CEEM Convenes, Powers Up Black Business
By Dianne Anderson
Everyone wants to learn at the feet of high caliber influencers about solid money making strategies, but for Kyle Webb, the approach to a successful enterprise is synonymous with building a successful Black community.
Kyle Webb’s recent affiliation through the Black Equity Initiative funds and CEEM – Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement of the Inland Empire, is powering up the way.
His project CEEM, a membership-driven entrepreneurial focused organization, is bringing tried and true skills that translate well into local capacity building. Webb, CEO of the cooperative, said they are set to expand on new business projects to benefit their membership, and also the community as a whole.
“We hone some skills from that space, and this transition as being a convener is a dimension of our membership work,” said Webb, chief financial officer of Webb Family Enterprises, and well as chief executive officer of Webb Family Investments.
His father, Reginald Webb was one of a handful of Black McDonald’s owners across the nation in the 1980s, turned his small business venture into a thriving family franchise with 16 Los Angeles and Inland Empire locations. Their family enterprise sold the chain last year.
Webb’s other passion, CEEM, was one of 16 nonprofit groups in the first round of $740,000 grants awarded earlier this year by the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation.
He said it’s all about bringing stakeholders together to communicate and create value in the Black community.
When the county of San Bernardino Board of Supervisors declared racism a public health crisis, Webb said it opened the door for the Equity Element Group to bring Black organizational leaders to the table and into the countywide decision-making.
Under the group facilitator, best practices and spaces are being established to liaison with the county.
“We are not the decision maker when we are convening the group. We’re there to facilitate conversations, but [it’s] that the people are in agreement on the pathway forward,” he said.
On the business side, the community can buy into CEEM membership, effectively buying into Black-owned businesses as they come into operation. One recent project requested by their membership is an interactive board game now in production to help children learn career pathways in a fun way. Soon, distribution will grow that business.
“We find that kids like playing it, and we can introduce them in a career path in a way that useful, we think we’ll have a viable product,” he said.
As COVID impact hit Black businesses the hardest, CEEM provided education along the way on safety and transitioning to home-based business models. They held webinars around PPP and opportunities on how to pivot in the distressed economy.
“Quite a few businesses in our network pivoted or added PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) distribution into their line of business. We were able to help some of them get additional distribution,” he said.
Meanwhile, millions more in local ARPA funding is coming down between now and 2024.
He said CEEM member businesses also access top experts in the field that are familiar with funding, and how to get it.
They are meeting virtually, but he said as soon as the community and the medical community are comfortable with masks off, it will be exciting to meet face to face again.
Last week, Hilda Kennedy, the founder and president of AmPac CDC, spoke to the group about new funding coming available, but Black-owned businesses must be prepared to receive the PPP.
“We have a lot of members in the know [helping] small and medium-sized business. Hilda is one of our speakers, and she highlights things coming down, not just around COVID relief, but many other initiatives where capital is available,” he said.
Through CEEM convening, he said active membership and ownership of the businesses create financial value that is passed on to members, and the entire community benefits.
The cost is also affordable. The $100 one-time membership fee is for both individuals and businesses. The recurring annual membership fee is $25 for individuals, and $100 for businesses.
“As we own businesses, we will able to be able to provide a refund of the profit, like a dividend but slightly different,” he said, noting that CEEM is also looking at building early childhood centers, potentially a preschool model that could easily expand.
Childcare is a major need in the community, and he said the government will have much capital coming down to support opportunities.
“Our kids need that kind of engagement that they read by grade level, and exposed to words early, all those things make such a tremendous difference,” he said. “How can we create a child care service that helps our members first, and also attracts revenue from outside our membership base?”
Parity, equality in wealth building, is the main focus for CEEM, which reflects all of their projects and outreach for the Black community where opportunities have been so historically limited.
“It’s incumbent upon us to change that for us,” he said. “That’s the purpose of this convening work, we can demand parity for us, we can demand equity and the opportunities for us.”
For more information, see https://www.ceem.coop/