Evanston group plans second annual expo of black-owned businesses
February 21, 2017
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The Black Business Consortium of Evanston/Northshore will host its second annual “Le Tour de Noir Entreprise Evanston” and Black Business Expo on Saturday.
The event will include a bus tour that drives by local black-owned businesses and an expo event held at the Levy Senior Center, 300 Dodge Ave. The day is being organized in collaboration with the city’s Economic Development Department.
This year, the city is paying for the bus tour, the buses themselves and the space for the expo, said Jean Murphy, co-founder of the Black Business Consortium.
“We’re excited about the co-sponsorship of the city,” Murphy said. “This benefits them, so they can say they support minority-owned businesses, female, African-American businesses, but it’s a win-win situation. We’re excited and thrilled about it.”
Murphy is the co-owner of YoFresh Yogurt Cafe, 635 Chicago Ave. She founded the Black Business Consortium along with her husband Larry Murphy and local ice cream parlor owners Wendy and Clarence Weaver. She said the motivation for creating the consortium and the event was to provide a place in which business owners can network and support each other, as well as promote sustainable business development.
She said some black owners of small businesses may feel intimidated by going to the Chamber of Commerce for help and that the consortium was there to provide another way of support.
Since the event was first held last year — featuring a bus and virtual tour — the tour has nearly doubled in size and expanded to feature 82 local businesses, Murphy said. She added that this year’s tour will focus on the legacy of black entrepreneurship in Evanston.
“We’re focusing on the legacy of black-owned businesses,” Murphy said. “(We’re documenting) the fact that there is this 150-year legacy of entrepreneurship. Many people don’t know about the variety and types of black-owned businesses.”
The expo will feature a space for businesses to set up and feature their products and services, and it will include food sampling, free entertainment and a panel discussion.
There will be performances from Evanston Township High School students and a spoken word group. Additionally, jazz musicians Kamila Muhammad (Bienen ’16) and Medill and Bienen fifth-year student Thaddeus Tukes are scheduled perform at the event.
Hecky’s Barbecue will have informational flyers available at the expo. The restaurant has been in Evanston for the past 33 years and prides itself on being a longstanding member of the black business community, owner Hecky Powell said.
Though he was against the separation of the black business community from the Chamber of Commerce, Powell said he felt the consortium was important to help make the community aware of black-owned businesses.
Vivian Killebrew, who owns Stepping Out on Faith Consignment, 1632 Orrington Ave., joined the consortium and said she found others whose businesses were similar to hers and was able receive support in the group.
Her store will be represented at Saturday’s expo, where she will showcase some of her merchandise and give out information to visitors.
“It’s people just like me, you know, small businesses just trying to make a living,” Killebrew said. “(They’re) supporting each other, and networking and bringing good opportunities to the community.”