Feb 19, 2021 | 6 min read

Black History Month: 3 local business owners share their story

February is Black History Month and here at Nextdoor celebrating Black local businesses that make our neighborhoods thrive. From cafes to fashion to fitness, these entrepreneurs share why they started their businesses, how they support their communities, and their proven tips on growing your own local business.

Kansas City-based cafe owner, Dontavious Young, creates a community gathering space to promote diversity

While juggling being a student and youth director for a local non-profit, Dontavious Young also runs Equal Minded Cafe & Event Center. Located in one of the most racially divided regions of Kansas City (Troost Avenue), Equal Minded Cafe & Event Center is more than just a coffee shop. It’s a safe place for residents of Kansas City to get involved and get educated on social justice and equality. 

Tell us your business story

In 2010 my grandma bought the building we’re currently in to get a black-owned daycare back up and running. The daycare at the time was facing foreclosure. So when my grandma bought the building, she leased one side to the daycare, but the other side was open. In 2018, after renovations, I started managing the building. I had experience as a manager at a coffee shop and worked in restaurants as a server so I knew a lot about the industry. At that point, we were leasing out office spaces and a yoga studio and still had the daycare, so a coffee shop paired really well with the rest of the building. It was good to have a meeting place.

On top of that, we’re in an area that’s historically known to be divided just by the street we’re on. Troost Avenue is one of the oldest redlines in Kansas City. It’s a food desert east of Troost which is one of the reasons why we wanted to open a coffee shop. The neighborhood needs these kinds of things. My biggest passion is to help people and we want to bring coffee culture to less affluent neighborhoods while creating a safe space for people with different backgrounds to connect and build relationships. 

How does your business support your community?

Supporting the area and creating connections with the people around me is the most important thing. I live east of Troost so every day I see how this area is being neglected. My passion is to help the underdog - the people who aren’t being helped. It’s important for the cafe to be a place where people can come together and see beyond the racial divide. I also want to support other local businesses in the area. We work with local coffee roasters and have held pop-ups to support chefs or catering companies who are just getting started.

What advice would you give to other businesses to help them grow and navigate this challenging time?

Word of mouth is really the only thing that’s worked for me. Build relationships with your customers so they’ll start recommending you to others. Word of mouth is still the greatest source of marketing for me. 

New York stylist, Kendra Porter, is on a mission to help women look and feel their best

Because of an early growth spurt, Kendra Porter learned at a young age how to make clothes work for her body, instead of fighting her body to work with her clothes. With HonorYourStyle, Kendra shares her wisdom as an image consultant and personal stylist on a mission to help people look and feel their best, no matter what their size.

Tell us your business story

I was a shopaholic. Truly, I have a penchant for shopping and when I lost my job back at the end of 2008 I started looking at life a little differently. Working in the nonprofit industry for over a decade, I wanted to continue helping others but also help myself.  In Fall 2009 I was accepted into the Westchester Entrepreneurship Initiative, a grant received by Westchester County to help the underemployed start their own business, and so Honor You (lovingly referenced by our followers @honoryourstyle) was born. In 2021, we celebrated our 10th Anniversary.

HonorYourStyle (HYS) is an image consulting agency that believes in honoring women.  We are for women who feel like they have nothing in their closet to wear that reflects who they are.  We help you get a fresh perspective on your wardrobe and get dressed with ease through personal styling.  From wardrobe assessments and closet cleanouts to personal shopping, HYS works one-on-one to help you express the best in yourself. Learn to look great and feel amazing now because you deserve it. Our honorees are professional women who know their worth and are making moves. Our motto? Honor your style. Honor you!

How does your business support your community?

In 2020 HYS created ShopWestchester, a marketing initiative that focused on supporting small local fashion and beauty businesses in our county.  What started as just a couple of stores running a Mother's Day promotion grew to 50 stores supporting each other through the holiday shopping season.  As a stylist I realized most people shop within their town, maybe the next town over, and at big box stores.  ShopWestchester was created as a way to provide a network of fashion and beauty-based retailers that could support each other during COVID as well as highlight the sartorial finds in the county.  Our belief is collaboration over competition. We are stronger together.

What advice would you give to other businesses to help them grow and navigate this challenging time?

Forming partnerships with other retailers is an impactful way to expand your reach and increase the level of awareness of your business.  Learning how to pitch the media on your story and becoming a resource is more valuable than paid advertising.  Brainstorming how you can do things differently can lead you to create a more engaging experience for your customers in this virtual-driven environment.


Virginia-based fitness entrepreneur, Alexis Perkins, makes fitness fun and accessible to all 

Whether it was leading a fitness TV program at her local television station or making waves teaching Zumba around the world, fitness has always been a passion for Alexis Perkins. That passion combined with her close relationship with her grandmother led to the creation of Chair One Fitness - a  nationally accredited program that makes fitness fun and accessible to everyone.

Tell us your business story

I started Chair One Fitness in 2018. I had a local television program that was also available on YouTube. In the 5 years we were on air,  we taped 40 episodes -  38 of them were high-impact dance fitness workouts. Two of the workouts were seated dance fitness workouts. We received an overwhelming response to the chair workouts. The standing workouts averaged 3k views but the chair-based workouts jumped to 500k views. After reading all the comments I knew there was a need and I was going to fill it by creating Chair One Fitness.

Chair One Fitness is breaking down boundaries and making fun fitness options available to anyone no matter their age or ability. We provide the opportunity for people to become a Chair One Fitness Instructor and teach classes. We also offer on-demand workouts for those at home or in communities that can benefit from a seated workout. Our workouts are perfect for anyone who has complications standing including seniors, plus size, mobility aid users, amputees, those with dementia, and developmental disabilities.

How does your business support the local community?

Giving back and helping families in my Coastal Virginia community is important to me. Right now, 90% of Chair One Fitness team members are a part of the local area. This helps give our community jobs and puts money into their pockets. To get our community members moving, we also have the "Chair One Fitness Gives Back Program" where we offer one free class to the public every month. 

What advice do you have for other local businesses to get the word out about their products or services?

The best tip that I have is to go digital. [The major news outlets] used to be the best platforms to get attention. But they are rapidly being replaced with [social media]. I get it, many people don't feel like learning all these platforms. However, I say learn it anyway. It offers some of the best free publicity. 

As we’ve seen from these 3 business owners, leveraging word-of-mouth marketing, going digital, and forming partnerships is key to finding success as a local business. Start connecting with neighbors in your community by claiming your free Business Page on Nextdoor.


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Author image Carla Morla Lead Editor, Nextdoor