Urban League program aims to help Black women business owners in St. Louis

The National Urban League has chosen St. Louis as one of five cities to support retail businesses owned by Black women through a new initiative.

Urban League program aims to help Black women business owners in St. Louis

St. Louis was chosen by the National Urban League as one of five cities for a new program to support Black women-owned retail businesses.

Aleta Mitchell, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, explained that the program aims at connecting women-owned business with suppliers, and creating and saving jobs in retail businesses. It also allows sole proprietorships and small businesses to expand to larger firms.

Other Urban League affiliates selected to participate in this program include Atlanta, Cincinnati Cleveland and New Orleans.

Walmart Inc. will fund the grant program for three years. Unofficially, an Urban League official stated that Walmart Inc. isn't releasing the grant amount. Walmart did not respond to a Friday message seeking comment.

The initiative will provide Black women-owned business with industry-specific training, mentoring and coaching. It will also offer certification workshops, bid on public/private contracts programs and develop leadership skills. Classes will take place at the Urban League regional headquarters, located at 1408 North Kingshighway Boulevard. And at local businesses.

Harvard Business Review stated in 2021, that 17% Black women are in the process or starting a new business. This compares to 10% of White women and 15% of White men. However, only 3% Black women run businesses that have been sustained over a long period of time. According to research done with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, one possible explanation is that Black women entrepreneurs are more likely to be in industries with high competition and low margins.

Grimes Mitchell stated that the goal was to have 30 graduates from the St. Louis program by the end of the grant period. The St. Louis Urban League affiliate has selected 15 women to be part of the first cohort. Sacretta Hopkins is one of them. She started Secret Sips and Scents in July 2021, from her Florissant home.

Hopkins says she must learn several things to expand her custom-made candle and cup business. These include how to obtain a patent and what legal services she'll need. She also needs to know how to deal with high orders when she transitions to a website.

I do so many things by myself. I cannot give out low-quality products because I am rushing. She said that if she created a website based on the amount of referrals I have received from customers, the workload would be too much.