Alicia Sondberg Alicia Sondberg
Senior Coordinator, Digital Marketing and Communications

Published

March 23, 2023

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A glimpse into how Coalition to Back Black Businesses grantees are elevating their communities and local economies across the U.S.

Black businesses are often the ones driving conversation and change in the Black community. That's why we are so passionate about the Coalition to Back Black Businesses (CBBB), a grantmaking initiative that we founded in partnership with American Express to empower Black businesses across the country through increased access to capital, mentorship and other long-term resources.

On the heels of Black History Month, we spoke to some of this year’s CBBB grantees to learn directly from them about how they are making a difference through their work each day, as well as the tools they need to continue to grow and contribute to the success of their communities. Here are some of those grantees:

Phyllis Calderon, an accomplished performer, author, and teacher-coach for the next generation of musicians at her own private music studio in Chicago. She founded A Touch of Classical Plus, Inc. to bring education, fortitude, and togetherness to her community through music. Phyllis doesn't just teach music; she instills confidence in her students and fosters a sense of belonging. Phyllis is not only spreading her passion for music, but also helping to create job opportunities in her community by hiring former students.

Shaykara Webster, a dedicated businesswoman and the brain behind 3MC Solutions, a real estate investment management company that specializes in offering affordable luxury housing to minority families. Her desire to give back to her community is what drives her to make a difference in the lives of those around her. Shaykara has always been passionate about breaking down the barriers that lower-income minority families face daily because she grew up watching her parents face those same barriers. Her small business efforts are creating a better future for minorities across the country with improved accessibility to housing.

Yvonne Eloisebo, an experienced corporate lawyer based in New York City, whose passion for business and entrepreneurship led her to launch her own tech company called Bossing Up in 2017. The company, which was formally incorporated in 2018, connects Black-owned product suppliers to retailers in their community, getting small businesses in front of new audiences. Her vision for Bossing Up came from her own personal experience as a Black woman who struggled to find products created by people who looked like her. She wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and buy Black-owned products, making them accessible in a market that has historically been dominated by larger corporations.

Leo Brownfield IV, a former dual collegiate athlete from Louisiana who graduated with a degree in business management in 2019. After college, he settled in Abilene, Texas, and started a mobile paintball business called Leo’s Warzone, which has become a staple in the community. Leo’s Warzone is often the site of team-building excursions and is generally known as a place for people of all ages to run around and have fun. A key to Leo's success has been his ability to forge partnerships with other local businesses. By partnering with other vendors and running cross-promotions, Leo has been able to expand his reach and attract new customers. He has created a network of support that helps him overcome challenges and grow his business.

Arlene Donovan, a credentialed career, business and life coach who founded Turning Point Coaching LLC, a consulting firm that offers a range of services to help individuals navigate the workforce, find meaningful employment, and deepen their leadership skills. Arlene’s passion for helping individuals succeed is evident in the track record of her clients’ success—whether it's refreshing their interview skills or gaining coping techniques during a tough time, Arlene is committed to helping her clients achieve their goals.

Since its launch in 2020, CBBB has awarded 1,414 Black business owners with grants totaling more than $8.1 million. Minority business owners regularly face challenges that inhibit their growth, with access to capital being a historical and continuing concern. While CBBB grants help, another important resource CBBB offers is guidance through a supportive peer network nationally. We’ve asked our grantees what’s most important to their business during complex times, and their answers can be summarized as:

  • Innovation: focusing on constant evolution to improve the customer experience and seek new markets.
  • Partnership: developing a trusted network to allow for collaboration and shared resources.
  • Visibility: maintaining a position in front of like-minded audiences and prioritizing access to those pathways.
  • Commitment: staying focused and dedicated to progress.
  • Passion: remaining optimistic and demanding equality of opportunity.

When asked what Black business owners need to thrive, a common theme that kept arising amongst the grantees was coalition-building. There is a big area of opportunity to work together to support Black-owned businesses and energize the communities supported by their enterprises. U.S. Chamber Foundation President Carolyn Cawley reminds us that “strong small businesses make strong communities”—and the Coalition to Back Black Businesses strives to continue its impact not only for its grantees, but also for their communities.

For more information about CBBB, visit webackblackbusinesses.com.

About the authors

Alicia Sondberg

Alicia Sondberg

Alicia Sondberg is senior communications and digital marketing coordinator at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

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