DECATUR – Selling an assorted array of lip balms, massage oils and facial scrubs, Jaleela Singleton said it is not easy for Black-owned businesses to get the funding they need to support themselves.
“It’s hard for us to get the benefits we need for our own business because we get turned down a lot and there aren’t that many opportunities for us to take advantage of,” said Singleton, a franchise owner of Coochie Cane. “Anytime you have an opportunity, go for it.”
The Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce held their second annual Black Business Expo in Decatur’s Central Park on Saturday. The event was intended to help Black-owned businesses gain more exposure by showing the products and services they offer to the community.
Tony Wilkins, president of the Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce, said the expo also aims to give exposure to the organization in celebration of August being National Black Business Month.
“The first things we want people to get out of this is to see the number of Black businesses available and the goods and services they provide,” Wilkins said. “If people don’t know that these goods and services are out there, then they can’t take advantage of them.”
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Businesses paid $25 to participate if they were chamber members and $50 if not, which would later go toward their future membership payments, Wilkins said.
The loan program, which is a part of the Small Business Credit Initiative, participates with approved lenders like Hickory Point Bank & Trust to provide financing to various businesses and encourage bank lending. It fills in the gaps that prevent new and growing businesses from obtaining financing for startup costs or working capital.
“We are very excited to be partnering with the Metro Decatur Black Chamber and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to help support local minority-owned businesses in the Decatur community,” said Chris Funk, executive vice president of Hickory Point Bank & Trust, in a press release on Saturday.
Wilkins said there is over $78 million in funds allotted to Illinois’ Advantage program and this will be first rollout for businesses in Macon County.
He also said the chamber will be offering a workshop with Hickory Point on Monday to help businesses with the application process and learn more about the qualifications needed.
“We want people to know about the Black businesses available,” Wilkins said. “We also want them to know that the Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce is here to serve the business community and help them grow, expand and even start up their business.”