By: Ann Cooper
J.P. Morgan Chase’s 30-city Business Insights Seminar (BIS) Tour, an initiative that aims to provide small business owners with free educational training, focused on growth strategies, pandemic recovery tools and networking opportunities, made its New York stop in the Spring. Sensitive to the disproportionate and devastating financial toll that the Covid-19 pandemic inflicted on minority-owned businesses and fueled by a conscientious response to the George Floyd tragedy, J.P Morgan Chase’s goal is one of empowerment.
The BIS tour is linked to the promise of a $2 billion investment in these businesses and includes 15,000 loans. It is buttressed by mentorship programs that educate on topics like consumer-banking relationships, tech & digital literacy and accessing the low-cost loans reserved specifically to black-owned businesses. Ben Walker, Managing Director, CEO of Business Banking Consumer & Community Banking explained that he is unapologetic about the expectations from this initiative. Chase is solidly behind the African American entrepreneur, and as one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial sectors for the future, the return on this investment is their loyalty as customers.
Concurrently, Chase launched a sponsored-content, Q &A formatted ad campaign in local newspapers with the aim of educating the wider public about this initiative. Tamara Suvil, who is Haitian and speaks Creole was featured in the ad specific to the Haitian community. Having a keen understanding of the challenges that the Haitian community face, she answered questions on topics geared to increase awareness of and access to resources, financial health tools, and services.
Therefore, it was appropriate that Bedford Stuyvesant – “Bed-Stuy” to native New Yorkers- home to a predominantly African American & Caribbean population was one of the neighborhoods chosen for this leg of the tour. And IV Purpose, a swanky Restaurant & Sports Bar, one of the many black-owned businesses located in the commercial hub that is Fulton Street, Bed-Stuy, was the ideal venue for this event. The invitees who packed the restaurant to capacity were mainly seasoned and aspiring black-owned small-business owners and entrepreneurs. Having survived the pandemic, this event was the perfect networking opportunity for sharing inspirational stories of resilience and future plans for their businesses.
When Darnel Joseph, one of the two remaining owners of IV Purpose (two of the partners had since called it quits) which was launched during the height of pandemic in 2020 addressed the audience, his words echoed their common experience. As a mentee, he described how this comprehensive program is key to understanding how to efficiently manage one’s business. His takeaway, “Chase sets the bar for loan approvals; if you’re approved by Chase, you can get approved anywhere”. To root for Darnel’s success as a beneficiary of this program is to ensure that his famous menu, with delicacies like Oxtail Sliders and Chicken Wings, remain one of the favorites in Bed-Stuy.
Jumoke Fagbayi-Butts, Chase’s Harlem based V.P., Sr. Business Consultant of Minority Entrepreneurs- was present that evening along with a team of specially trained consultants all in full mentorship- mode, reinforcing the nuts and bolts of the program.
I had a delightful conversation with Jumoke’s mentee, Keadian Russ, CEO of the woman- owned- black -owned cleaning company, Klean ‘N Jiffy. She was eager to share her company’s remarkable survival story. Launched in 2018, operations had to be halted in early 2020, because Covid-19 safety protocols dictated that her workers could not visit their customers’ homes and offices. She cleverly pivoted from a service-based to a sales-based company that began selling Klean ‘N Jiffy products now in high demand by their loyal customers. Keadian described this serendipitous occurrence that boosted her company’s profits with the same pride and passion she exudes when promoting her products. Equally impressive is Keadian’s account of her journey into entrepreneurship. She immigrated to the US from Jamaica just three years before she ventured into the cleaning-service industry under the mentorship of Dr. Gale Colwell. She is uncompromising with the formula for her products which she insists must be organic, natural, non-toxic, and infused with the pleasant aroma from essential oils. As an asthmatic her stance is personal. Her insistence that they remain affordable and do not lead to respiratory illnesses is stated like a moral responsibility.
Keadian described Chase’s program as “amazing” and shared that Jumoke’s mentorship provided the invaluable tools that has helped to elevate her business to even greater success. That Jumoke was a guest speaker at Klean ‘N Jiffy’s Small Business Expo is proof of the extensive scope of these relationships and speaks to the need for this program.