When the pandemic hit, Donnetta Watson was concerned about the few brick-and-mortar Black-owned businesses in Kansas City, KS. Now, she has a goal of training as many Black entrepreneurs as she can to hopefully increase the number of Black-owned businesses in KCK.
Watson says she’s here to help by providing as much education and resources for entrepreneurs as possible. With her more than 30 years of entrepreneurial experience, 13 years in teaching at the Joseph Business School and through her nonprofit the Black Mastermind Group, she’s setting up to help grow KCK’s Black business community through the Entrepreneurial Resource and Training Center, located at 1121 N. 5th St.
Under the auspices of her Black Mastermind Group, Watson has trained almost 80 entrepreneurs from around the nation. The program teaches entrepreneurial financial literacy and business strategy and helps secure funding for the Black entrepreneurial community.
At the new center, she’ll continue those efforts and provide entrepreneurial resources including workshops, seminars, mentorship and coaching. The center is also working to recruit loan officers that provide funding to meet clients at the center and work with them.
In addition, the center has office space available for entrepreneurs to rent and space community groups can rent for trainings and meetings.
The space will also host the now virtual Black Mastermind Group entrepreneur bootcamp program. Once classes become in-person next year, they will be hosted at the new training center; there will be four classes each year and scholarships will be available through NetWork Kansas.
Jenn Baird, NetWork Kansas manager for the east region, said the training and resource center will inspire and empower entrepreneurs to create impactful change in Wyandotte County.
“Entrepreneurship is about discovering problems and changing those problems into opportunities, to see the value of creating change within your community and providing that value to others. It’s something that is more of a mindset,” Baird said. “The work that this group is providing at this center will create long standing generational impact in this community.”
Kimberly Williams, a recent graduate of the Black Mastermind Group’s eight-week bootcamp said her now-successful businesses, Sugar Woogars Kids Spa and Beats by Kimmy would not be possible without the course.
“I have a business degree, but I did not learn the fundamentals and the financial part of it like I did in this program,” Williams said. “Before, I treated my businesses as a hustle, but now I have a completely different mindset of how it’s supposed to be done.”
Williams said her kids spa is booked through January, has been able to hire employees and even has local celebrities booking with her.
I have celebrity clients booking with me – Chiefs players – and I never thought that would be the case,” Williams said. “If you are wanting to start a business and you haven’t, link with this program. It was not easy, but you have to be determined.”
Watson said she believes that if the proper education, training, coaching and access to capital is available for entrepreneurs, that KCK will see more sustainable businesses. But she said access to capital is critical.
“What I learned from my own experience is that accessing capital, the whole process for entrepreneurs is quite difficult,” said Watson. “It’s even more difficult if you’re a Black entrepreneur.”
According to the Kauffman Foundation, Black entrepreneurs are three times as likely as Whites to have their profitability hurt by a lack of access to capital. In addition, more than 50% of Black entrepreneurs say they have challenges accessing capital, which has limited their business’ growth, according to a 2021 study by Bank of America.
“We’ve been on this journey for a long time of just trying to provide education, but without the right resources, our businesses are not going to remain viable,” Watson said, “and those resources start with being able to access capital.”
To help eliminate that barrier, entrepreneurs who graduate from the program will be able to apply to the center’s loan fund starting next year, which will have the same qualification requirements any other lender has, but Watson said it’s low interest and low barrier.
Once the entrepreneur receives the loan, they are required to meet with a mentor or coach and report quarterly financials.
“It’s time for our community to have stronger and sustainable businesses that last in the community. My hope is that the people in the community will take advantage of the resources that are here,” Watson said. “I know there are opportunities that our community is just not aware exist and we want to make sure that we even that playing field.”
For more info, visit TheBlackMastermindGroup.com.