MUSKEGON, Mich. — A Muskegon woman won $10,000 in services on Wednesday during a competition that aims to help Black-owned businesses in the area.
The Michigan Small Business Development Center – West Michigan launched “Pitch Black Muskegon” this month to eliminate differences among Black-owned businesses, which often face more hurdles due to racial disparities in wealth and access to capital.
For example, nationally, an estimated 41% of Black-owned businesses closed during the first part of the pandemic compared to other groups.
“I had no financial planning; I had no counseling. I just started with the skills that I have from using my hands,” said Deanna Gantt, who owns HairbyDVG Beauty Boutique and won the grand prize. “I need the website; I need the accounting services; I need legal help with my business.”
Gantt started her Norton Shores business 12 years ago and is working to offer an apprentice program in which she helps nontraditional students earn their beauty licenses.
Over $26,000 in prize packages was awarded among five finalists. The money can be used for web development, social media, marketing and branding, accounting and legal firms.
The event was held at the Muskegon Museum of Art.
“We need this in our lives and in our businesses to help us sustain,” said Kaja Thornton Hunter, who owns Kaja’s Flavored Cajun Seasonings. “Most people start businesses and it turns into a hobby. We want to start businesses to be businesses.”
Kaja’s Flavor benefits a nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities. She says the spices will be available in Meijer grocery stores later this month.
Jukita Fisher, who owns JR Decor, which sells decorated 3-D signs, said, “If we can get the help and the services… it’s great.”
Fisher says owning a business has pushed her in new ways. She enjoys bringing homemade designs into people’s homes and offices.
Each of the finalists said they started their businesses to meet unmet needs within their communities and survive.
Destinee Sargent, who owns Country Cooking, started her business in 2016 after losing her job. She and her husband had to feed their five children.
“It gives us an opportunity to get a little piece of the pie,” said Sargent. “It might just be a crumb, but a little piece of the pie, then we get to celebrate together and then we get to unite together. It’s all about unity.”
Amanda Price started Amanda’s Frosted Dreams in 2016. Her business, which offers cupcakes and cakes, has grown especially over the last year and a half. She hopes to soon make it her full-time job and create a working environment that helps people.
“I’ve always baked since I was a child; it’s like a stress reliever,” said Price. “These aren’t just jobs; we want these to be careers for people.”