Fortune 500 companies, craft breweries and eateries tend to dominate business coverage of Cincinnati. But Essence magazine says the Queen City is the fastest growing economic power in the Midwest—in particular, minority businesses are booming, especially if you're black, the magazine says.
WVXU spoke with a few black business owners to hear what unique opportunities the city has for black business owners, the challenges they face, and what legacy they want to leave behind. Here's what they had to say:
Dawson Heating and Air Conditioning
Thaddaus Dawson (pictured, top) has owned Dawson Heating and Air Conditioning for 40 years. He says being approved for loans has stopped him from growing his business. A national study shows small minority-owned businesses receive lower loan amounts compared to non-minority businesses.
Another challenge is building clientele outside of the black community.
"There have been four or five white people who moved on Hutchinson (where he lives). I gave each one of them my card and told them what I do for a living," he says. "I've never given one of them a bid because none of them ever called me about giving them a bid."
He says despite advertising in the Yellow Pages and with the business bureau, 99% of his business comes from the black community.
"I don't think people realize what a great asset minority businesses are to the community," he says. "We hire a lot of people that people might not have hired."
Nia Baucke has owned Cypress Beauty, a small batch skincare company that also hosts DIY events, for two years.
For her, Cypress is a way to be creative in a way her public relations job doesn't allow.
Baucke says despite people sometimes assuming her business is "for black people" she sees being a black entrepreneur as an asset. She created products to deal with hyperpigmentation in her skin, but says its benefits extend beyond those with melanin.
"Everyone wants bright, healthy, clear skin," she says. "I created it with me in mind, but the reality was I was able to bring something new and unique, at least in the Cincinnati market, that other people hadn't seen."
Baucke's advice for people wanting to own their own business is to sit alone with your idea and question why you're doing it and why it matters to you. She says after that, seek advice from people you trust and then remember you don't have to listen to it.
Ewaniki Moore-Hawkins and Brandon Hawkins started Soul Palette in 2016. It's a mobile, customizable experience that includes paint parties, custom murals and youth projects.
Family members taught them about entrepreneurship at a young age. For Moore-Hawkins, it was her maternal grandfather's auto body shop on Ludlow. Her paternal grandfather was also a business owner. Brandon's grandfather owned a pool hall and plastering business in North Carolina.
"Paint and sips," where attendees paint a picture usually while drinking wine, are common throughout the U.S., but what makes Soul Palette unique is its focus on impact, not just being social.
"If you are able to be successful and to make it doing something you love to do, you would be out of order not to share that with the people coming up behind you," Hawkins says.
He says he feels like it's important for black people to help each other because younger generations may not be aware of all the options available to them.
"My father always told me 'find a need and fill it,' " he says. "So that was my entrepreneurial beginnings but to realize what I love to do was art; people don't necessarily need art."
He says once their business became profitable the need became uplifting people through art and getting involved in Cincinnati Public Schools and after-school programs.
Andre Hopwood has owned Conscious Kitchen for six years.
Whether you're vegan or trying to eat less red meat, Conscious Kitchen gives all restaurant goers a seat at the table. Hopwood says the legacy he hopes it leaves is to be more aware of what you eat because it has a domino effect on your mental, physical and emotional health.
He says it's primetime for black people wanting to capitalize on the economic growth in the city.
"With black-owned businesses coming up—the clothing lines and food all these different things—it allows our creativity and our culture to be appreciated and then put on display so more of the world can see it," Hopwood says.
True Calling Counseling and Consulting Services
Joycelyn Johnson owns True Calling Counseling and Consulting Services, which focuses on individuals, couples and families' mental health. Johnson's office has been open since October 2018.
"Anytime I can help my clients get to where they want to be, I think that's a legacy. Because that's hopefully making a difference for not only them but the people they come in contact with."
From a business standpoint, she's interested in being in an environment that is a one-stop shop for her and other business owners. Currently, she shares a space with a black OBGYN and says it's common for people to see both business owners in a visit.
She says the value of black businesses are it shows younger generations what is possible.
"It's not guaranteed that you need to go work for someone. The question is what is your passion? What do you love? What brings you happiness and joy?"