The Black Business Association of Memphis (BBA) has a long-standing history of advocating for and propelling MWBEs in the City of Memphis towards economic opportunities, including business ownership. Founded in 1974, the BBA is now one of the oldest and largest trade associations both in Memphis and the Mid-South.
In order to further our mission, our dedicated team has implemented numerous initiatives over the years with the latest one being our Memphis ReStart Initiative. The primary mission of this new multi-facet initiative is to focus on the areas of talent, acquisitions, and talent acquisitions for Black-owned businesses and Black individuals in the Memphis market.
Through this newest initiative, and our overall mission to build and increase wealth in the Black Community in Memphis, our team continues to strive for economic growth, expansion, and opportunity for the Memphis community as a whole. From the civil rights events that led up to the genesis and growth of Black businesses to our own inception nearly four decades ago, we at the BBA will continue to fight for economic opportunities for MWBEs and all of Memphis.
Today, we are excited to be leading our new Memphis ReStart Initiative, along with the guidance of Alan Gumbel, our new Chief Operating Officer (COO). Dive into the history of the BBA, along with the powerful events that have laid the foundation for our work, and see how we are helping to propel Memphis towards economic development.
If you would like more information about our programs, including Memphis ReStart Initiative, or are looking to join the BBA, you can fill out our contact form and become a part of our growing network.
At the Black Business Association of Memphis (BBA), we’ve made it our mission to create a sustainable environment for Black businesses and entrepreneurs to thrive in our city. To do this, we have to understand the history of Memphis and the civil rights events that lead up to the genesis and growth of black businesses.
We can date it back to 1857 when the first grocery store and barbershop opened up on Beale Street in Memphis. With this monumental opening, Joe Clouston became the first African-American to own property on Beale Street. Shortly after that, in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation made by President Abraham Lincoln deemed enslaved peoples in Rebel states as “free.” From there, the Freedman’s Savings Bank was founded in 1865, chartered by the U.S. Government, to assist those newly freed slaves along with African American soldiers from the Civil War.
But the racial tensions both in Memphis and throughout the United States were not over. 1866 saw the Memphis Massacre which was filled with a series of violent events ignited by political and social racism and was the first large-scale racial massacre to happen in the post-Civil War South. In 1875, Tennessee passed laws segregating areas like hotels, public transportation, and amusement parks. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the segregation doctrine and throughout the early 1900s, Black businesses were burnt in Springfield Illinois, Black sharecroppers were killed in Elain, Arkansas, and Black communities were attacked in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It wasn’t until 1964/65 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act, granting African-Americans the right to vote and outlawing racial segregation in public places. Just three years later, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated right here in Memphis while supporting the sanitation workers’ strike. His death left a lasting impact on Memphis, the nation, and the continued fight for civil rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech back in 1963 during the March on Washington. The march was a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, and helped to propel the fight for economic opportunity and justice. His speech, and the continued fight for civil rights, helped paved the way for the establishment of organizations like the Black Business Association (BBA), which was founded nearly a decade later in 1974.
Since our formation, the BBA has been missioned to improve the economic well-being of the Memphis region by empowering through entrepreneurship and improving business and growth opportunities for MWBEs. Since our founding, we’ve experienced pivotal economic events like the Great Recession in 2008, the 2013 Black Lives Matter Movement, the 2018 Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act, and the COVID-19 pandemic. All of these events, both positive and negative, have served to shape the Memphis small business landscape (and businesses across the nation), particularly for Black, women-owned, and minority businesses.
Today, not only are we coming together to rebuild the economy and create a more equitable business landscape, but also to honor those who have come before us. The BBA is proud to be part of the rich history of Memphis and to be actively engaged in rebuilding our city and creating a more prosperous future for everyone.
As we’ve already mentioned, the BBA was founded in 1974 amidst the Civil Rights Movement and a tumultuous time for African-Americans. From the very beginning, our mission has been to foster an environment where Black businesses can thrive and become successful. We began with a focus on providing access to capital, business development programs, and technical assistance for Black entrepreneurs.
Since then, our organization has grown and evolved to include numerous initiatives, such as our ReStart Memphis program which was founded in 2023. Over the last few decades, we’ve led various initiatives and events, ranging from job fairs seminars, and webinars to Diversity Summits, conversations with local government officials, and support and resources for small, minority/diverse, and women-owned businesses.
The Black Business Association is proud to introduce our newest multi-facet initiative with our Memphis ReStart Initiative. This initiative focuses on the areas of talent, acquisitions, and talent acquisitions for Black businesses and Black individuals in the Memphis market.
What makes this such a crucial aspect to focus on? The answer is simple: we need to build pathways for Black businesses and individuals to have access to the same resources and opportunities as those available to their white counterparts. This initiative is the BBA’s way of creating and implementing innovative and strategic programs to propel MWBEs toward economic opportunities for growth and prosperity.
Not only is Memphis the urban hub for the second poorest metropolitan area in the United States, but the poverty rate for Black Memphians is 26 percent. That’s nearly three times higher than the poverty rate for Whites. With the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic along with inflation and the changing economy, this staggering statistic will only continue to grow and all of these factors are disproportionality impacting Black business owners and Black individuals throughout Memphis.
Through our Memphis ReStart Initiative, we are focusing on uplifting and supporting the Black businesses and individuals in our Memphis community. The initiative offers programs designed to provide valuable information and resources to Black business owners. Our primary goal is to offer a variety of tools and guides to help Black individuals launch, grow, and manage businesses. In order to propel that growth, the ReStart Initiative is focused on three pillars: Talent, Acquisitions, and Talent Acquisitions.
This pillar focuses on creating talent through Next Level Leadership. This means focusing on providing Black entrepreneurs, managers, and small business owners with the skills they need to take their businesses to the next level through leadership development opportunities. For our focus on talent, we’ve created a team of industry experts who can provide everything from mentorship and business strategy guidance to access to capital. As a result, this will help new and existing businesses to create a competitive advantage for themselves.
Through our succession solutions, we focus on assisting existing business and new businesses with different aspects of succession planning and help business owners both grow and exit their businesses while maintaining Black wealth in the Memphis community. When business owners are ready to retire and pass on their business, we also provide potential successors with training and insight on best practices that will help them continue to grow that business and take the business to greater economic stability.
These succession solutions include two key stakeholders: the buyers and the sellers. We focus on these two stakeholders because they must work in conjunction to ensure a successful acquisition process.
The sellers are the ones selling their company. They are important because they are expanding wealth opportunities for business owners looking to acquire a company and, when they sell to Black business owners, they are creating a more inclusive economy. In turn, this can help to combat the racial wealth gap and pass along Black wealth within our Memphis community.
The buyers, on the other hand, are the ones taking over these retiring businesses and helping facilitate these transactions to support and build Black wealth through new Black business owners. For many buyers looking to get into business, acquiring a local Black-owned business is more cost-effective than raising the capital and network for a new startup. That’s because the seller’s company usually comes with a customer base, vendor relationships, and other built-in benefits and resources that can help the buyer, reducing the costs often associated with developing those from scratch for a new business.
Through our ReStart Initiative, we are leveraging our expertise and resources to help create more equitable business opportunities in the Memphis market for both of these stakeholders.
When it comes to diversifying the staffing of Memphis businesses, many hiring staff struggle with where to look for diverse and qualified candidates. That’s why this pillar of our ReStart Initiative seeks to fill the gap between employers looking for more diverse hiring pools to choose from and potential employees from the Memphis community.
Through our talent acquisitions, we can connect qualified Black professionals with potential Memphis employers. To help do that, we’ve compiled a network of contacts and resources to help businesses find the right individuals to fill their executive-level positions with highly qualified candidates. We believe that by creating more equitable job opportunities for Black professionals, we can help close the gap between Black and White workers in the Memphis region and ensure that qualified individuals are connected to the jobs they deserve.
At our core, the Black Business Association of Memphis is focused on improving the economic well-being of the Memphis region by developing successful entrepreneurs and MWBEs through education, advocacy, and business development. Our Memphis ReStart Initiative is just one of the ways we are helping create greater economic opportunities for Black business owners and professionals in the Memphis community.
Join us today, and help support our mission to build a more equitable economy here in Memphis. Together, we can help ensure that all businesses in the area have access to the same resources, capital, and opportunities to thrive. Join the BBA and contact us with any questions about our organizations, initiatives, or ways to get involved!
*Funded in part through a Grant with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, conclusions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.
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