Shining the light on Black businesses during Black Business Month

Wotrang-Brown, Sheletta Brundidge and Rep. Dean Phillips
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Nadia Wotrang-Brown, Sheletta Brundidge, and Rep. Dean Phillips

The scent of peppery spices hit U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips square in the face as he opened the door to Nadia’s Jamaican Kitchen in Brooklyn Park.

“Mmmm. What’s that I smell?” the Third District congressman asked Nadia Wotrang-Brown as she emerged from behind the counter to greet him.

“That’s our curry goat,” Wotrang-Brown replied. She then led him on a tour of her restaurant’s kitchen “where the magic happens.” She lifted the lids on pots containing authentic Jamaican fare, many from recipes her mother concocted when Wotrang-Brown was growing up in the island nation: jerk chicken, curry chicken, red beans and rice, and oxtails.

“That’s how Jewish people and Jamaicans are connected. By oxtails!” Phillips said with a smile.

In town during the congressional break, Phillips was touring his district. While visiting Nadia’s Jamaican Kitchen, a patron seated at a table greeted the congressman and asked him about his recent public—and controversial—suggestion that other Democrats step up to challenge President Joe Biden for the nomination for the presidency.


“No, no. I’m here on official business so I don’t talk politics,” he responded. “I’m here to listen and learn and bring what I hear back to Washington.”

Sheletta Brundidge wanted to make sure that Phillips’ focus on official business included a tour of an enterprise owned by a Black woman. Brundidge, a broadcaster, podcaster, and small business owner herself, invited Phillips for lunch and then accompanied him to a table at Nadia’s Jamaican Kitchen, sitting down with the congressman and Wotrang-Brown, and giving him an earful.

“Did you know only 2% of venture capital funds go to Black women?” she asked as the trio dished up a variety of Nadia’s fragrant dishes. “If we don’t get access, we don’t have the opportunities. If we could flip the switch we could go from just surviving to thriving.”

Brundidge is on a campaign to highlight the accomplishments of Black women entrepreneurs and small business owners during August. She has made unsolicited $1000 donations to several Black businesswomen and launched a Clear Channel Outdoor billboard campaign to spotlight five others.

Brundidge wanted Phillips to hear first-hand about the sacrifices Wotrang-Brown made to achieve her goal of opening her restaurant earlier this year.


“I sold my townhouse in Woodbury to raise capital. I didn’t want to do it, but I was 54 and it was my dream. When you have a dream in your system, you have to get it out,” Wotrang-Brown explained.

“Do you know how many people live their whole lives and never take that step,” Phillips responded. “Taking the risk to support your dream—that’s what this country is all about. I so admire you.”

Before serving in Congress, Phillips had a background as an entrepreneur and small business owner; now he uses that experience in his role as a member of the House Small Business Committee. He promised to use Wotrang-Brown’s experience to inform his work in determining new and novel ways to support small businesses, particularly minority-owned ones.

“It’s the thing that combines Democrats and Republicans. Self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship. We should all be working on that,” he said. “My family came here from Russia 120 years ago–couldn’t speak the language, persecuted for their religion, so many of the same challenges and hurdles. My great-grandparents made me promise that when we were in a position, we’d help those coming after us to pursue their dreams.”

Before the podcaster and the congressman left the table, Brundidge surprised Wotrang-Brown with a check for $1000, to use however she wanted for her business, prompting Wotrang-Brown to shed a few tears.


“Thank you for shining the light on Black women’s businesses during Black Business Month,” Brundidge told Phillips as they parted.  “You know how hard it is for us to get financial capital. You being here is social capital.  You start telling people about Nadia, putting it in your newsletter. You were intentional about stopping. That means something.”

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