Since Carrboro’s inaugural BIPOC Business Roundtable Discussion in July, the town has offered an ongoing series of discussions on how to meet the needs and address the concerns of people of color who own local businesses.
There are over 60 establishments in Carrboro owned by people of color. These roundtable discussions are a way to determine essential resources and services for these businesses, said Jon Hartman-Brown, Carrboro's economic development director who founded and organized the BIPOC Business Roundtable.
“We want to assess needs,” Hartman-Brown said. “What services are we currently providing, what resources do our BIPOC business owners need and how can we access the gap? We find areas that we are not currently providing and then provide those services.”
Hartman-Brown said since the first meeting last year, the purpose of these meetings has been two-fold. The minority businesses owners and managers in attendance have used the forums to not only to express their needs and concerns, but also to develop a collaborative and supportive business network.
The most recent of these meetings, held on Feb. 25, discussed creating space for and acknowledging the achievements and struggles of business owners of color.
Many business owners, such as Soteria Shepperson, who co-manages the café Present Day on Main in Carrboro, agreed there should be an interactive database compiling business owners' accomplishments. At the roundtable, the group said it plans to establish a platform that offers a safe space to business owners and community members alike to comment, raise concerns and seek the town’s assistance.
The roundtable discussion group anticipates that its planned interactive platform and database will promote interconnection among and beyond the business owners of color. In addition to improving the ability for these businesses to assist each other, the group hopes the platform will also serve as an effective interface with Carrboro’s business advocates and white-owned businesses.
The discussions are not only offered to current business owners, but also prospective owners. Quinton Harper, who attended the Feb. 25 roundtable discussion, plans to open his own business in Carrboro in the near future.
“I am thankful for Jon and the Town of Carrboro for holding these meetings,” Harper said. “They provide a safe space and help me learn and access different resources I need to begin my journey. And most importantly, I appreciate everyone coming together to support one another.”
The discussions are not limited to the financial concerns of starting and maintaining a successful business. The group also focuses on strategies to support these business owners and their employees in other aspects of life, including questions regarding child care, rent and mortgage payments and transportation, all part of an effort to make Carrboro a more equitable place.
“I want to be able to say that my town is doing something," Shepperson said at the roundtable.
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