As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, the same goes for supporting Black-owned businesses.
When Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon created The Village Market, she had one goal — provide more visibility to Black entrepreneurs.
“This was a time, this was in 2016 — when a lot of the conversations were about going digital. I know there’s power in being communal, being in person and seeing people buying from Black folks, I know what that does,” Dr. Hallmon told AfroTech. “There’s nothing like it. So, while the talk was about tech, I wanted to talk about building villages, building communities, and allowing that to be an economic model for families.”
She further explained that while a huge city like Atlanta affords many Black entrepreneurs the opportunity to be great, there were still some disadvantages.
The Village Market
“When you live in a city like Atlanta, we’re so ripe with entrepreneurs and just special, innovative people, but the economic disparities here are pervasive,” Dr. Hallmon continued. “So, though this is a city where you can dream of things and they can actually be manifested, the wealth gap is ginormous.”
Through the Village Market, Dr. Hallmon has put an emphasis on the phrase, “Support is A Verb.” Today is no different as her initiative which once served as a huge quarterly event prior to the pandemic, now has a retail front in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market.
The Beltline Marketplace
One of the latest additions to the platform, which has been home to more than 120 businesses from across the nation and thousands of consumers is the Beltline Marketplace. The expansion is possible thanks to a $750,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund.
Now, communities are being connected like never before. Small, local businesses have the opportunity to flourish within the 22-mile loop, known as the Atlanta Beltline, which is a hot spot not only for those who live in Atlanta but also for tourists.
“When I first had the vision in 2015, honestly what I wanted most was for us to feel good. I wanted us to love each other so deeply and to be able to see each other and offer so much grace and support,” she told AfroTech. “[My vision] was that we tell the tale of our unique narratives of what it means to be Black in this country, sometimes the triple minority, and how somehow, by the grace of God, we’re really manifesting dreams.”
The Dream Continues
The village continues to be stronger than ever.
Dr. Hallmon’s Our Village United launched a Pro Bono Program alongside Walmart to offer technical assistance for retail-facing small businesses led by Black women.
“Black women founders are leading the tide when it comes to growing rates of entrepreneurship,” said Dr. Hallmon. “However, they are significantly underserved when it comes to the technical assistance, resources, and capital needed to operate and scale their businesses at a proportionate rate. This program is an opportunity to give Black women founders the tools and resources they need to build a solid foundation for opportunities that lead to sustainable, thriving businesses and a cycle of economic possibilities for the Black community as a whole.”