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Baltimore's BOOST Program aims to empower Black business owners

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 17:54:42-04

BALTIMORE — When it comes to owning and operating a successful business as a Black American, there are just more hurdles to clear.

Most of those hurdles are financial.

The Black-Owned and Occupied Storefront Tenancy (BOOST) program is working to change that, helping entrepreneurs on their path toward business success.

Tucked away in Druid Hill Park is a display of art created by Collin Williams.

He tells us after working a 9 to 5 for years, he quit and decided he'd devote his life to his passion.

"It suddenly came to me. There were some gel pens and a coloring book that my roommate purchased and I started coloring them one day," Williams shared.

And already William's fan base is growing.

"If he had the finances or the backing, there's no telling where this guy could go. There's no telling," said Travis Winkey, a well-known figure in the fashion world.

Latonya Turnage, the owner of Elite Secrets Bridal and Collin Williams have so much in common.

"I just felt encouraged to do something that I loved to do to make my stamp on the world," she said.

But, the difference between the two is their access to information and financial backing.

"As a small business that's black owned, there's a lot of things that we don't think about. We just think you know we got this idea and it's going to happen," Turnage shared.

"Black owned businesses when they apply for funding are rejected at over twice the rate of white owned businesses. black owned businesses start up with less capital than white owned businesses and as a result they fail at hire rates than white owned businesses," Samuel Story, the director of development at the Downtown Partnership told us.

The boost program aims to support black owned businesses bridging that equity gap.

"We are then connecting them with accountants along the way to build up their finances.

Turnage hopes more black businesses owners will join her and take advantage of the boost program in the future

"Even if there were maybe two more cohorts you figure that's 15 small businesses that have been able to not only open up but become our own community...that would make downtown popping again," Turnage said.

"Not a lot of people can say I'm going to do what I love to do and I'm going to get paid for it unless you're like a celebrity or something," she added.