SOUTHAVEN, miss. (WLBT) – A church in Mississippi has started an initiative to not only give back to the youth, but also to continue to support black businesses.
Brown Missionary Baptist Church in Southaven, Miss., Worked with Pinnacle Financial Services to successfully invest $ 1,500 in eight small business owners, all under the age of 18.
The Elite Society is an entrepreneurship program the Church launched in the spring of 2021 for 10th-12th grade students, said Monica Johnson.
Monica Johnson is the Church Youth Coordinator and one of the Elite Society Coordinators.
“The program was designed to give and nurture students who started their own business a chance to improve their business and for those who wanted to start their own business it was a great foundation. Not just to start your business, but to move it forward.
The “Elite 8” is a group of students who were selected by the Church’s 4-12 Child and Youth Welfare Office after a rigorous application process to become part of a founding class of the elite society. Students came up with business ideas that ranged from photography and graphic design to sweet treats and unique vending machines.
With the help of Pinnacle Financial Partners and local black entrepreneurs in town, Brown Missionary Baptist Church has not only invested $ 1.5,000 in each individual’s business, but has also successfully set up business accounts, EIN numbers, and LLCs.
“The process was rigorous because we wanted to make sure the students were really serious about starting their own business,” said Johnson.
During an eight-week intensive program, students met twice a week to work with their mentors, customize their brand, and learn how to acquire business licenses, LLCs, and more.
“They have investors, so we wanted to make sure they were serious about starting their own business. You are not only investing time, but also money, ”said Monica Johnson.
Monica Johnson explained that the idea came from observing that many students were looking for ways to get involved not only through the church but also in creative ways during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jessica Cartwright, a member of the Elite 8, said the pandemic played an important role in starting her small business.
“I had a lot of free time, so why not take this opportunity to start a business.”
Cartwright’s business, Capture With Cartwright, is focused on green screen and photography.
“Everyone loves pictures. Especially since I am a teenager and always take photos, I have the feeling that it just fits. “
While some students took inspiration from the pandemic and popular trends with their fellow students, others took inspiration from the legacy of black businesses in their own households.
“I never thought of starting my own business until my parents started making t-shirts and wooden letters for sororities and fraternities,” explains Khari Brown.
“When the pandemic peaked, I thought, ‘Maybe one day I can have my own business.’ I just had no idea what it would be. “
Brown’s Captured by Brown Media business focuses on graphic design and videography, which Brown found a talent for during school.
All students are still in high school, but this does not relieve them of the challenges that entrepreneurs have to face in everyday life.
“Probably the biggest challenge for me should be getting customers,” said Dillon Johnson.
Dillon Johnson owns a photo shop called Omarion’s Lens.
“Everyone has their own preferences and you have to find the right opportunity to make yourself relevant. For example, I started offering discounts on senior photos as everyone is going back to school. They don’t like the photos the school photographer takes, so I took that as an opportunity to get involved in my business. ”Johnson explained.
Time management was also a challenge for the students as many of them started their businesses shortly before the end of the academic school year.
“I’m a high school graduate, and it’s a little difficult to mix school, extracurricular, and business,” Brown said.
“I’m a bit of a couch potato, but that didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do.”
While they all agree that challenges are inevitable in starting and owning a business, they also agree that the experience itself is rewarding.
“I really enjoy taking photos, so I enjoy all of the work,” explains Cartwright.
“I know I’m still learning at the moment. I see everything I can do with photography and graphic design and it’s really rewarding. “
“It’s really about the customer,” said Johnson. “It’s so rewarding to see the smile on their face and that they really like what you do.”
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