8 Mississippi students receive $1.5 K investment to fund their small business during the pandemic
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WLBT) - A Mississippi church has started the initiative to not only give back to youth, but to show continued support to black owned businesses.
Brown Missionary Baptist Church, located in Southaven, Miss., in partnership with Pinnacle Financial Services successfully invested $1,500 into eight small business owners, all under the age of 18.
The Elite Society is an entrepreneur program launched by the church in Spring 2021, for students 10th-12th grade, explained Monica Johnson.
Monica Johnson serves as the youth coordinator at the church, as well as one of the coordinators for the Elite Society.
“The program was designed to encourage and foster an opportunity for students who had started their own business, to enhance their business, and for those who wanted to start their own business, this was to give them a great foundation. Not only to start their businesses, but to propel it.”
The “Elite 8″ are a group of students chosen by the church’s 4-12 Children and Youth Ministry, after a rigorous application process to become a part of an inaugural class of the Elite Society. Students had business ideas ranging from photography and graphic design, to sweet treats and unique vending machines.
With the help of Pinnacle Financial Partners, and local black entrepreneurs in the city, Brown Missionary Baptist Church was able to not only invest $1.5K into each individual’s business, but also successfully set up business accounts, EIN numbers, and LLCs.
“The process was rigorous because we wanted to make sure that the students were really serious about starting their own business,” said Johnson.
Through an eight week intensive program, students met twice a week, to work with their mentors, tailor their brand, as well as receiving information on acquiring business licenses, LLCs, and more.
“You have investors, and that’s why we wanted to make sure they were serious about starting their own business. They aren’t just investing time, but money as well,” Monica Johnson explained.
Monica Johnson explained that the idea came from an observation that many students were looking for ways to stay engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic, not just through the church but creatively as well.
Jessica Cartwright , a member of the Elite 8, explained that the pandemic played a major role in the creation of her small business.
“I had a lot of spare time, so why not take this opportunity to start a business.”
Cartwright’s business, Capture With Cartwright, focuses on green screen and photography.
“Everyone loves pictures. Especially with me being a teenager and always taking pictures, I felt like it kind of just fit.”
While some students were inspired by the pandemic and popular trends with their fellow peers, others were inspired by the legacy of black businesses in their own households.
“I never thought about having my own business until my parents started making t-shirts and wooden letters for sororities and fraternities,” explained Khari Brown.
“When peak pandemic hit I thought ‘maybe I can have my own business one day.’ I just had no idea what it would be.”
Brown’s business, “Captured by Brown Media”, focuses on graphic design and videography, something Brown found an aptitude for during school.
While all of the students are still in high school studies, this does not exempt them from the challenges that business owners face on a day to day basis.
“The biggest challenge for me would probably have to be attracting customers,” Dillon Johnson said.
Dillon Johnson owns a photography business called “Omarion’s Lens.”
“Everybody has their own preference, and you have to find the right opportunity to make yourself relevant. For example I started offering discounts for senior photos since everyone is going back to school. They don’t like the photos that the school photographer takes, so I took that as an opportunity to plug in my business.” Johnson explained.
Time management has also been a challenge to the students, since many of them started their business closer to the end of the academic school year.
“I am a senior in high school, and having to balance school, extracurriculars and a business is a bit hard to do,” Brown said.
“I’m a bit of a couch potato, but that wasn’t going to 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.
“Taking pictures for me is really fun, so the whole job for me is fun,” explained Cartwright.
“I know that right now I’m still learning. I’m seeing all that I can do with photography and graphic design, and it’s really rewarding.”
“It’s really about the customer,” Dillon Johnson explained. “It’s so rewarding to see the smile on their face, and that they really like what you do.”
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