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Community stakeholders form Staunton Black Business Collective

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A group of community stakeholders has organized to help grow Black business in Staunton.

The Staunton Black Business Collective was created to support current Black business owners and encourage entrepreneurship in the Black community. The collective hopes to fill a similar role for founders and aspiring entrepreneurs as B Cubed Program in Harrisonburg, The RISE Foundation in Waynesboro and The Walker Program in Lexington.

“There’s a lot of Black and Brown businesses that are under-represented,” Sabrina Burress, chair of the Staunton Black Business Collective, said. “There are a lot of folks who are looking for help, looking just to promote who they are and what they have to offer. I think that there’s something to be said about our ability to support one another in what we are doing. That feels really important to the collective.”

The founder of The ARROW Project, an organization that raises mental health awareness and support in the community, Burress understands what it takes to get an organization off the ground.

“We want to help businesses find the capacity to thrive,” Burress said. “Not to just survive. Not to just pay the bills, but to actually thrive in this work.”

For the past year, a group of four friends would discuss Black business in Staunton over a monthly lunch, which eventually led to a much larger community conversation.

“It was just a safe space,” Dr. Resche Hines, founder of Trivium BI data analytics firm, said. “We created an environment where we could talk business, be vulnerable, talk creatively and break bread together.”

The quartet of entrepreneurs and aspiring founders desired for everyone in the community to experience something similar to the lunch conversations.

“Resche would walk us through every step of what we needed to do to generate income from our business ideas,” Chris Lassiter, director of community engagement and inclusion at the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, said. “I learned so much, and at the same time I was always thinking about how many other people I knew that needed to hear this.”

That desire started an 18-month process of figuring out how to emulate what was happening in Harrisonburg, Waynesboro and Lexington. After meeting individually with community stakeholders for more than a year, a meeting was called to gather everyone into the same room and The Staunton Black Business Collective was born.

After two soft launch events in the spring, the Staunton Black Business Collective is now hosting a series of weekly meet-ups called Coffee on Mondays, a safe space for Black and Brown entrepreneurs to share successes and struggles.

“I think some of our major goals,” Burress said, “are to create a network and a community – some place where folks that own Black and Brown businesses – can come say, ‘Here’s my idea. Can I bounce it off you? Can we talk about strategic plan? Can we talk about support? Can we talk about funding?’ We need some place that feels safe for us to have that conversation. That’s one of the most important things we hope to create.”

The Staunton Black Business Collective is comprised of ethnically diverse group community members. Donations can be made to the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation, a 501c3 support arm of the Chamber. Donations must specify Staunton Black Business Collective.

Burress believes a myriad of ways exist for interested community members can help.

“If you have expertise that you can offer to the collective, let us know that,” Burress said. “Come to our meetings. Learn what we’re doing. Sharing what you have to offer feels very important, and spreading the word so that folks know. Word of mouth feels really important, too.”

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.