Black businesses growing, creating jobs a year after they were introduced to financial experts

A year ago, Black business owners in the Twin Cities were connected with financial experts to help learn how to move their businesses forward. 

On Wednesday night at the Capri Theater, their successes were celebrated.

In August 2022, a diversity, equity, and inclusion marketing firm called Rae Mackenzie Group launched an initiative called Access Commitment LIVE! along with U.S. Bank. The idea was simple: Get Black entrepreneurs and bank executives in a room and give them resources to grow their businesses.

"Since that time, we've seen small businesses be able to create jobs, to create infrastructure," said Greg Cunningham, the chief diversity officer at U.S. Bank.

Their goal is to reduce the racial wealth gap by promoting job growth and homeownership.

"So whether it's access to funding, access to marketing opportunities, various activities and services that they need, we're able to either do business with them ourselves or refer them to other organizations," Cunningham explained.

One of the Black-owned businesses highlighted Wednesday night, Reviving Roots, is making a difference by helping reduce generations of racial trauma.

"The idea kind of came about to say, ‘How can we help people to engage with their mental health by engaging with their physical health?’" said Marlee James, a mental health therapist and founder of Reviving Roots.

James just opened a new space in Loring Park this month after carefully choosing every colorful and calming detail. She started with a solo practice, but in 2020, it became clear that she needed to expand.

"When COVID happened, the uprisings happened, there's a lot of Black folks looking for therapy. So, I had almost 100 people on my waiting list and they're all Black folks looking specifically for a Black therapist with a social justice orientation," James explained.

Less than 3 percent of the state's mental health providers are Black, and yet, people who are Black make up 7 percent of Minnesota’s population, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

"I've had a good amount of clients who've had white therapists who have told them they need to think their way out of racism, or that their experiences weren't real or they weren't valid because that therapist just couldn't even understand how somebody's just following you around a store for no reason," James explained.

It's clear: The need for her work is there, and for James, this is only just the beginning. 

"While businesses have this competition, we have all kind of had an opportunity to support one another," she said.