Local Startup Helps Minority Business Owners Find Success in the Community

Author: Olivia Poole

Image 1 Black Fridays vendor at Ironhand Wine Bar

Through entrepreneurial skills and a community-minded approach, founder Antwan Wilson of Black Fridays has created a community-based startup that promotes and supports minority-owned businesses and vendors in the South Bend-Elkhart community.

Wilson’s company, Black Fridays, brings minority-owned businesses and vendors to locations and events with existing audiences and connects them with established businesses. Black Fridays’ efforts demonstrate a commitment to creating impact, positive change, and improving the lives and opportunities of minority business owners and vendors in the community.

South Bend offers minority business owners and vendors a chance to promote their products and services at ‘Pop-Up’ events. However, there is a lack of exposure, marketing, and audience engagement at these events. Wilson wanted to solve this problem for himself and others in the community. “I recognized the challenges that minority business owners faced in promoting their products and services at events in South Bend-Elkhart. So, I wanted to develop a concept that would benefit the community and minorities,” said Wilson. 

Wilson decided to take his business model to the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame’s Minority Pitch event. This event was to educate minority entrepreneurs and founders to build an entrepreneurial community at Notre Dame. Wilson found support and guidance through this event from Eddie Davis, a Notre Dame student who participates in various entrepreneur events at the IDEA Center. Davis exposed Wilson to taking risks, solving problems, and learning from the outcome of a business. As a result, Wilson developed an innovative solution to a common problem faced by minority vendors. “I’m grateful that I can connect Antwan to startup opportunities at the university. Connecting community startups with students will increase our engagement with the community and promote opportunities”, said Davis. 

To further address this issue, Wilson enrolled in the Regional Innovation and Startup Education (RISE) program and created a solution to help minority vendors with Black Fridays. RISE provided Wilson with the knowledge, skills and support he needed to start and grow his company. Participating in the program gave him the grounding to launch Black Fridays and turn it into a successful business supporting other South Bend-Elkhart community entrepreneurs.

Wilson researched the common problems business owners and vendors face, such as lack of marketing and high fees, and developed the concept of Black Fridays. He saw an opportunity to bring these groups of people to places with an audience and network with established businesses to provide exposure for minority businesses. This initiative not only helps vendors to promote their products and services, but it also raises awareness of the minority-owned businesses in the community. 

Black Fridays have used various resources to find suitable business vendors for events. By conducting extensive research on each business, including their social media activity, he can ensure that the minority business owners and vendors are a good fit for the event and have the potential to benefit from the exposure it provides. The company handles the logistics for the business owners and vendors. By paying a flat fee, the business owners and vendors receive marketing for their company and are placed in the event where they are most likely to see success. This benefits the individual business owner and vendor and helps promote economic development and growth in the community.

"I've found that Black Fridays create opportunities for business owners and vendors. They are finally able to get the attention they need from the community. I am pleased to be able to provide resources for the community," said Wilson.