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Black Business Expo to take place next month

Posted on January 30, 2019

Group seeks to galvanize black business owners

By Caitlan Butler
Staff Writer

The Coalition of Black Professionals will hold their first event next month, a Black Business Expo that is to take place Feb. 23.

The recent brainchild of local resident Markeith Cook, the Coalition is working to build itself into an organizational tool to help minority entrepreneurs build their businesses.

“A lot of times people think the minority community only comes together for parties and spiritual things like that, but we have a pretty thriving business community around here that I think people are overlooking, so I decided I wanted to bring some light to that,” Cook said.

Cook said the Expo has already booked over 40 booths representing different minority-owned businesses. He said business-owners from all over the state, including Little Rock, have already signed up.

At least 15 different types of businesses will be represented at the Expo, Cook said, and some will have interactive booths. Cook and his wife’s salon, Whittney’s Beauty Bar, will be providing demonstrations at the event.

Additionally, one inflatable bouncy castle business will have some of their bouncy houses available for children to play on. A DJ will be performing as well.

A community organizer, Cook said he has seen black-owned businesses fail to grow for various reasons and that is what sparked the Coalition.

“There’s so many small businesses around that are run by or majority-owned by blacks, you would probably be surprised, but they’re only known to a limited number of people due to, you know, lack of funding or resources, proper marketing, probably has a lot to do with location – you know, just not having some of the advantages or opportunities some other business owners may have,” Cook said. “I just felt like it would be a good idea to put them all in one place.”

After starting the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Coalition, a mentoring organization for local youth, in 2010, Cook knew there was still more he could do for his community. That’s why he started the Coalition of Black Professionals earlier this year, to give minority entrepreneurs the spotlight, he said.

“I think black-owned businesses are underutilized,” Cook said. “I know a lot of businesses that may not be getting that spotlight, so I just thought it would be a good idea to get them all in the same place and get that synergy going.”

Cook said he would eventually like to host regular networking events for minority business owners. The ultimate goal for the Coalition would be to build infrastructure that could help black-owned businesses get off the ground.

Later this year, Cook said the Coalition will be hosting a business summit for minority small business-owners. He said the workshop will include breakout sessions like lectures from other professionals and workshops on topics like accessing startup capital, advertising one’s business and more.

“By no means is this a situation where you’re trying to alienate any other groups; it’s moreso highlighting the people that are underutilized and not getting the spotlight that they need,” he said.

The Black Business Expo will take place Feb. 23 at Mellor Park Mall. The event will begin at 10 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. Attendance is free, but for those wishing to reserve a space for their business, the cost is $25 for a booth, $35 for a booth with a table and $45 for a booth and table with a tablecloth.

Cook said there is still space for between 20 and 30 more booths at the Expo. To learn more or to reserve a booth, contact Cook at 870-814-8382, on Facebook, or through the Coalition of Black Professionals Facebook page. He can also be reached at .

Caitlan Butler can be reached at 870-862-6611 or