By M.J. Walker
On June 19, 2021, Black business advocate Black Wall Street Muskegon presents the 1st Annual Black Business Expo at VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center in Muskegon, MI. BWSM CEO and founder Lashae Simmons II, a financial advisor and influential community leader, organized the expo.
“This is a great opportunity for community leaders and organizations to mingle with small business owners, startups, and those that want to become a business owner,” Simmons said.
The Expo kicks off with its Symposium (9:30 AM – 12:00 PM) featuring esteemed guest speakers Jemesha Smith, CEO of feminine care company Peachy Pure; William Roberson Sr., CEO of staffing agency Shoreline Staffing; Michael Buxton, CEO of potato bar Load A Spud; Te Dan Smith, founder if law firm SAG Law; and Ed Garner, Regional Director of the Michigan Small Business Development Center. Simmons is moderating the Symposium with award-winning event planner and speaker Darius Mitchell serving as host. “Seeing others happy and stepping into their purpose, and seeing them believe in themselves, is exciting and rewarding,” Simmons said.
The second half of the Expo (1:00 PM – 5:30 PM) is the Vendor Showcase.
“Imagine wanting to start your own business and walking into a space where there’s more than 70 businesses and they look like you,” Simmons said. “That’s powerful, that’s influential, and that’s what we are hoping to do; inspire the next entrepreneur.”
Black Wall Street Muskegon promotes and supports Black owned businesses. The organization’s social and community following is comprised of thousands of Black business owners and their supporters. Launched in April of 2019, its creation was inspired by the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma historically remembered as “Black Wall Street”. A community of more than 10,000 prospering African Americans, it was destroyed by a racist mob on March 31, 1921.
The original plan for the Black Business Expo was to have it take place in 2020 to celebrate the BWSM 1-year anniversary. Those plans were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Simmons believes this was a blessing in disguise.
“The additional time allowed the event to become bigger and inclusive of more businesses,” she said. “There was never a thought that it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, always a question of when and where.”
The where is the VanDyk Mortgage Convention Center located at 460 W Western Ave. “It’s centrally located with adequate space and allows everyone from all cultures to come together comfortably,” Simmons said.
“Events like this are important because it allows the community to see the raw talent that’s nesting right around the corner, up the street or next door,” Simmons added. “From what I could see there was a lack of exposure and access, especially in the Black Community. Who knew all these black businesses existed?”
The 1st Annual Black Business Expo is sponsored by WUVS 103.7FM, Brianna Scott & Associates PLLC, Brilliance Publishing, Lakeshore Community Group, DTE Foundation, Redi Rental, Consumer Energy Foundation, Urban League of West Michigan, Watch Muskegon, and Sisters In Business. For more information visit BlackWallStreet231.org.