Black entrepreneurs coming together to write letters to Minnesota Congressional delegation

This Saturday afternoon, Minnesota Black small business owners will come together to write letters that share their trials and triumphs with their elected officials.

WCCO broadcaster and podcast host Sheletta Brundidge set up the outreach to give them the opportunity explain the struggles that they face to Minnesota’s Congressional representatives. Brundidge plans to hand deliver their letters to the delegation when she visits Capitol Hill to accept a national award.

The founder and CEO of ShelettaMakesMeLaugh, a podcasting platform, production and marketing company, Brundidge will be recognized at the National Small Business Association’s s Annual Advocate of the Year Award Luncheon on Sept. 13 in Washington, DC.

“I’m overwhelmed at this national honor, but I want the trip to mean something. I’m taking Minnesota’s Black business owners with me, not physically, but to use my political capital to carry their concerns to our elected leaders,” Brundidge said.

Brundidge will convene her fellow small business owners for the letter writing event on Saturday, Sept 9 from 3 to 5 pm at Flava Cafe, 623 University Avenue W, St Paul. Flava Cafe is the first Black-owned coffee shop in the Frogtown section of St. Paul.

Brundidge won the national award for her efforts to advocate for businesses other than her own, like executing the first Black Entrepreneurs Day at the Capitol. She brought 300 small business owners of color to St Paul in February to meet with Governor Walz, his cabinet, elected leaders and state legislators to highlight their specific needs and the barriers to their success.

Last month during Black Business Month, Brundidge funded an outdoor billboard campaign to highlight five Black women business owners and gifted five other Black women business owners with $1000. Brundidge will use her trip to continue to broaden her advocacy for the small businesses that have long been the backbone of the Black community despite their historic barriers to financing.

“It’s shocking but true that eight in ten Black-owned businesses will fail in the first 18 months and that’s due to historical obstacles to funding,” she added. “Now’s the time for greater and more strategic investments in Black businesses. Covid-19 created financial hardships for many businesses but African American entrepreneurs had to close their doors at more than twice the rate of their white counterparts.”

In connection with her trip to accept her award, Brundidge has meetings set up on Capitol Hill with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation, including Senator Tina Smith (D), Representative Angie Craig (D), Representative Dean Phillips (D) and Representative Ilhan Omar (D).

“It’s my mission to enlighten and inform these policy makers about the needs of their Black constituents and the particular obstacles that entrepreneurs of color still face,” said Brundidge.

One of the local business owners who will attend to write a letter Kip Vantrease, the owner-operator of a Minneapolis landscaping company. He is working on his business plan for his next small business.

“I’m developing a laundromat in Weber-Camden; we need that in the neighborhood,” he said.

Like many Black small business owners, he’s found that financing to be a persistent and difficult obstacle. Vantrease already knows what will be the focus of his letter.

“I want to tell them to cut the bureaucracy and stop making the funding so hard to access,” he said. “We need the resources.”

Everyone in the community is invited to join the letter writing event this Saturday, Sept 9 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at Flava Cafe, 623 University Avenue W, St Paul.

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