Three African American small business owners generously shared their experiences navigating the different stages of small business growth, giving great advice to more than 75 people who attended Pathway to Success: African American Enterprises on Thursday, February 25th at the Minneapolis Urban League.
James Garrett Jr. of 4Rm+ULA, Sammy McDowell of Sammy’s Avenue Eatery, and Rick Harris of Ideal Commercial Interiors, LLC all started by working for others, learning the business from the ground up. And, they all had the passion and drive needed to be successful.
“I have customers who come from Eden Prairie and Minnetonka,” said Sammy. “They come for more than food. They want you and they want your passion.”
Garrett Jr. shared that he had a failed attempt at entrepreneurship in his twenties, confessing to being naïve about understanding “the cruel realities of business.” He went on to create a successful company that, among other things, designed the Green Line LRT stations.
“Owning your own business comes with a cost and it isn’t always a straight line that gets you where you want to go,” said Garrett Jr. “But, don’t give up on your passion and your dream.”
Harris started by cutting fiberglass and learning everything he could about furniture until customers told him he should open his own business. He talked about the importance of focusing on your core business and not trying to be all things to all people.
“You don’t have to be the biggest,” said Harris. “You just have to be profitable.”
Following the panel, participants were able to talk one on one with small business experts in the areas of access to credit, business law, and government certification and contracts.
Thanks to all the participants and of course the sponsors – NEON, City of St Paul, Ramsey County and Hennepin County, the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Urban League – Gateway to Opportunity, Wells Fargo and Connect2Capital.