‘We’re going to equip the community for success.’
By NKEM IKE AND SAMANTHA LEVRAULT
The Greenwood Women’s Business Center nonprofit opened on Wednesday in the heart of Tulsa’s Historic Black Wall Street.
This endeavor was made possible by work done by the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Black Chambers Inc., USBS Community Economic Development Corp. and the Small Business Administration.
Opening during Women’s History month, the goal of the new Greenwood Women’s Business Center is to increase business opportunities and recovery solutions for Black and women of color small business owners and entrepreneurs. The center will help members with business startups, financial management, and assistance.
Despite the fact that Black and women of color are the primary audience for this venture, the center will also serve anyone who is interested in small business ownership, officials said.
During the notable ceremony, Freeman Culver III, the Greenwood Chamber’s president/CEO, quipped that the original goal was to “paint the walls and clean the carpet,” however so much more than that was done.
The Greenwood Chamber will receive a renewable annual grant of $150,000 from the Small Business Administration to run the center.
President Biden delivers on pledge to Greenwood
On the commemoration of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre last June, President Joe Biden visited Tulsa as part of his pledge to visit communities that have been left behind by failed policies. At the Greenwood Cultural Center, Biden announced new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap – including a commitment to use the federal government’s purchasing power to grow federal contracting with small, disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent, translating to an additional $100 billion over five years.
He noted his initiative would help more Americans, including those in the Historic Greenwood District, achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.
So, Wednesday’s opening was a first-step to deliver his on his pledge.
Upon entering the newly renovated space, glass double doors feature the poem “Phenomenal Woman” by the late poet and author Maya Angelou that serves as an ode to women everywhere. Black and white images line the hallway of Historic Greenwood images and notable Black Tulsans.
Officials said the Greenwood Women’s Center is the 138th facility in the U.S. to be opened by the Small Business Administration.
One-stop shop to help women open businesses
The center also will be a major resource for the women housed inside the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce, considered the oldest economic chamber serving the Black people in the country.
The Greenwood Women’s Business Center offers a variety of services that include one-on-one counseling, training, funding, grants, networking, workshops, legal advice, marketing, financial management, technical support and assistance, along with mentorship.
Culver said the services available to women will more than meet their needs to build and sustain their businesses.
“You’ve got to have mentorship,” he said. “You’ve got to have infrastructure. This center is doing everything for all women, for anybody who walks in the door. Women of color, white women, women who want to start a business and learn what it takes. We’ve never had nothing like this.”
Of the Black women business owners on Greenwood, one of these mentors will be Patricia Carter-Breeckner, who has owned the Natural Health Clinic, 112 N. Greenwood Ave., since 2005. Her store opened in the historic district in 2002 and remains one of the oldest on the block.
80% of Greenwood businesses owned by women
At the grand opening of the center, she spoke of how delighted she is to be a part of the Greenwood Women’s Business Center. She acknowledged there is “need to know how to not only open up shop. We need to know how to write a business plan. We need to know how to have a financial plan. We need to know how to do business for ourselves.”
Other local Black women business owners who spoke at the event included Amber Oputa, who owns AOG Real Estate, and Gina Woods, who owns The Loc Shop on Black Wall Street, both located on Greenwood.
The timing of the Women’s Business Center is especially important given the fact that Black women are the fastest growing demographic for opening small businesses.
- About 80% of businesses opened in the Historic Greenwood District are by owned by Black women.
- Women owned businesses make up 42% of all businesses in the U.S.
The center is located in the heart of the Historic Greenwood District that was destroyed during the largest documented event of anti-Black violence, in which 300 Black people were left dead and the thriving business and social community destroyed.
The community rebuilt and remained vibrant, until an Urban Renewal initiative in the 1960s demolished the majority of business and homes throughout Historic Greenwood to make way for the Crosstown Expressway.
Seeing little to no recompense for the destruction of Greenwood from the race massacre and Urban Renewal, the Women’s Business Center is hoping to be a step in the right direction in revitalizing the Historic Greenwood District.
Greenwood remains ‘resilient’
As expected, the Tulsa Race Massacre was on everyone’s mind during this historic event on Wednesday many speakers invoked the historic event that changed Tulsa forever.
Ted James, SBA’s regional administrator, noted that despite the violence of the white mob, Tulsa’s Black community remains “resilient.”
“I read a lot, learned a lot, and prayed a lot about this community in the past, for the history,” he said. “But not just the history, but the resilience. People talk a lot about the past, but I like to think that we are here today, in this historic community making history.”
Alisa Joseph, vice president and director of programs for U.S. Black Chambers, knows the Women’s Business Center will play a vital role to help women business owners given the area’s significance to rebuild and reclaim. The “historical designation of Greenwood, there’s the legacy of what it means from a business owner’s point of view and the massacre took place and the ability to bring in new business owners, bring in that support and celebrate that legacy of entrepreneurship in the Greenwood area.”
Gary Breekner, Greenwood Chamber’s vice president, told KJRH TV said the Women’s Business Center has the tools – and the spirit Greenwood spirit – to make an impact for the entire Tulsa community led and empowered by women business owners.
“We’re going to equip the community for success — making dreams reality,” he said. “That’s what Greenwood is all about… pulling those dreams off the shelf and making them a reality.”
ABOUT THE CENTER
The Greenwood Women’s Business Center is at 102 N Greenwood Ave. Suite 200, 2nd floor, above Fat Guy’s Burger Bar.