Just BE and The Runway Project co-hosted the 4th annual For the Culture: Black Women’s Holiday Market at Impact Hub Oakland over two of the biggest holiday shopping days, Oakland’s Plaid Friday and Small Business Saturday. The pop-up market featured black women artists, makers, and entrepreneurs. Just BE is a network of black women entrepreneurs supporting each other in developing and running successful businesses. The Runway Project is a national initiative that provides black entrepreneurs with early-stage funding and holistic business support in order to bridge the racial wealth gap. These two organizations were founded by black women who had experienced and witnessed the structural barriers that hold back many black business owners.

Just BE organized the annual market with two goals: to generate life-changing revenue for local black women entrepreneurs, and to empower the local community to spend their holiday dollars locally with black women from the Bay Area.

For Community Vision, and the initiatives we administer such as Real People’s Fund and California Freshworks, supporting events like For the Culture is one of the ways we show up for community. It’s important that we align our organization with people who create entrepreneurial spaces for those who have been shut out of traditional wealth-building opportunities.This is how we serve as a CDFI and put our commitment to economic and racial equity into action.

When someone decides to start a business it is often family and friends who provide the start-up capital. However, looking at the racial wealth gap we can see how generations of disinvestment puts black entrepreneurs at a great disadvantage. In 2013, the Pew Research Center found that black households in the U.S. have a net worth of $11,000, while white households have a net worth of $144,000. Financial exclusion and neglect burden communities with intergenerational poverty and dispossession, which results in black entrepreneurs not having the kind of access to start up capital that a white entrepreneur may have.

Black women are the fastest growing group of business owners in the country; and at the same time, they are the least likely to access capital from personal networks and traditional financial institutions. Additionally, more than 97% of black women business owners do not have a single employee or contractor. Meaning they are running all aspects of their business, which is not sustainable or healthy and can lead to burn out and low-grossing business. This is why Just BE centers black women entrepreneurs; to ensure that they have the financial, community, and self-care resources needed to succeed.

The pop-up market has grown to be the largest black women holiday pop-up in the Bay Area. Supporting, promoting, and attending the For the Culture market brings visibility to these businesses, which helps to increase their sales and increase public awareness that these local businesses exist.

“It is such a delight to experience the creativity, passion and vibrancy of this community of makers. Every year For the Culture grows and becomes more dynamic. It is a celebration of and reflection of the breadth and depth of talent and artistry in our communities. It is glorious to be surrounded by all the fine art, hand crafted expression, vivid color, raw texture, unapologetic creativity and joyful energy. It’s inspiring to see women bringing full expression to their unique talents as artists and entrepreneurs.”
– Laurie Gibbs Harris, Community Vision’s Portfolio Manager

The importance of creating spaces where black people see themselves reflected in the  entrepreneurs, makers, and in the products and goods being sold to them cannot be understated. We believe it’s part of the process of cultivating inclusive and just economies that ensure representation and leadership from those most impacted by the inequities of the financial system.

At Community Vision we know that communities have the solutions to their most pressing issues because we experience it every day with the organizations and social enterprises that we partner with. Our approach is to serve as a social justice catalyst to help foster equitable revitalization that creates a thriving Bay Area for all of its residents.