The Midlands African Chamber offers operational and financial support to black businesses in Omaha

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – This time last year you could walk along 60th and Maple Street to take a selfie and an espresso a few hundred meters away.

Selfie spot and Dripped and Draped Coffee Shop have more in common than being on the same Benson strip: they both sank within months of each other.

“It’s heartbreaking, especially when you see the statistics on black businesses and their failure during the pandemic…the uneven access to loans, the uneven availability of mentorship and support,” said Karine Sokpoh, president and chief from the direction of African Midlands ChamberNebraska’s first and only Chamber of Commerce dedicated specifically to advancing minority-owned businesses.

Sokpoh, who is also a lawyer and entrepreneur, says she sympathizes with other CEOs who struggle to run a business, adding that there are a number of reasons why small businesses fail and certainly not for lack of hard work. .

So, after seeing many difficulties over the past year, she decided to do something about it.

“I created the chamber during the pandemic in 2020 with the goal of empowering, connecting and supporting black and brown businesses in Nebraska,” she said.

And in less than a year and a half, she did.

With 120 diverse businesses now part of the chamber, Sokpoh can offer helpful resources like the business development “power hour.”

This is an online workshop designed for busy CEOs who often juggle many roles.

“It’s online because we understand that small business owners and micro business owners don’t necessarily have the time to physically travel to a workshop. They want to be on Zoom or online while they do other things, or they want to watch it later,” Sokpoh said.

Workshops are just one of the many resources offered by the chamber.

Their field black event is another tool in their arsenal, providing seed funding for competitive startups.

“The winner walks away with $10,000 to invest in their business. They also receive accounting support, marketing support and legal support from our member businesses,” she said.

Sokpoh said she wants black businesses to succeed in business, which is why membership dues are low, but even for those who don’t join, she says having a support network is key. of longevity.

For this reason, his door is always open to answer questions or simply point entrepreneurs in the best direction for help.

She notes that many of the resources she offers are also free and on her website, hoping that ultimately all small businesses will succeed, with access to information, rather than feeling the need to compete. or struggle to find it.

Sokpoh also says entrepreneurs who didn’t make it in 2022 should give themselves some grace. “It is a project that did not work. We all need to be able to assess, pivot, and then try again.

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