The Toledo Black Wall Street Community Development Networking Event

Organizers of Black Wallstreet Community Development with apparel Designed by Kristi Knighten owner of KK Apparel (middle)

By Dawn Scotland
The Truth Reporter

“The calvary ain’t coming. It’s us,” remarked Toni Battle-Gaines, originator of Black Wall Street Community Development.

It started as a networking event held by the Black-owned media in August of this year. WJUC 107.3 The Juice, The Sojourner’s Truth Newspaper and Stalwart Magazine hosted an event providing marketing and advertising support to about 15 Black entrepreneurs.

“We were just going to have the one meeting and then the businesses that came said we should keep it going… because this community was forming,” said Battle-Gains.

The now bi-monthly event grew in October to about 36 participants and on Dec 13, with the Creative Summit at the Entrepreneurs Club, it has blossomed to over 60. “It’s growing organically each time” she stated. The aim is to create a strong and supportive Black business community in NW Ohio.

The Black Wall Street Community Development’s mission statement “is to empower a community of business owners through activities such as mentorship, networking, leadership coaching and financial literacy initiatives for advocacy, support and collaboration for each other that leads to equitable and generational wealth,” shared Stayce Fowler, owner of Stalwart Magazine.

The prototype for the project is ‘Black Wallstreet’ the burgeoning Black business community in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was infamously and tragically destroyed by white mobs over 100 years ago in 1921.

“[My ideas was that] we need to re-energize Black Wall Street. That whole phenomenon that happened where they circulated the money and everybody came up.” said Battle-Gaines.

“People like having support – so it’s not just them out there trying to fight the system,” she continued. “There’s a lot of interesting businesses that all of us are becoming aware of [here at the summit] so that we can do business with each other… and it can be the beginning of a new paradigm shift… because a lot of [the idea that we can’t work together] goes back to slavery,” remarked Battles- Gaines. ”We’ve just got to overcome that.”

“[Quite a few] connections have been made already. People are getting contracts and business from just showing up…We’re just out here in individual silos trying to make it happen – let’s come together.”

BWCD attracts like-minded businesses owners, nonprofit leaders, and supporters at every stage of the business. There is no invitation or charge – just an opportunity to grow together and support and grow our community of businesses.

Representatives from the Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union – Shariva Sutton, Jamezz McKinney, Angela Cattladge

This event was held at the Entrepreneurs Club (222 Fassett St.) owned by Black entrepreneur Vince Evans. Organizers of BWCD include Toni Battle-Gaines, sales manager at WJUC 107.3 The Juice; Rick Hogan and Debra Hogan, owners of WJUC 107.3 The Juice (Fleming Street Communications); Fletcher Word, owner and publisher of The Sojourner’s Truth Newspaper; and Stayce Fowler, owner and publisher of Stalwart Magazine. The leaders wore newly designed custom-made apparel by black owned designer Kristi Knighten, owner and designer of KK Apparel.

The inaugural kickoff event in August served as marketing and advertising support by the Black media. The next featured a Black banker providing information and financial advice and resources. The event last week hosted samples from local businesses, networking, and an opportunity to celebrate our people on the journey.

Designers, bakers, architects, nonprofit leaders, bankers, restauranters, realtors , brokers, childcare centers, boutique owners, bloggers and podcasters all convened in an elevated evening with a similar mission: sharing information, ideas and contacts while celebrating each other’s accomplishments– from grand openings to features and specials.

Vince Evans, owner of the Entrepreneurs Club and multiple nonprofits and businesses, remarked “I work with a lot of entrepreneurs to help them grow and be more successful because as my journey went I ran through a lot of problems…if we would work with each other and helped out each other it would make our journey a lot less troublesome.”

He stressed the importance of doing better for our race by unifying and supporting each other and circulating our money within our community. “Let’s work together as a race… every other race [works] together to help each other prosper, as a race we do more tearing down each other than we do helping each other grow… that’s the way to break everything that we have a problem with… because we won’t work with each other.”

“The biggest thing is sticking together. With unity and with numbers we can do a lot more than being divided. United we can do a lot.” Evans recited a poem he wrote entitled Growing Pains about his journey as an entrepreneur.

Vendor Asia Banks-Franklin has two businesses: CoySocial, in which she creates logos, branding, flyers, business cards and Von Lee and Company a handbag company that she designs. She’s originally from Detroit and served as one of the vendors at the event. “I’m looking for connection in the community and to build [my] brand, she shared, “There’s no support like our people… also [as an introvert] things like this give me the opportunity to be a little bit more comfortable with showcasing the things that I am skilled at doing.”

Vendor Chanell Phenix, owner of Be Sweet Treats, LLC, creates confectionary treats and make individual strawberries, cake pops, cocoa bomb- everything sweet. She has been in business for seven years and shared her reasons for attending the summit “I’m hoping to gain more exposure, it’s Christmas season and I have a Christmas menu out.” She hoped to sell more orders for the holiday season.

Another vendor at the event, Andre Ballard of Ballard Architectural Studio, a Toledo native and owner of his business for 23 years, stated: “I design all over the country. Right now, I’m currently designing in about nine different states [with licenses] in each state. I do mostly commercial, but my love is residential.” In Toledo he designed the Local 500 banquet facility. He returned to northwest Ohio in 2018 and is a professor of construction and architecture at Bowling Green State University in the School of the Built Environment.

Guests also enjoyed samples from various businesses: fried fish from Bertha Mae’s Kitchen, drinks from Bottles Up Bartending (owner Shanice Sample) and treats from Be Sweet Treats.

The group is now creating committees to continue the growth of the project and further the mission. The next event will be held in February with more details to come. To learn more about BWSDC visit Facebook @ Black Wall Street Community Development.