Minority Owned Businesses: How are they being represented in Dubuque?
By: Marion Edwards (LCTV)
Why is information regarding minority owned businesses within Dubuque , outdated and lacking ? A simple question that I thought would be answered from an online google search but that was far from what I found. I think it’s important to take you guys on our research journey.
In attempt to answer part of this looming question, our search brought us to two city of Dubuque residents and small business owners.
Alanda Gregory, owner of Tri-Phoenix Media, who had a similar question just 10-months earlier was the first person we met. After reaching out to the City of Dubuque, she noticed the statistics on minority business owners was lacking as well.
“I think the statistics are where they are is because it happens everywhere you lose interest, people lose interest in that,” Gregory says. “If you don’t have the right support or you don’t feel like you trust, people, you tend to maybe you pick up and go or just go out of business altogether because it’s hard.”
And when Gregory couldn’t find an answer, she took it upon herself to reach out to her resources to begin to develop a black owned business list…a place to start. Creating a business as a minority business owner is not easy without connections but what are these businesses in need and how can we help them?
“The list came out of necessity. I believe after what happened with George Floyd, I think everybody’s emotions are high,” Gregory explains. “In our community, people want to know what can they do to help? How can we help, the people in our community Why is this happening? You know, what can we do to support? Because we did not realize it was an awakening for a lot of people.”
So why is it important that we look at minority business owners? Gregory reminds people that it’s to create an incentive to come here but there has to be a reason to stay. Which is why she feels it is vital for her as a small business owner to work towards bridging the racial divide within the Dubuque community.
“Can’t come down here when it’s time to save somebody, you have to come and listen to the people, not just come to a performance and see people because of this special day, you have a Marshallese community,” Gregory said. “Don’t come down here just because they performing. Are they talking about that culture? Come be seen. If you’re a community member, be seen, listen to the community.”
Change has to be a need not a want. Gregory believes data collecting, open communication, and often starting uncomfortable conversations is key to creating a stable economic and cultural foundation for minority business owners.
“We need that energy in our community, even still with everything. That was my goal is to make sure that other people aren’t being left behind that want to make something of themselves. You can’t help everybody, but you can help those that are willing to learn.”
Temwa Phiri , community engagement coordinator for the City of Dubuque and small business owner of NuFit describes the power that communication has within the community.
“I’m working with the civic leaders over at Loras. We’re looking at creating a survey of being able to not only give the students an opportunity to meet the different business owners, but also try their services,” Phiri said. “That way that they can actually see an opportunity for themselves to maybe switch up some services that they’ve been using or maybe access to the services that they didn’t know that are aware within the community.”
He emphasizes that college students are a huge part of starting new growth in recognizing minority based businesses, an untapped market by the city.
“I’d like to just emphasize on the power of our college students within our community. There is so many opportunities that are here that would allow for them to not only have their path, they can see their passion, you know, growing within this community. They’re able to create that over here, we have different connections, we have different resources.”
Phiri describes how the city is trying to create a better partnership with minority businesses, but that they must be open to having conversations with community leaders.
“What we’re looking at is being able to connect with the business owners as we have already done with quite a few like Alanda…and some other business owners having those conversations. And then how do we create the space of bringing on some other, owners and even other community members that have some sort of involvement with businesses and have those conversations? That way we could create something that actually is not only equitable, but, provides that empowerment for businesses to thrive.”
We also asked Phiri if the was aware of any minority based business list in the works:
“Not that I’m aware of…,” Phiri said. “I believe that’s probably like one of those next steps of how do we now take that and really create that robust list of all the minority owned businesses, women and minority owned within the community”.
Gregory and Phiri were open and honest but the truth is that the minority based list is a work in progress. Both emphasize that people have to want to care about representing all the diverse cultures and building a more equal economic structure.
“Everybody wants to be seen. Everybody wants to be heard, and everybody wants to be, um, understood. We’re going to have our differences of understanding that, you know, here and there, but being able to at least be open to see those differences to learn and to accept somebody for who they are and to learn more about them and lean forward and being courageous in that aspect, that creates a whole different shift within our community as well” Phiri said.
This shift will come with pressure and time. Now we are left questioning, how do we improve the economic culture for minority people and businesses so that they want to stay within the Dubuque community ?
What change in support do you want to see for minority businesses within Dubuque? We’d like to hear from you, send us a message about what changes you want to see.
To access the black-owned businesses list created by Alanda Gregory visit www.triphoenix.com.