you’re not black. It is not our energy at all.
To find out more about the Black Entrepreneur State Fair, go to blackentrepreneurstatefair.org.