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Wall St. and Business Wednesdays: Black Entrepreneurs Join Forces by Maureen Milford


Nzinga Debrick, whose Nzinga's Cultural Connection store is a downtown Wilmington success story, knows first-hand that marketing can be a challenge for a startup business.

So she understood the value of a grand opening celebration held Friday for about a half-dozen new businesses owned by African-American entrepreneurs. The event included ribbon cuttings by Mayor James M. Baker and other public officials at salons, a nightclub, retail shops and a restaurant.

"They didn't have this when I was coming up," Debrick said. "To be recognized by the city -- this is priceless."

Roy H. Campbell, whose company Entertainment Group of Wilmington and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., produced the event, said he got the idea for the celebration from talking to the merchants when he was shopping.

"It's very tough for them to break through, particularly because Wilmington has its challenges," Campbell said. "They don't have advertising budgets, they don't have marketing budgets, and often they sink most of their money into the business so they can't afford professional help."

Jayne Armstrong, district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, said she found the event an ingenious way to showcase a community of businesses, rather than just one.

"I think it's a creative way to pull people down-town," Armstrong said. "When you go shopping, you're not just going to one shop. And it builds camaraderie and sense of community so the small-business owners won't think they're alone."

DaShawn McManus, owner of D'Ambiance Barber Salon at 312 W. Ninth St., said setting up his salon meant investing in equipment, chairs and supplies. As a result, there's not a lot leftover for advertising, he said.

"So this is big," McManus said of the celebration.

For Craig Soul, who opened Inner City Books in the business incubator at 827 N. Market St. last month, the event gives him some additional exposure. Soul's shop includes an array of books primarily targeted to African-American consumers, from cookbooks to coloring books.

The celebration allowed him to show off a new gift product he has called "Book in a Basket." Decorated baskets, which hold a book, candle, notepad and other items, sell for $35 to $45.

"I'm hoping a lot of brothers will buy these," he said.

Yolanda Rosso, who opened Yoly's Place in September at 827 N. Market St., passed out fliers to bring customers to the event. Rosso, who relocated from New York City to open her hat shop, said she's been pleased with the customer traffic in Wilmington.

"I have so many assistant pastors and pastors come here who said they were looking for a place that sells hats. They're so happy. Some customers buy three or four hats," Rosso said.

Mary J. Smith of First Ladies Unlimited, also in 827 N. Market St., said the celebration helps her market her new clothing business. Her shop offers clothes for business, church, proms or other events.

Also part of the celebration was INTOU2 Hair Salon & Spa, which opened at 625 N. King St. in August.

"We can all network together," said owner Carmen Bolden-Loat. "You can't be successful by yourself."

Mildred Tadlock, who opened Miss Millie's Soul Food Restaurant at 905 N. Orange St. in July, said she would like to get the word out about her restaurant because, as yet, she doesn't have a sign on the street. She planned to use the event to give out some samples "so some people can actually get a chance to taste my food."

After the ribbon-cutting, plans called for everyone to gather at the Caribbean Lagoon Lounge for a party. The nightclub with a Jamaican flavor opened in July. Plans call for a full-service restaurant to open at the Lagoon in a few months, according to owner Sheldon Banhan.

"I'm new in the neighborhood, so the event will help," Banhan said.

This article appears in The Delaware News Journal. The author, Maureen Milford, can be reached at mmilford@delawareonline.com.


Maureen Milford

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

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