Celebrating Black Business Month – Black Brand Celebrates Year Round

What started as the Economic Empowerment and Group Economics back in 2016 has since grown and rebranded to the powerhouse nonprofit Black BRAND, which stands for Business Research Analytics Networking and Development. Now acting as the Black Chamber of Commerce for the Hampton Roads and Dan River regions, their mission is to transform the local, regional, and national community through unity, education, access, opportunity, and development.

The centerpiece of their work is the B-Force Accelerator, a 12-week program for Black and Latin-X businesses to prepare them for access to capital. This program combines free legal, accounting, and marketing assistance with individualized support, expert guidance, and the power of networking to move cohort businesses to the next level. Around the state – in all geographies and demographics – this kind of assistance and the cohort model has proven again and again to be a key component to building successful and sustainable businesses.

B-Force Accelerator 2022 Landing Ceremony. From left to right: Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover, Bloom co-working/Portsmouth Partnership Executive Director Michelle Wren, B-Force Accelerator graduate Quniana Futrell, Black BRAND co-founder/President Blair Durham, B-Force Accelerator Program Manager, Brian Owens.

“The program expanded my outlook and taught me how to scale. I am now turning my craft into a company.”

Edwin Street, B-Force Accelerator participant

“B-Force Accelerator is an amazing 12-week program that helped build our investor readiness. We now have a credible business plan that will allow us to take our company to the next level. Along the way, we have built a great network with other startups facing similar opportunities and look forward to the continuing support of the B-Force Accelerator family over the coming years.”

Anita Lumpkin, B-Force Accelerator participant

The B-Force Accelerator’s spring 2022 cohort was supported by a $50,000 Virginia Statewide Business District Resurgence Grant through Virginia’s Department of Housing and Community Development. More than 500 hours of complementary technical assistance and business coaching was provided to 27 businesses as part of Bloom’s expanded co-working space in downtown Portsmouth. Participants not only developed business plans and pro forma financial statements, but they benefitted from access to capital. From the spring 2022 cohort, five businesses received Smart Start Business Grants from the Portsmouth Economic Development Authority.

During the 12 weeks alone, B-Force helped create a $135,000 economic impact, but the benefits run even deeper. The program provides an opportunity for Black BRAND to leverage the amazing talent within their network. The B-Force Accelerator provides clients and revenue to established technical assistance providers, while helping younger entrepreneurs learn how to scale up their businesses—supporting an entrepreneurial ecosystem that is continually lifting the local, black business community.

Another initiative is the Impact Collective, a nonprofit leadership academy. In reality a nonprofit should be making a profit, but is differentiated from a for profit in how those funds are invested – returned to investors (for profit) or reinvested into the organization to meet the mission (nonprofits). Delivering business planning and leadership resources to these organizations helps to build resiliency, sustainability, and growth with some of the same principles of for profit businesses.

In addition to ongoing technical assistance, Black BRAND also hosts Black Diamond Weekend/Black Diamond University as their annual conference with both in-person and virtual components. The 2021 event featured sessions on Digital Marketing and Consumer Trends, Residential and Commercial Real Estate, Leadership, Access to Capital, and Social Enterprise. The 2022 conference is in development – follow them on social media to get the latest updates!

Organizations like Black BRAND provide the points of connection, access to information, and mentor services that so many businesses and entrepreneurs need to take an idea from concept to implementation, and that key step of further in readying them for access to capital.

Photo Credit (Top) – City of Dallas

Photo Credit (Middle) – Black Brand

Photo Credit (Bottom) Black Diamond Weekend