This business owner wants to inspire, educate and promote economic success in Baton Rouge

Aaron Franklin is the founder of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Black Chamber of Commerce and chairman/founder of the Black Chamber Foundation. He created the chamber in 2018 to support young entrepreneurs in the community.

He is also a Realtor and owner of Franklin Realty & Real-Estate Investment and co-owner of Dark 30 Wine and Craft Cocktail Bar, as well as an aspiring sommelier. He hopes that Dark 30 will help elevate the wine culture in Baton Rouge.

From 2007 to 2013, Franklin served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a logistic chief. While in the Marines, he worked in several corporate management fields including logistics, corporate retail, restaurant and consulting.

What is your role at the Black Chamber of Commerce, and what is the importance of having one? 

I’m rotating over to our 501c3, which is the Black Chamber Foundation. The foundation simply raises money for different community events, hosts awareness events and more. We’re in the process of doing a lot of grant writing. We’re doing what we can to fund the chamber so that it can do what it needs to do, which is business development for the African American community. I decided to start the chamber in 2018. Now we’re at 380 members, and we have a full board. 

A lot of businesses are really on islands by themselves. They don’t have any connections, they’re just open and people are working. My goal was to connect all those pieces and people — from government contracts to procurement processes. The people involved are making more money now and making business-to-business relationships. 

What is the importance of fostering relationships in business? 

Connections are everything. The old saying is true: “It’s not what you do, it’s who you know.” We trust the person that somebody else trusts. In order to gain trust, you have to have relationships. You also have to have a fortified character. You have to be authentic in Louisiana because we will sniff that out, and you will never come to another cookout again. 

You’re an aspiring sommelier. Is there’s a lack of diversity in the sommelier space? 

I don’t know of any Black sommeliers in Baton Rouge. The diversity in it is little to none. 

Because of how alcohol is marketed to Black people, some people don’t have a true understanding of wine. If we did, we would want to learn more and do more about it. Wine is a beautiful thing — the different processes, the grapes and the ability to move forward. The process to become a sommelier is incredibly difficult, but it focuses a lot on history and geography. 

I want to have educational events at Dark 30 and raise the consciousness of the alcohol industry. Baton Rouge is a college town, but it’s time to raise the culture. 

How does discipline play a role in your life after being in the Marines, and what advice do you have for people who want to be more disciplined? 

A lot of people don’t realize that the Marine Corps is simply an organization that makes you do what you’re supposed to do — on the level that I still have a drill sergeant in the back of my head. So discipline is huge in my life, and I have come to appreciate it on a level that not many people get a chance to get to.  

To have more structure, it all depends on where you’re at in life. If you’re young, I recommend the Marine Corps. If you can’t, there are tons of books, resources and videos on how to get your self disciplined. “Atomic Habits” is probably one of the best books to read to get yourself to the next level.

I love books. I tell people all the time, “A book can change the course of your life.” 

Is there anything else you want people to know about the Black Chamber of Commerce? 

The chamber was going through a transitional period, but that’s over. We will be pushing all of our events back up. Follow our Instagram page or visit our website for more information. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

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