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3 mins read

Black Barber Opens Arkansas’ First Credit Union Since 1996

Arlo Washington’s journey to becoming the charter of the first new credit union in Arkansas since 1996 began with a simple need for a haircut.

As a young man, Washington worked as a barber in exchange for haircuts he couldn’t afford. It was while working in a barbershop that he observed the owner’s influence and success in the community and made the decision to become a barber himself.

Washington’s life took a difficult turn after the loss of his single mother to cancer in 1995. He moved to New York and tried his hand at being a fashion model and a barber, but struggling to make ends meet, he eventually returned to Little Rock to attend college. Using the proceeds from his student loans, he opened his first barbershop and it was successful. He soon opened more barbershops and even a barber college.

However, it wasn’t until the last payday lending storefront in Arkansas closed in 2009 that Washington truly saw the impact he could have on his community. Customers started coming to the barber college seeking loans and Washington realized that there was a need for financial services in the community.

He started setting aside $1,000 each month from the barber college’s profits to make low-interest, small dollar loans. This eventually grew into the People Trust Community Loan Fund, a not-for-profit community development financial institution.

Washington realized that the loan fund was not enough and many of his customers were unable to open checking accounts at traditional banks. This led him to the idea of starting a credit union, where he could encourage loan fund customers to open accounts and have access to financial services. However, starting a credit union is no easy feat and it has become even more difficult in recent years. There were only four new credit unions chartered in 2022, with just 25 chartered in the past 10 years.

Despite the challenges, Washington persevered and successfully chartered People Trust Community Federal Credit Union. He recognized the importance of financial services in low-to-moderate income communities and wanted to provide these services to those who were unable to access them elsewhere.

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2 mins read

Squire, The Black Owned Barbershop App is Now Valued At $250 Million Dollars

In June, we reported that Squire, a Black owned barbershop app and management platform, raised $34 million. On Wednesday, they announced another raise of $59 million in a round led by Iconiq Capital.

With the new financing, Squire has almost tripled its valuation, up from $85 million in June to $250 million today. They plan on using most of the capital to hire new sales and marketing professionals.

According to a LinkedIn post from co-founder, Songe LaRon, they are looking for a VP of marketing to “build out our marketing department and help us continue to fuel our rapid growth.” (Shoot your shot, marketing folks!)

Black Owned Barbershop App

The app, which was first developed to help customers book appointments, has evolved and added features such as payroll management, inventory tracking, and automatic rent collection for the barbers leasing chairs.

Squire has also helped barbershops navigate COVID-related restrictions by allowing customers to book and pay for appointments using its mobile app and by creating a virtual waiting room, which lets patrons wait outside or in their cars and enter only when they receive an automatic notification that their barber is ready for them.

According to Tech Crunch, Squire’s revenue went from zero in March, when all barbershops closed, to between $10 million to $20 million in ARR just 10 months later. The growth indicates how the next wave of barbershops will be built atop digital technology, instead of offline processes.


Tony O. Lawson

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16 mins read

Florida Black Owned Businesses Cherish history, Seek renewal

In the days of segregation, African-Americans owned a network of businesses on Gainesville’s south side to serve the needs of minority residents who were often barred from entering pharmacies, grocery stores and other establishments across the city that only served white residents.

“Before integration, there were certain services and other things you couldn’t avail yourself of downtown,” said Linda Hutchins, a retired teacher who graduated in 1966 from E.E. Butler High School, which served Gainesville’s black students before desegregation. She was the first African-American graduate of Gainesville College in June 1968.

But with integration, the landscape of black-owned businesses in Gainesville began to slowly change.

“What happened was people were able to use other facilities or other businesses for patronage and took advantage,” Hutchins said, adding that some black businesses struggled to compete in a market that widely expanded within a few years.

In the ensuing decades, residential neighborhoods across Gainesville experienced generational and some demographic turnover.

Florida Black Owned Businesses
Mike Holeman trims Michael Walton’s beard Friday, June 15, 2018 at Randolph’s Barber Shop on Athens Street. The barber shop is only one of a handful of black-owned businesses in Gainesville, but a new generation is looking to reverse the trend and go into business for themselves. – photo by Scott Rogers

Athens Street has been a historical hub of activity in the local black community “because of the concentration of residential housing on the south side,” said Rose Johnson, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club, a six-decades-old civil rights organization rooted in Gainesville’s African-American community.But now, “as housing patterns continue to change, families whose children grew up in this community now live in different parts of the county,” she added.

As for small businesses, there are barriers, such as affordable building space to purchase or lease, that have pushed some black-owned startups to other corners of Gainesville and Hall County, Johnson said, “which means keeping track of minority businesses is more difficult.” It can even be difficult to afford office supplies. This is why it is integral that there is such a wide price range of quality office supplies online to help business receive the necessary tools to enable business growth.

A growing black entrepreneurial class, however, is sparking talk of a re-emergent African-American business community in Gainesville and Hall County.

For example, members of the Newtown club have been working over the last year to identify and catalogue black-owned businesses through its Strengthening Community Capacity program.

They have discovered that a dozen or more black-owned businesses have been operating, and thriving, for two decades or more, including Monique’s salon, Walter Rucker Attorney at Law, Young’s Funeral Home, A-1 Beauty Supply, Norman Brothers Transportation and Roy Johnson & Son Landscaping.

Florida Black Owned Businesses
Carol J. Leverette checks a pan of macaroni and cheese in the oven Friday, June 15, 2018 at M & M Down Home Catering on Athens Street. The loss of black-owned businesses is a sore that older African-Americans have grown to lament in Gainesville, but a new generation is looking to rekindle this legacy. – photo by Scott Rogers

The club has documented over a 100 black-owned local businesses in all, including “caterers, contractors, cleaning services, insurance agents, money managers, published authors, restaurants owners, churches, nonprofits and independent product distributors,” Johnson said.The U.S. Census Bureau reports that businesses owned by African-Americans nationwide increased to 9.4 percent of U.S. companies in 2012 from 7.1 percent in 2007.

“Over the course of time, we have come to realize that this new emergence of black entrepreneurs creates an excellent opportunity for the establishment of a Black Chamber of Commerce once they are connected to each other,” Johnson said. “We look forward to publishing the Black Business and Community Resource Directory within the next few months.”

Legacy carried forth

For Gainesville’s African-Americans, the first half of the 20th century was spent in tight support of each other.

Textile production replaced cotton mills as the leading industry in Gainesville at the dawn of the 1900s, and from Newtown to New Holland to Chicopee, the city’s neighborhoods began to grow.

During World War II, Jesse Jewell introduced poultry processing to the area, forever altering the city’s image.

But all along, black-owned businesses met the needs of minorities cut off from many public services and private businesses.

“This energy has historically been concentrated along Athens Street, where black-owned businesses have thrived for decades, nurturing a richness in the community that meant more than finances,” Johnson said.

From the bank to the barber to the butcher to the baker, black residents tapped the resources available to them and made do.

Florida Black Owned Businesses
Davon Ivey cuts Master Chief Kevin Harris’s hair at Randolph’s Barber Shop on Athens Street Friday, June 15, 2018. The loss of black-owned businesses is a sore that older African-Americans have grown to lament in Gainesville, but a new generation is looking to rekindle this legacy. – photo by Scott Rogers

According to information from the Beulah Rucker Museum and Education Center in Gainesville, black-owned businesses in the early to latter half of the 1900s were numerous and robust. The museum itself is named after a pioneering black woman who founded The Industrial School in Gainesville in 1914 to “provide opportunities to the region’s black youth at a time when such opportunities were rare or non-existent.”Business owners included those like Walter Chamblee, who owned Chamblee Drug Store along the Athens Street corridor.

The impact black business owners had on the community was not relegated to just minority neighborhoods, however. According to the Rucker Museum, in the 1920s, “when the city of Gainesville was in dire financial need, George Stephens, an African-American businessman, loaned the city of Gainesville $10,000 to help in their financial crisis. Mr. Stephens was a successful tailor and owner of a dry cleaner.”

By the 1950s, a chamber of commerce representing minority businesses on Gainesville’s south side was reaching its peak, Hutchins said.

Even today, Athens Street remains an important corridor for black professionals, small business owners, patrons and residents of Gainesville’s south side.

But things change, too.

“I think you had more black-owned businesses back then because you had that need,” said Davon Ivey, a local barber who works at the shop on Athens Street, referring not just to the number of black-owned businesses in Gainesville during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, but also the impact and legacy they continue to have on the city. “It was more relevant because we had to have it.”

Martha Randolph has worked in a variety of trades for the past four decades, but the Gainesville resident points to opening her own hair salon in the mid-1980s as the turning point in her life.

In addition to now operating a catering service, Randolph also owns a commercial building on Athens Street, leasing space to other minority-owned businesses.

“It’s trying to come back,” she said of black entrepreneurship. “I’ve talked with a lot of people that want to start a business.”

Florida Black Owned Businesses
Randolph’s Barber Shop barber Davon Ivey cuts Kevin Harris’s hair Friday, June 15, 2018 at the Athens Street barber shop. The loss of black-owned businesses is a sore that older African-Americans have grown to lament in Gainesville, but a new generation is looking to rekindle this legacy. – photo by Scott Rogers

Randolph said anyone looking to start their own business needs a mentor, someone who can show them how to turn their passion into a financial success. And don’t expect to turn a profit for two to three years, she added. This new era of entrepreneurial activity in the black community looks promising to those African-Americans who have witnessed much history and change in Gainesville. An opportunity now awaits in a widespread fashion that simply didn’t exist generations ago. Even industries such as steel are not poisoned by prejudicial racism. Black business owners are now reaching the top of the capitalist tree, with business taking off, allowing black business owners to run companies with new industry-specific equipment like computers, workstations, and industrial pointing devices.

“There’s still work to be done,” Hutchins said. “But there is an awakening for the need to come in and establish one’s own.”

The future is born

Ivey came to a barber’s life quite naturally.

From a young age, “I felt like that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

And so he did.

“If you got something you love to do,” he said, “don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. Don’t be afraid to fail. And don’t allow pride to hold you back.”

That’s good advice for someone like Marcquel Woodard, 21, a 2014 Gainesville High graduate now studying business management at Fort Valley State University in Middle Georgia.

Woodard, who is living and working this summer in Gainesville, said he has several business ideas he’s working on while finishing his college degree.

They include such things as purchasing and supplying ATMs for various businesses, and investing in real estate to support affordable housing development.

Woodard believes it’s important that businesses give back to the communities who sustain them. It’s about words, action and money, he said.

“For sure, I want to stay active in the community I was raised in,” he said, but added he wants to “create black businesses … from Gainesville to Atlanta to cities across the United States.”

The challenges that await Woodard are many.

Some are like those faced by minority business owners before him.

Florida Black Owned Businesses
Michael Walton gets his hair cut and beard trimmed Friday, June 15, 2018 by Mike Holeman at Randolph’s Barber Shop on Athens Street. The loss of black-owned businesses is a sore that older African-Americans have grown to lament in Gainesville, but a new generation is looking to rekindle this legacy. – photo by Scott Rogers

“Young African-American adults have established businesses at an incredible pace,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, the challenges that continue to hinder their efforts are the inability to secure bank loans, the lack of available, accessible resources like investment capital and other services to support movement from startup to sustainability.”

Others will mark a sign of the times, though they will be no less difficult to navigate.

“Personally, I think that one of the hardest things to do now as a young person, in general, is to stay focused,” Woodard said, adding that distractions are everywhere.

So how does he plan to stay on task so he can achieve his goals and dreams in business? By saving money and developing relationships. It may be useful for Woodard to use the services of an SEO company to help him on his path into the future. Whitehat is among the companies that provide this service. Whitehat noted how important it is that businesses take advantage of their services to ensure increased online traffic that will ultimately lead to greater exposure.

“The more I work toward it, the more likely it will come to fruition,” Woodard said.

Woodard is the kind of evidence that Johnson points to as a “new reality that the black business community has reformed itself.”

“This rebirth has given rise to a new identity, with dynamic entrepreneurs determined to remain self-employed regardless of the obstacles they face,” she added.

Source: Gainsville Times

9 mins read

Wade The Barber is “Installing” Confidence, One Man Weave At a Time

By now, most of us have seen online images of guys in barber chairs getting what’s now commonly called a man weave. This hair procedure is the latest addition to the already booming Black haircare market.

One of the most well known experts in this area is Maryland based Master barber and certified hair loss specialist, Wade Menendez aka Wade the Barber. We chatted with him to find out more about his business and this rapidly growing segment of the hair industry.

Wade The Barber

How did you get started cutting hair and how did you decide to turn it into a profession?

I started cutting my hair at the age of 7 yrs old. After jacking myself up many times I started getting good and the same people that used to tease me about my haircuts started asking me to cut their  hair. I tried working many jobs but nothing gave me the same fulfilling feeling as barbering.

Photo credit:NPR

I ended up going to barber school after a while, got my license and started working at a barbershop and the rest was history. I think barbering is also in my blood. My dad would cut us sometimes, my uncle was a barber, and my great grand father was a shop owner.

man weave

How did you raise capital to start you first shop?

I got denied from the bank when I first went to open my own shop. After getting denied I started saving my money even more in preparation to branch out on my own. Before a man builds a house he must first count the cost and prepare. While I was preparing and saving money, I had a few clients that randomly approached me about helping me get a shop.
I feel that God sent them as angels to push me faster than I had planned. They funded the difference of what I needed to get started. They were a true blessing and just wanted to see me win!

What is the most challenging and the most rewarding thing about running your business?

The most challenging for me is dealing with unprofessional barbers and finding barbers that have great skill, great hearts and integrity. Most times its either or you’ll have a person with skill but a terrible personality, or a person with a great personality but haven’t mastered the skill yet.
I’ve been blessed with a good team, but sometimes you will have some barbers that challenge you in many ways and I hate micro managing and baby sitting grown people.
Another challenge is helping barbers grow their business and then they leave wrong or with out proper notice after you’ve helped them get to where they are.
On the other hand, having a business is rewarding. I love helping people and being able to create a certain good atmosphere where people can come and feel at peace while getting their hair cut.
We help the community a lot as well. I have a non profit that I started a year ago that’s been going well. I love when people tell me I have one of the best shops in the area. It really makes me feel like I’m on the right track and making an impact.

Why did you decide to start offering male hair units or “man weaves” and what has the response been so far?

I started doing the hair units after seeing an amazing natural hair technician add hair to dreadlocs at my shop. Until then, I had never seen an afro hair weave, only the Brazilian hair the ladies wear. LOL!

She told me where she got the hair and I started experimenting. I told myself that there has to be a way we can do this for balding men and women.

With trial and error and a few hair stylists showing what they knew, the rest was history. It’s a great feeling to now be able to help men from all over the world.

People now travel to my little city in Maryland from all over the world to get the service done. There have been some people that weren’t for it at first but it’s been four years now and it has become more and more accepted. I saw a need and just tried to fill it!

Guys lives have literally changed, just from having hair again. When I hear the stories of how their confidence has shot up after getting a hair unit it lets me know I’m walking in my purpose.

You have branded yourself as more than just a barber. Do you feel its important for other barbers or hairstylists to do the same?

Your brand is everything. How do you want people to perceive you. I have marketed myself to be more than just a barber that cuts in a barbershop.
I’ve always tried to branch out because I never wanted to be the average. Nothing wrong with being average but thats not what I wanted out of life. I’ve been blessed to be talented in a lot of areas so I’m just trying to use the gifts God has given me while I’m here on earth!

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

In the next 5 years i’ll have barber schools and salons located in multiple cities so be on the look out. I’ve been doing more and more education.
I have had the pleasure to train over 300 barbers and stylist so far on how to do this service so I believe thats the route I’m going in. We have some big things planned for the near future.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

I would say to aspiring entrepreneurs to figure out what your passionate about and follow that. Be professional, Brand and market yourself.  Be your best you at all times. It will take you farther than you think. Make sure you have integrity and stay positive no one likes the negative energy, it will have you missing out on many opportunities.
Make sure you look the part, people see you before they hear you and how you present yourself in many cases will determine how people respect you as well.
Last thing would be, be a good stewart over your money and what you get. Learn to save and invest for your future and not be so caught up in immediate gratification such as expensive clothes, always hanging out, cars and flossing for your friends.
You can reach Wade at 


-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)
6 mins read

29 Black Owned Businesses in Philadelphia

I recently moved to Philadelphia and I must say, as someone who loves art and food, the City of Brotherly Love doesn’t disappoint. Apart from great restaurants and hole in the wall “hood spots”,  the city has a thriving art scene and an up and coming tech startup scene. Check out some of the many Black Owned Businesses that have got you covered if you live here, decide to visit or are doing some online shopping.

Black owned Businesses

Veronica Marché is a freelance illustrator who’s artwork features women of all ethnicities and celebrates the glamour of a multicultural world.


Warm Daddy’s is an atmospheric soul food establishment known for live blues and R&B sets plus a Sunday jazz brunch. – Owners: Robert and Benjamin Bynum


The African American Museum in Philadelphia presents the achievements and aspirations of African Americans from pre-colonial times to the current day. – CEO: Patricia Wilson


BlackStar Film Fest is a celebration of cinema focused on work by and about people of African descent. – Founder & Artistic Director: Maori Karmel


S&B Event Concepts and Catering is family owned and operated full service event planning and off-premise catering company. Owner: Sodiah Thomas


Duafe Holistic Hair Care‘s mission as an elite and holistic hair salon is to ensure that each client gets the best and most professional service available. – CEO: Syreeta Scott


Paris Bistro and Jazz Cafe is a snazzy neighborhood eatery with classic French bistro fare & a downstairs lounge with weekend jazz. – Owners: Robert and Benjamin Bynum


Maxamillion’s Gentlmen’s Quarter is a a networking destination where you can get a fresh cut and have great conversations with Philly’s movers & shakers. – Owner: Maxamillion A.J. Wells III


1617 Master Barbers and Stylists bring you the ultimate experience in OLD school professionalism with NEW school flavor. – Owner: Talib Abdul Mujib


Ton’Sure Grooming Studio offers the feel of a classic barber shop with a touch of modern day technology. – Owners: Kenny Tha Barber and Chink da barber

4df1ff27884803.5636c37880351Nile cafe is a laid-back, counter-serve eatery specializing in plentiful portions of vegan & vegetarian soul food and desserts. It gets my personal stamp of approval. – Co- Owners Aqkhira and Khetab Corinaldi


Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse is a comic book store and coffee house for fans, hardcore gamers, movie addicts, television connoisseurs. – Founder: Ariell R. Johnson


Blue Sole Shoes is a shoe store specializing in fashion-forward footwear for men in styles from dress to casual. – Owner: Steve Jamison.


Little Delicious is neighborhood hole in the wall that serves hearty portions of Caribbean dishes. I give this one my personal stamp of approval also.


Koco Nail Salon & Wax Studio is a quaint boutique pampering destination that offers a quaint boutique pampering destination. – Owner: Onisha Claire


United Bank of Philadelphia is the only Black owned and managed community bank in Philadelphia –  President & CEO: Evelyn F. Smalls

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 11.42.38 PM

2B Groomed Studios offers stylish haircuts, facials, a wide variety of shaving options, beard coloring, bump extraction and complimentary shoe buffing with every service. – Owner: Jahmal Rhaney


Onehunted closes the gap between smart consumers and products that align with their values. Owner : Isaac Ewell

Philadelphia Print Works is a t-shirt company that encourages a culture of activism and inclusion. – Donte Neal, designer and Maryam Pugh, owner and co-founder.

black owned


Team Clean is a premier commercial janitorial service company, and is the largest woman and minority-owned company in the greater Philadelphia area. – Owner: Donna L. Allie, PhD.


Iron Lady Enterprises is a construction and concrete reinforcement contractor and supplier of construction materials. – Owner: Dianna Montague.



Kilimandjaro Restaurant – Senegalese fare served in casual, warm-hued quarters with African artwork & artifacts. – Owner: Youma Bah


Mellow Massage Therapy Center is home to a team of licensed wellness therapists who strive daily to bring restorative therapeutic treatments to their clients. – Owner: Gerrae Simons


Black and Nobel  – Independently owned store featuring books, DVDs, art & events related to African-American culture. – Owned by Hakim Hopkins


Color Book Gallery is the nation’s oldest multicultural children’s bookstore. It offers has retail operations, reading activities, seminars, educational displays and exhibits. – Owner: Deborah Gary


Natures Hair Food products are chemical free products that contain all natural ingredients that promote hair growth and restores the hair to a healthy, lustrous state. – Owner: Angela Tyler


B’ella Ballerina Dance Academy is a non-profit organization that offers a comprehensive dance curriculum to students ages three and up. Founded & directed by Roneisha Smith-Davis


Little Giant Creative works with local and national companies to develop custom brand strategies, design collateral, and awareness promotions. – Founder: Tayyib Smith


The Philadelphia Tribune, founded in 1884 by Christopher James Perry, Sr., is America’s oldest and the Greater Philadelphia region’s largest daily newspaper serving the African-American community. – President & CEO: Robert W. Bogle


Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson