The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau recently launched Chapel Hill Diversity, a digital resource intending to support and promote businesses owned by people of color in Orange County.
A committee of both Visitors Bureau board members and local business owners worked together to research ownership of local businesses, gather stories about entrepreneurs of color and develop the website.
Community resources for businesses owned by people of color not only connect locals with these businesses but can connect visitors and students with a sense of belonging, said Spring Council, owner and operator of Mama Dip’s Kitchen and a member of the committee.
“It lets people know that yes, this is a diverse community and this is where you can come and get the resources you need to find the particular businesses that you’re looking for," Council said.
Council also said the website is intended to provide culture-specific services for people of color who are students or visitors of Orange County.
“Making sure other minority businesses are known as well is what got me involved,” she said.
Laurie Paolicelli, the executive director of the Visitors Bureau, said the initiative to create the website came from an increased desire to see more representation of people of color identities in the bureau’s promotion of local businesses.
“During COVID, diverse members of our board asked if we could start a committee to look at including more diversity in our tourism materials because it’s the right thing to do," Paolicelli said.
Paolicelli said she and the rest of the committee decided to undertake the project after receiving feedback from the National Coalition of Black Meeting Professionals that the Visit Chapel Hill website lacked adequate representation of people of color.
“The biggest struggle we had was finding a list of BIPOC businesses, it was a challenge because there wasn’t one agency in town that had the list like the Register of Deeds and the state Better Business Bureau, so we really had to do a lot of research," Paolicelli said.
She said now that the website has been set up, the Visitors Bureau is looking to include it in the Visit Chapel Hill, the Town of Chapel Hill and the Town of Carrboro websites.
“Our business partners want to see themselves when they look at a Chapel Hill website, and currently they don't always see themselves and so this is a great starting point that we excavated and found out so much information and are putting this helpful resource together,” Paolicelli said.
The Chapel Hill Diversity website currently lists 96 businesses owned by people of color under the categories of restaurants, services, health, retail and arts.
The committee encourages businesses owned by people of color in Orange County that are not currently featured to submit their information on the form located in the business tab of the website.
El Centro Hispano is a Latinx-focused nonprofit featured on the Chapel Hill Diversity site. It works to provide the Latinx community in central North Carolina with resources promoting education, civic involvement and economic development.
El Centro also provides resources that connect Latinx individuals with job placement and financial literacy. The organization is listed under the services section of the Chapel Hill Diversity website because of the programs it provides.
“Being a nonprofit organization, we try to build bridges and do equity and inclusion for those in our community," Arisha Guerra, the economic development coordinator for El Centro, said. "In the economic development department, we have the goal of continuing to build stability and wealth amongst those in our community."
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