St. Paul, Minn. (Fox 9) - Black entrepreneurs are getting a unique opportunity to lobby state legislators early next month.
The handwritten "Closed" sign at the MinnyRow Market in Hopkins marks the end of a dream for Dana Smith and her husband.
She’ll have a chance to talk about the financial hardships that shut down their Minnesota food-focused market when she meets state legislators at the Capitol on Feb. 3.
That’s the day Sheletta Brundidge organized a Black entrepreneurs day because she felt Black business owners needed access they’re not used to getting.
"So by the time we find out about money or resources or infrastructure, we’re reading it in the paper," said Brundidge, the CEO of media company ShelettaMakesMeLaugh.com.
"It’s already been handed out. It’s too late."
Anissa Keyes opened a black business incubator called Northside Epicenter in north Minneapolis to set up a network for launching startups.
She’s seeing a lot of first-generation business owners who struggle to know where they can find financial support.
"Even if they knew where to go, sort of the educational background, the access to social capital to be able to connect with the right people, the network, we just don’t have access to that," Keyes said.
So Brundidge brought in lobbyist Brian McDaniel as a bridge between legislators and Black entrepreneurs.
He says the amount of access may not be the biggest issue.
"I’s even believing this access exists for them," said McDaniel of Hylden Advocacy & Law. "So I wouldn’t say they try and fail. It’s just a lot of times there’s not the attempt."
Now, they’ll be able to make the case — in person — for a piece of the $17 billion budget surplus.
Dana Smith says this is the kind of access that could’ve saved her business.
"I think it would’ve been a 360-degree change," she said. "We would’ve had finances in the beginning and maybe not take out such a big loan."
The Black entrepreneurs day at the Capitol is free, including one-on-one meetings with two legislators and lunch.
Business owners can sign up online at ShelettaMakesMeLaugh.com.