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As many of us have heard, black businesses throughout the country are struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. While the U.S. government has given aid to many small businesses across the country, many black businesses are left out, leaving many of them uncertain about their future. This is why Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon and her team at The Village Market in Atlanta, GA is especially important during these turbulent times.

Founded in 2016, The Village Market has stood by its mission of “empowering entrepreneurs through education, purpose-driven events, and community engagement.” Coining the phrase “Support is a Verb,” The Village Market reaches small businesses in 21 states and four countries and even has an official partnership with The Bahamas. 

Through speaking events, “marketplace experiences,” and even musical performances, The Village Market sets out to solve the problem many black businesses and entrepreneurs face:  a lack of support. The black buying power in the U.S. is $1.2 trillion, and black businesses only see 2 cents for every dollar spent. Also, many black businesses only have yearly earnings of only $58,000, which is 11 times less than white-owned businesses.

To date, The Village Market has showcased and trained hundreds of black-owned businesses ranging from apparel/merchandise, all-natural products, and foods. Many of the businesses have come a long way from the vendor tables that they started off as and now have brick and mortar locations. Vendors often make $3,000-6,000 in sales in just the first 5 hours of one of the “marketplace experiences.”

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While the COVID-19 pandemic impacts these experiences, this did not stop Dr. Hallmon and her team from fulfilling their mission of empowering and supporting black businesses.

The Village Market’s “State of Black” series is a multi-week Instagram Live series. It is a way to have candid conversations about the state of black entrepreneurship and black consumerism as it relates to COVID-19. Dr. Hallmon, the founder of The Village Market, said this in a statement to The Source:

“The difference between the State of Black and what we traditionally do is that we normally only focus on entrepreneurs.  But because COVID has taken place, we’ve expanded that focus to not only think about black entrepreneurs, but also black consumers and black lovers of black-owned businesses. So we thought that opening up the conversation to the general public would be meaningful to not only entrepreneurs but those who love black business owners.”

Even though the “State of Black” series mainly focuses on black entrepreneurship, Dr. Hallmon and her guests also delve into other issues surrounding black life in America. This past week, Dr. Hallmon and CNN correspondent, Angela Rye, held a conversation about supporting black business, the upcoming election, and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

The “State of Black” series continues this week with actress and social media star Tabitha Brown. In the coming weeks, media personality and Essence magazine executive Mikki Taylor and others are set to join as special guests. 

“Everyone that we’ve identified are, number one, staples in the community. They’re not just staples of popularity, but staples of recourses,” Dr. Hallmon stated. The guests set to have a conversation with Dr. Hallmon all represent the different pillars of The Village Market. Angela Rye represents advocacy and being “politically empowered and engaged.” Tabitha Brown represents the plant-based and wholistic pillar that The Village Market stands on. Mikki Taylorrepresents “legacy keeping,” and how important it is for black people to be keepers of their own narratives. Lastly, a soon to be announced guest from the Hip-Hop industry will represent The Village Market’s final pillar: mental health.

“Keep working and be adaptable,” Dr. Hallmon said when asked what she would say to black businesses struggling or discouraged by the pandemic. “I think it’s necessary now to employ creativity. Do those creative things that you never thought you would do,” she added. “I also think it’s important for black-owned businesses to start meeting consumers where they live. Consumers now live behind screens and if you are a traditional offline business, it is important to think about your business having an online presence not just in the short term, but the long term as well.”

You can stream the “State of Black” series on Thursday’s at 7 p.m. EST (4 p.m. PST) on The Village Market ATL’s Instagram.