Mark Poalson
JRNM 151

A minority entrepreneur displays her products at the event. Photo: Mark Poalson

Known as the month of love, February boasts popular holidays such as Groundhogs Day and Super Bowl Sunday.
February also kicks off Black History Month, a time to celebrate Black Culture, heritage, and African American history. As part of Black History Month celebrations, Lorain County Community College put together an African American Pop-Up Shop to support Minority Entrepreneurs and jumpstart their careers and businesses.
The event was organized by NEO LaunchNET and took place in the Campana Center.
“This is the second time we have done a pop-shop in honor of Black History Month. We reach out to our businesses we have helped and other NEO LaunchNET in the region,” Janice Lapina, program director for NEO LaunchNET.
Lapina, who has a doctorate in Education, said, “Under-represented populations are overlooked in all industries. However, access and awareness are helping to shed light and open opportunities to them.”
Matthew Poyle the Program Coordinator of NEO LaunchNET said, “I am very happy for this great turnout and to be able to help showcase the different businesses as they start their journey.”
Eleven minority entrepreneurs got the opportunity to show their products to the college community.
The creativity factor was not an issue as there were many unique products to gaze upon and purchase. The Covid 19 pandemic played a huge role in the jumpstart to most of the entrepreneurs at the event.
Deana Sutton, the owner of Design Passion & Purpose, was one of many people who were affected by the pandemic. Sutton who previously worked for Cleveland City Schools was laid off. She needed something to keep herself occupied during these tough times. Sutton got the idea from her son who was making t-shirts at the time. Sutton said, “I was so intrigued by my son who was making t-shirts at the time that I decided to get my own machine.”
Sutton’s business makes clothing and other miscellaneous items with empowering and inspirational messages displayed on them. Sutton’s main goal of her business is to “motivate and inspire” African Americans to be culturally aware of who they are.
Like Sutton most of the entrepreneurs wanted to encourage African Americans to feel strongly about who they are.
Secunda Starr, the owner of Thoughtful Reflections, is making it her mission to encourage African American Women of all ages to practice positive self-talk. Self-Talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through our heads every day.
Starr said, “I want to empower women to be confident throughout their daily lives”. A member of the entrepreneurship program at Kent State University, Starr has been making decorative mirrors and glass mugs with motivational messages such as “Black Girl Magic” and “Love Yourself.” Starr feels “very strong and compassionate” about her business and is confident that she will succeed in the future.