Event aims to invigorate African-American-owned businesses, communities

LaRese Purnell believes the best way to improve a city's financial stability is by increasing the revenue of the businesses within it. As founder of a nonprofit bringing exposure to African-American-owned enterprises in Cleveland, Purnell has dedicated a weekend later this month to breathe life into that concept.
 
Awareness, education and economic impact are the themes of The Real Black Friday (RBF) event to be held August 12-14 at three separate locations in Cleveland. The initiative, now in its third year, will promote local black entrepreneurs, many of whom are already listed in a directory on the organization's website.
 
Restaurants, barbers, architectural firms and a credit union will be among the ventures on hand, garnering the kind of attention a lack of advertising dollars often prevents.

"These are small, self-started businesses with not much capital," says Purnell, an author and speaker who also serves as chief financial officer at The Word Church. "They've never had a billboard or radio ad. They're fighting to keep their doors open, so marketing is at the bottom of the totem pole."  
 
During the RBF, owners will meet potential customers as well as fellow proprietors who face the same challenges. Purnell wants African-American entrepreneurs to form a support network to help buoy national black buying potential, which is expected to reach $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.  
 
"The idea is to create longevity for these businesses," says Purnell. "We're educating owners about scaling up and dealing with increased traffic."
 
Purnell says enduring success means harnessing black spending power and influence for more than a weekend. "Flip this Biz," taking place on August 13, will highlight renovations done to Annie B’s and Earl’s Place, located at 4017 St. Clair Ave. The restaurant will not only get a facelift, but also a crash course on revenue growth from JumpStart and the RBF team.
 
"Flip this Biz" is the kind of outreach that drives consumer spending habits over the long term, Purnell says. Increased social media presence, meanwhile, can draw customers from outside African-American neighborhoods.
 
"We need to support our own, but would like the entire community to come out," says Purnell. "We want these businesses to be around for generations."

Other events include the MiIlion Dollar Movement at the Faith Community Credit Union, 3550 E. 93rd St., from 12 to 6 p.m. on Friday. And on Sunday, the Word Church, 18909 S. Miles Rd., will host a Solution Session TownHall, the Black Business Expo and a Taste of Black Cleveland. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free.
 
The RBF concept originated in 2014 when Purnell launched his book, "Financial Foundations." He recalls meeting small business owners who were paying rent directly out of their cash registers. Ultimately, he believes, championing African-American-run shops can uplift the neighborhoods surrounding them.
 
"It's a hard fight," says Purnell. "The more dollars we drive to small businesses, the more impactful it can be to our communities." 

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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