By Nehemiah D. Frank, founder, director and executive editor
TULSA, Okla — The Black UpStart, a rapidly growing organization that teaches aspiring Black entrepreneurs how to start thriving, sustainable and profitable businesses, held its second boot camp to help reenergize and restimulate what was once the Black business epicenter in America that is famously known as the Black Wall Street — Tulsa’s Greenwood District.
On a Sunday afternoon during the last weekend of Black History month, Black entrepreneurs prepared their business pitches for Pitch Day. Once doors opened to the Greenwood Culture Center, supporters wishing to see a reincarnation of the Black Wall Street entrepreneurial spirit excitedly filed into the black business village within.
The latest cohort, sponsored by TEDC and GKFF, included 14 black entrepreneurs: a meal prep service, Tiny Desk URL, skincare products, life insurance with policies named after African American icons, a unique candle business that reminds you of brunch, a mobile recording studio that clients can have set in the comfort of their own homes, and much more.
Kezia M. Williams is one of the founders of Black UpStart. She lifted the gathered crowd with her energetically-infectious spirt. It’s her second cohort to come out of Black Wall Street.
“When we teach Black entrepreneurs how to create a business that can start a job for others, we are teaching them how to create an asset, so they don’t have to go begging other people to do for them what they are capable of doing for themselves,” Williams said. She added, “You have to be crazy to materialize the substance of things hoped for and evidence for things not seen to walk by faith instead of by sight, that’s what entrepreneurs do every day, that’s what visionaries do.”“My CEO [Kezia M. Williams] is someone that’s passionate and authentic about the work. She’s driven by God and driven by the purpose of making a collective impact. Specifically, in Tulsa, we’re interested in seeing how we can help keep Black dollars circulating again in the Black community,” Ashley Marston said. Marston was also a part of the last cohort as well.
Bristol Tottress, 33, owner of Country Q Barbecue, started his business because he has a passion for cooking barbecue and has done so since 11-years-old when he first began. Tottress was the first to pitch his business. He said the hardest part about pitching was “not knowing what the feedback was going to be.” Tottress said the best part of BlackUp Start for him was that it allowed for him to get out of his comfort zone. “It allowed me to think differently about business, not just about my idea, but about it being a business,” he concluded.
Kyra Carby, 34, is the founder of the Right Mix Tulsa. “The whole idea behind the Right Mix is that it is accessible, convenient food for people with diabetes. So, it gives them something they can go home and prepare that’s not a tedious task. They are made aware of the nutritional value of their meal and understand that it stays in line with what they should be eating.” Kyra said she began her business because she likes working for herself and enjoys educating people on the facts of what’s good for their bodies.Mai Cazenave, 42, is the founder of Enlighted Candle Company. “I told my friend that I wanted to start a candle business, and my boss overheard me talking about my idea with a coworker. At the end of the day, my boss told me that she had something she was going to bring me the next day.” Cazenave’s boss surprised her with $5,000 worth of candle making equipment. “I never knew that she used to make candles, and she said ‘this was meant for you.'”
Williams said she plans to host another Black UpStart event for Black Wall Street in the future. For more information about Black UpStart please visit their website here.