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Community Advocacy Organization

Elevate All-Black Business Accelerator Welcomes Second Cohort

Ten Entrepreneurs Join Rigorous Six-Month Business Accelerator Program

Courtesy of Leap

The Lansing Area Economic Partnership (LEAP) and PNC Foundation, in partnership with Best Practices Consulting Solutions, has selected ten entrepreneurs to participate in the second cohort of LEAP’s Elevate program—the Lansing Region’s first all-Black business accelerator program. After a careful review process, the final ten entrepreneurs selected for this program include:

  • Simbarashe Chiduma – Openarmslink

  • Adrian Joseph – Goodfellas Bagel Deli

  • Blake Matthews – Paradiso Productions

  • Melissa Moore – Moore Vision Optical Boutique

  • Joshua Southern – Risky Studios

  • Jacqueline Taylor – Little Dreamers Daycare

  • Kelly West – The MilesWest Group

  • Deardra Westfall – Nature’s 92

  • Phyllis Williams – Peace & Harmony Counseling Services LLC

  • Dymon Wilson – The Sista Stu

The Elevate program is made possible through a three-year grant from PNC as part of its $88 billion Community Benefits Plan announced in 2021, inclusive of a previously announced commitment of more than $1.5 billion to support Black Americans’ economic empowerment in low- and moderate-income communities. “PNC’s support of LEAP’s continued diverse programming reflects our national main street values and commitment to the communities where we conduct business,” said Timothy Salisbury, PNC regional president for Mid-Michigan. “It’s essential to support local businesspeople as our communities face many challenges presented by historical exclusion. The Elevate program is an example of the action we can take and what can be accomplished through strong public-private partnerships.” Elevate’s second cohort will follow in the steps of the inaugural cohort in that it will give entrepreneurs the chance to accelerate their businesses in revenue, profitability and prominence. In addition to these target measurables, the accelerator program will use individualized business assessment, customized workplan development and one-on-one technical assistance to elevate these businesses over the six-month program designed to empower, refine, enhance and scale their businesses. “I appreciate the work LEAP is doing to grow businesses, specifically Black businesses, in the Lansing Region,” said Nikki Thompson Frazier, program one participant and owner of Sweet Encounter Bakery & Café. “Through Elevate, my business gained more exposure and increased name recognition in the Lansing area, which is priceless.” Changes from the inaugural cohort include structured community hours, networking with local Black executives, and targeted media campaigns— all meant to address the statistical evidence that Black entrepreneurs have less access to management structure and upward career trajectory than any other demographic. “Black business ownership is a proven path to wealth and job creation that stimulates the U.S. economy. Deep-rooted systemic challenges still limit economic growth and prosperity for Black people, ultimately preventing generational wealth,” said Tony Willis, chief equity development officer at LEAP. “There is a clear desire for this type of programming in our region and it only became possible on this segmented level because of the specificity of PNC’s funding. As a result, LEAP has an opportunity to address these issues and facilitate change.” Also acknowledging the widest discrepancy in wealth equity and distribution is within Black communities (McKinsey, 2019), the Elevate program will continue to combat these statistics by providing Black business owners with resources and programming that has historically been hard to access due to systemic barriers. LEAP has a strong history of engaging, working and assisting ALICE households and entrepreneurs from marginalized backgrounds through programs like One and All and LevelUp, and ensuring existing programs are reviewed and evolve through an equity lens. The future of diverse programming is made possible by grants from institutions dedicated to diversifying the region’s economy. An ideal future for LEAP is one where the Department of Equitable Economic Development can provide specialized programming for entrepreneurs in economically underserved and distressed communities based on their targeted and specific needs.


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