Entrepreneurship is a big word that certainly has gained traction and popularity in recent years in the business community. It’s not a new concept, though, and it’s something that many small business owners have experience with.
More than a dozen Black-owned businesses – many of which started small and have grown over time – were recognized for their contributions to the community during the inaugural Black Business & Non-Profit Organization Award Ceremony held in Henderson recently.
The luncheon event was the result of a partnership with Vance-Granville Community College and Gateway Community Development Corporation, and hosted the luncheon event at Southern Charm Event Center, which also happened to be one of the award winners during the Feb. 23 ceremony.
Dr. Jerry Edmonds, VGCC vice president of workforce & community engagement and Heather Joi Kenney, president and founder of Gateway CDC, joined John C. Rose on Wednesday’s TownTalk and offered their thoughts on the first of what they predict will become an annual event.
Edmonds and Kenney served as co-moderators for the awards ceremony. Throughout planning for the awards luncheon, Edmonds said Wednesday that the shared vision came to fruition.
“The event itself was well attended,” Edmonds said. “I couldn’t have been happier with the outcome.” Not only Black-owned businesses were in attendance, but people across all demographics was what the organizers had in mind.
This ceremony focused on Vance County, but the idea is to rotate among the four counties that VGCC serves. Granville County, most likely, will be the focus of next year’s event, he said.
“We expect a large list of awardees worthy of this recognition,” Edmonds said.
The overwhelming response from this year’s honorees was one of gratitude, Edmonds and Kenney agreed.
“There was a lot of gratitude in their responses,” Kenney said, adding that this was the first time that many had been recognized in such an important way – being “seen” by the larger community for contributions was part of the purpose, she said.
Several awardees counted this award as one of the most significant accomplishments of their careers, Edmonds added.
This event is indicative of the many ways that VGCC and Gateway CDC work together to support small business, and, in this case, Black-owned businesses and nonprofits.
VGCC’s Small Business Center offers individual counseling, seminars and access to a resource center to support existing business owners and those who are testing the waters of entrepreneurship. Visit www.vgcc.edu/coned/small-business-center/ to learn more.
Similarly, Gateway CDC has a host of resources, including providing technical support for small business owners.
Kenney said the goal is to help people launch their business successfully and to make that business sustainable.
“We want to be known as a space where you can come and be supported,” she said. “We are working diligently to make sure all those resources are aligned and thoughtful.”
One award winner was Southern Charm Event Center, which just opened its doors in July 2022. It’s already made a big impression in downtown Henderson, and was the location for the awards luncheon.
“As a new business owner in Henderson, I was honored not only to be recognized but also in having the privilege to be amongst Black-owned businesses that have been operating in our community for years,” said Shanika Ragland, owner of Southern Charm. “The highest reward I received that day was watching everyone gather in a space that we created.”
Twelve award winners were recognized across three categories:
The atmosphere was one of celebration and camaraderie as friends and neighbors gathered to reflect on the hard work behind each organization. Some honorees displayed visible emotion during their acceptance speeches. Chalis S. Henderson, executive director of Turning Point CDC, was moved to tears as she accepted the Legacy award; it was her parents’ vision that led to the creation of Turning Point and its founding church, Oasis of Hope Ministries.
“The ceremony was a beautiful reminder of the great impact Black-owned businesses and Black-led nonprofits have on our region,” Henderson said afterward. “There was a resounding commitment to continue to serve our communities with the same strength and love that the organizations were founded on decades ago.”
Black-owned organizations still face unique obstacles to their success. State Farm Insurance agent Margier White, who received the Established award, acknowledged those challenges as she spoke at the event. Even so, she chooses to focus on the potential of the future rather than the struggles of the past.
“Receiving this award has filled me with pride, and I am grateful that my business was recognized and honored in this way,” said White. “This is one of the most significant events of my professional career.”
Sandra Wilkerson, president of Henderson-Vance County Chamber of Commerce, was among those in attendance. “The Chamber of Commerce is a huge supporter of small business, so it was an honor and privilege to attend this award ceremony,” she said. “Hearing the accomplishments of these business owners and knowing the impact and contributions they have all made to our community makes us work harder to support and partner with them.” VGCC has a long-standing history of supporting small local businesses. During the 2020-2021 academic year, VGCC President Dr. Rachel Desmarais took the Presidents for Entrepreneurship Pledge through the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE); this pledge includes specific action steps to advance entrepreneurship and create jobs across the country. The college was so successful in these entrepreneurial initiatives that NACCE named it the Heather Van Sickle Entrepreneurial College of the Year in October 2022.
2023 HONORED ORGANIZATIONS