Women in Business Taking Care of Business
By Dianne Anderson
Black businesses everywhere are barely hanging on through the volatile economy, but those that have managed to push through the hard times know how and where to get help, but probably more importantly, know how to give some back.
This month, Southern California Black Chamber of Commerce, Inland Cities East Chapter honors several industrious businesswomen for the years of time and talent that they’ve poured into the community.
Coming up Monday, March 28, “Women in Business Taking Care of Business” chamber event hosts live entertainment and networking, and offers vendor opportunities. The event starts at 6:30 p.m. is held at 555 N. Arrowhead Ave. Nonmembers pay $10.
Among the honorees are Keyona Dawson, Krissy Harper, Manal Iskander, Robin McKinnon and Rev. Bronica Martindale. It is an in-person event, and Assemblymember Eloise Reyes will present virtually.
LuCretia Dowdy said the honorees are featured for their business excellence, but especially for their role as artists with a bent toward social justice advocacy. Through the local chamber, Dowdy helps businesses step up their business savvy with online sales, and understanding financials.
She said a lot of art and theater-based businesses were dealt a tremendous blow during COVID-19, many were forced to close up shop. She also had to make many adjustments.
“I had to learn and adapt and learn how to take my business virtual. You got to know how to reinvent yourself to get those dollars, said Dowdy, current vice-president of SCBCC-Inland Cities East Chapter.
She will also be sworn in as president at the event.
She said businesses need to prepare for grant opportunities and ARPA dollars flowing from now through 2024 with their applications right and ready.
The chapter focus this year is how small businesses can tap some money. Their Zoom financial literacy workshops also start in May, along with other chamber networking mixers. It’s about good timing, and getting funding resources to business owners.
One example is a micro-business COVID-19 grant relief program in the city of San Bernardino, a $2,500 grant opportunity, but she said there is often no wiggle room in applications when competing for funding.
“It’s letting people know what steps they need to take to get funding. A lot of times it may be one little thing that a person didn’t do right on the application that may get them denied,” she said.
The chapter membership starts with $200, covering two years, and offers access to their 14 networking chapters from Palm Springs to Hollywood. For those on a tight budget, they also offer a monthly plan.
“You’re able to go all of the mixers and network with other chapter individuals,” she said. “Just the caliber of individuals in the room where you can glean from and help become more successful with your business.”
One of Dowdy’s mentors, Rev. Bronica Martindale is honored for her entrepreneurial spirit and faith-based work in the community. Dowdy said Martindale has been a personal mentor, an outstanding choreographer and a force for health justice advocacy.
Rev. Martindale said she is grateful for the honor, and that it’s always about infusing the arts into advocacy to promote health.
Now retired from many years at San Bernardino County nutrition department, she said although she holds a degree in dance and theater, the county offered her a way to bring art to community outreach.
“It was a match made in heaven because that’s who I am, I want people to be healthy, and wanted them to utilize activity and get them moving through dance,” she said.
She recalls being a young teen, developing her creative side when her uncle Andy Brown was manager at Delmann Heights Community Center. She saw the benefit of healing through dance, and advocated for the community when the city tried to shut down a program she was offering for free.
It only motivated her to fight harder for local services.
The Black chamber has also inspired her to initiate several business arts projects, including past work with Sammy Davis Performing Arts School and a performing arts school in Central Los Angeles.
Too often, she feels artistic types are labeled just dancers or just poets or just actors. But, she said there is a lot of energy behind the creativity that gets people moving on issues to make a difference in their community.
“Not only do we give our art back to the community that we studied so that you can find some escapism, but we cross over to the act of advocacy,” she said.
The past few years have been a journey of trials and tribulations for many people, herself included. She feels it’s important that activists with a genuine heart for community continue the work, and learn how become better in business.
“You have to have your dreams, and know how to put things in perspective and in place so that nobody can blow up your dreams.”
For more information, see https://www.blackchamberofcommerce.org/inland-cities-east
or Text 909.567.1000