Browse Tag


1 min read

Physician-Entrepreneur Founded Company Has Raised $190M To Combat Health Inequity

Zing Health is a tech-enabled health insurance company that was founded in 2019 by two African American physician entrepreneurs, Eric E. Whitaker, MD, MPH, and Kenneth Alleyne, MD.

The Chicago-based company’s mission is to provide managed care Medicare Advantage plans that address social determinants of health to reduce healthcare disparities among historically underserved populations.

Dr. Eric E. Whitaker has more than 30 years of experience working in both the public and private sectors to create cutting-edge healthcare solutions for medically underserved populations.

He is also one of the first Black entrepreneurs to raise over $180 million in Chicago.

In this interview, Dr. Whitaker shares:

  • His thoughts on health equity and addressing racial disparities in healthcare
  • Almost going out of business during the height of the pandemic
  • His experience raising $190 million dollars
  • Advice for other entrepreneurs running a healthcare business
  • The most pressing health issue in the Black community

-Tony O. Lawson


2 mins read

Best Friends Create The First Black Owned Bread Brand

The search for a Black owned bread brand is officially over! Charles Alexander, Mark Edmond, and Jamel Lewis, three childhood friends from the southside of Chicago, have launched The Black Bread Co.

black owned bread company
Charles Alexander (from left), Mark Edmond, and Jamel Lewis, the founders of The Black Bread Company,

The inspiration for the company came after Mark tried, unsuccessfully, to find a Black owned bread brand on the shelves of his local grocery store.

“My wife gave me a grocery list, [and] at the top of the list was bread,” he said. “I wanted to buy everything that was Black-owned, and this huge bread aisle had absolutely no Black-owned bread. I literally was in the aisle for 35 minutes. Out of frustration, I left.”

Building on each other’s business skills, they were able to determine their company design, logo, create a website, select whole ingredients for their sliced bread, and hire a co-packer to help launch The Black Bread Company.

They went through numerous rounds of testing to make sure the bread was just right.

“There’s a certain level of pressure that comes when you’re starting something that’s never been done before,” Alexander said. “And the pressure for us was to make sure we got it right, and so we really took our time with the entire process.”

They currently offer honey wheat bread and premium white sliced bread but are looking forward to adding more products such as hot dog and hamburger buns, multi-grain bread, and brioche.

Since the company’s soft launch in February, it has received over 1,200 orders. They currently offer products online nationwide through pre-order. A bi-weekly or monthly subscription to the “Private Bread Club” is also available.

If you’re in the Chicagoland area, you can also buy in store at Dill Pickle Food Co-Op in Logan Square and the Sugar Beet Co-Op in Oak Park.

Source: 6ABC News

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3 mins read

Black Owned Healthcare Startup Launches Platform to Treat Coronavirus Patients Remotely

With hospitals becoming overcrowded with coronavirus patients, a Black owned healthcare startup in Chicago  has developed a tech-based method to care for COVID-19 patients at home.

Chicago telehealth startup 4D Healthware announced that it launched a new COVID-19 monitoring platform, based on its original software, which allows for remote monitoring, physician and lab supported diagnosis, and at-home treatment.

Star Cunningham, Founder and CEO of 4D Healthware

By equipping patients with pulse oximeters, which measures the oxygen levels in blood, and Wi-Fi-enabled digital tablets programmed with 4D Healthware’s software, the startup can collect biometrics, like temperature, oxygenation levels and other critical stats.

black owned healthcare startup

Those metrics are then sent to 4D Heathware’s team to be evaluated. In the event a patient’s status becomes critical, 4D Healthware coordinates for the patient to visit a nearby hospital or healthcare facility.

“Healthcare is now recognizing the value of virtually caring for patients,” said Star Cunningham, the startup’s founder and CEO. “You don’t want [COVID-19 patients] to come out. What you want to do is eliminate a certain amount of foot traffic that’s coming into the healthcare system right now.”

4D Healthware says it can service up to 500,000 coronavirus patients across the U.S. Cunningham wouldn’t disclose how many patients are currently using the coronavirus platform, but said the number is increasing “exponentially each day.”

4D Healthware’s new COVID-19 platform is based on its original software, which uses health data from wearable devices, such as Fitbits or Apple Watches, to help people with chronic conditions monitor their health more effectively. Patients with COVID-19, however, need 4D’s hardware to monitor the illness as most consumer wearables cannot.

4D mainly targets Medicare patients but also accepts patients with private insurance. The startup employs 20 people, one of which is a physician, and the startup has raised more than $4 million since launching in 2012.

“We call 4D Healthware enhanced telehealth because it’s more than that,” Cunningham said. “The beauty of 4D is that long after the pandemic ends, we are a viable long-term solution for managing patients at home.”


Source: ChicagoInno

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4 mins read

First Black-Owned Urgent Care Center opens in Chicago

Premier Health Urgent Care, the only urgent care facility in the Southside’s Hyde Park neighborhood, and the only Black-owned urgent care possibly in the city of Chicago has opened for business.

Black-Owned Urgent Care
Pictured above from (L to R): Dr. Mike McGee; Germaine Henderson, APN; Renita White, PA-C; Jennifer Kirk, AP; Dr. Airron Richardson and Dr. Reuben Rutland. (Chicago Crusader)

With a commitment to providing affordable, convenient community care a portion of profits from the center will be donated to the Project Outreach and Prevention (POP) organization, which aims to prevent youth violence in surrounding neighborhoods by providing resources, services and education to assist teens in making better life-long choices.

Premier’s founders include board certified emergency medicine physicians Airron Richardson, MD, MBA, FACEP and Michael A. McGee, MD, MPH, FACEP and board-certified trauma surgeon and United States Navy veteran Reuben C. Rutland MD, MBA. The facility was launched in partnership with Dr. Gregory Primus, former Chicago Bears wide receiver and the first African American trained in orthopedic surgery at the University of Chicago.

“We are happy to open an urgent care in Hyde Park because the community needs it. I see so many urban professionals who either delay or go without care because of time constraints. No one has 8 hours to wait in the emergency department for a minor illness or the flexibility to wait 3 weeks because their primary care doctor is booked solid. We are here to help fill that gap,” says Dr. Rutland. “We are not in competition with the doctors’ offices or the emergency department. We are a supplement to them both, to help relieve the stress on those two facilities.”

The center, located at 1301 E. 47th Street Building #2 Chicago, IL, will care for people of all ages, providing urgent care, occupational health, basic wellness and prevention services. Walk-in treatment is available for various conditions including: abrasions (scrapes), abscesses (boils), bites (dog or human), broken bones (fractures), minor burns, colds, coughs, conjunctivitis (“pink eye”), contusions (bruises), cuts (lacerations) that may require stitches, dislocations, ear infections, eye and ear injuries, hand injuries, foreign object and splinter removal, foot injuries, influenza (the flu), ingrown toenails, joint injuries (sprains), muscle injuries (strains), minor nosebleeds, rashes (ringworm, poison ivy, etc.), sexually transmitted diseases, sinus infections, sore and strep throat, stings (insects and bees) and UTI’s (urinary tract infections).

The office is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., and offers multiple exam and procedure rooms to give patients quick and easy access to care they can count on. Once a patient is seen, they are typically treated in less than an hour, making Premier’s walk-in clinic an ideal provider of the immediate care when it’s needed the most. Premier accepts many major types of insurance and offers services at a fraction of the cost of hospital-affiliated urgent care or emergency rooms.

To learn more about Premier Health Urgent Care and its services visit their website. 


Source: Chicago Defender

3 mins read

Couples, Inc. : Keewa and Doug own Kidswear Brand, Kido Chicago

Kido Chicago is a Chicago based clothing line for babies and toddlers. The brand features a number of colorful, positive images and messages on onesies, t-shirts and more.

We spoke to husband and wife founders, Keewa Nurullah and Doug Freitag to find out how they balance business and family.

kido chicago
Kido Chicago founders, Keewa Nurullah and Doug Freitag

How did you both meet?

Keewa: A mutual friend invited me to a barbecue Doug was hosting at his house.

What inspired you to start Kido Chicago?

Keewa: When my son was about 7 months old, I simply got tired of all the trucks, dinosaurs, and lil’ slugger styles for boys.

I had a few ideas for some onesies, and Doug encouraged me to develop them and see about getting them printed.


I really wanted to see children of color reflected on apparel the way we’ve started to see change in children’s books.

What decision was made or action taken that was a “game changer” for your business?

Doug: Hosting events for families. It’s one thing to sell a product on the internet, but if you can connect your product to a lifestyle and create a community, that’s success.

Keewa: Getting our storefront. We’ve met so many new families just strolling into the shop that may have never found us in the vast online marketplace.

It lets us connect to our customers in a personal way, and it keeps them invested in our success.

kido chicago

Describe your individual personalities and how you fuse them to make the business work?

Doug: I’m a visual artist, so I focus on the design and creation of the garments. Keewa is very connected to the families and what they are into.

We have to listen to each other and prioritize one or the other, depending on the design.

What advice do you have for other couples who are in business together or thinking about it?

Doug: Give each other the space to make mistakes. Every person has a different process, so let your mate have room to succeed or fail in individual decisions before you insert your advice sometimes.

kido chicago

Keewa: Go for it! Do all the research and preparation you can. Then, ask the experts in your life for even more advice and help.

kido chicago

Also, be sure that you have a viable business model before you put the strain and stress onto your relationship.

If you’re working together towards something great, it can breathe new life into your relationship!


-Tony O. Lawson

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14 mins read

Chicago’s Eve Ewing will pen Marvel’s ‘Ironheart’

Fangirling over Eve L. Ewing is a new pastime if you’re an African-American female writing in Chicago. Ewing is an academic, a social media maven, a poet, a playwright. Now, she’s adding Marvel writer to her resume. Yes, Ewing is penning the upcoming Marvel series “Ironheart.”

For novices unfamiliar with the heroine, the title centers on Riri Williams, a black teen girl from Chicago who is a genius. She, like many superheroes, experienced a loss in her life when she was very young (her stepfather who had raised her and her best friend were both killed in a drive-by shooting), and she’s trying to cope.

Riri’s intellect is so incredible that she is able to re-create the Iron Man suit on her own, without all the resources of a Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). Stark mentors her and for a brief time she actually takes over as Iron Man and wears the suit. Riri eventually strikes out on her own in her own suit.

“Periodically I have to sit back and go, ‘Omigosh, I’m a Marvel writer’ — there’s nothing more implausible and more amazing that’s ever happened to me,” Ewing adds. “When you’re a writer, oftentimes you’re grinding away and there’s a short list where you can tell your mom, grandma or your brother and they fully understand what it is. But this is something where everybody gets it; everybody understands the pop culture resonance with Marvel – what it means and what it stands for, so it’s really exciting.”

In a world where goddesses are usAfrofuturism is now national youth poet laureates are making their mark, and sisters are gracing the September covers of many a fashion magazine this year, Ewing joining Marvel’s ranks is the jewel in the crown that is Chicago’s literary powerhouse. Along with Nnedi Okorafor, who is writing a new comic book series on Princess Shuri from “Black Panther” in October, Chicago is on the Marvel map.

“Chicagoans, we do it big, especially black women from Chicago,” Ewing said. “We do it real big.”

Ewing was touring for her poetry book “Electric Arches” in late 2017 when she saw an email from Marvel in her inbox. Titled: “Marvel calling,” she said she almost fell out of her chair. Asked about her reaction when Marvel welcomed her into the fold, she said, “It’s been like a recurring sense of wild emotions.”

It’s exciting for fans of Ewing, too. A campaign to bring her into the Marvel comics family began in 2017. Her fans started a petition to gather signatures to let Marvel know they wanted her to guide Riri’s path. The movement picked up steam on Twitter, where she has 165,000 followers. Ewing had the writing chops, she had the passion for pop culture, so make it happen, was the cry.

We talked to Ewing before her “Ironheart” news broke, in hopes of getting the scoop on what black girl magic she will weave into Riri Williams. The first issue will be on sale in November, according to Marvel. The interview has been condensed and edited.

… on Riri’s Chicago ties:

“She was born and raised in Chicago, but because she’s a superhero, her adventures take her all over the place. She also had a lab at MIT, that’s also kind of her headquarters. Her mom still lives in Chicago. I decided specifically that she’s from South Shore.

Previous writers put in so much, in terms of beginning her autobiographical details, but as a Chicagoan, I want to get down and dirty — like where did Riri go to high school? What bus does she take? Does she eat hot chips? These are the things that are really going to make her a full three-dimensional person. I’m really excited about putting in some of those little Chicago details.” (As far as where she went to high school, Ewing has decided she attended King College Prep.)

… on attending Wakandacon with her “Ironheart” news under her belt:

“You know how hard it was for me to be at Wakandacon and not tell people my news? I wanted to walk up to strangers and shake them and be like: ‘I’m writing a comic book for Marvel — just random people that I saw. It was so hard. Never have I been so tempted to break a secret and be like: Guess what? I have something amazing to tell you!’ But I couldn’t do that.”

… on how much the 2017 online campaign had to do with Marvel’s decision:

“When the campaign was launched, it was really humbling and really inspiring for me, because it made me realize how much it would mean to so many people to have me take on the story, but it also made me realize how upsetting and angering it is for a lot of people to think about black women and people of color more broadly moving into this space — that was eye-opening.

I’m really grateful for the support that people have shown me, but I also had to kind of step up to the plate as a writer and prove myself. The campaign was for me to work on ‘Invincible Iron Man,’ but when Marvel said we’re actually thinking about doing a solo title for Riri, that was like ‘Omigosh, this is the coolest thing ever.’ It’s really special, because this is a character that has some groundwork laid already but is still very new in terms of her role in the Marvel universe; it’s almost like getting into business on the ground floor. I get to play a role in really shaping who she is and who she’s going to become.”

… on the issues, storylines she wants to highlight for Riri:

“People don’t just gravitate toward Hulk or Captain America or Spider-Man because of their powers, the reason they say so-and-so is my favorite superhero is because of who they are as people and about what they stand for. So I think the really exciting thing is really building out Riri, not as just Ironheart, but who is she as a person?

Specifically, what does it mean to be a teenage black girl from Chicago? Somebody who has lost family members to gun violence, somebody who understands the realities of the community is going to bring something very different to questions about justice and who the good guy is and who the bad guy is and what you do about that.

She’s also a teenage genius and because of that, she skipped over a lot of social things — she went to high school when she was very young, she’s already in MIT, so Riri is not really great with her peers, she doesn’t really have any friends. Being a genius and knowing how to fix stuff and build amazing gadgets doesn’t necessarily make you a happy person. So how do you figure out how to use the power that’s available to you and how to connect with and be accountable to the people around you?”

… on her heroes when it comes to comic artists and writers:

“In terms of actual comics, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman — those kinds of people are big influencers on the kinds of storytelling that I want to do. Maybe this is too wonky of an answer, but one of the biggest things that has been exciting to me as a writer, in superhero comics, bigger is better.

Go big, or go home. One of the most exciting things for me has been really pushing, pushing and pushing in a fight scene or when you’re thinking about a villain like just trying to ratchet the stakes up higher and higher — that’s something that in other forms of writing that I do, subtlety and those kinds of careful, quiet moments are something that I’ve gotten good at, but it’s now fun for me to be like, ‘No, now this huge, giant, crazy thing happened’ and mix that with the quiet moments of everyday life that make something feel realistic and moving.”

… on whether she’s intimidated now that she’s on Marvel’s roster:

“I’m absolutely intimidated. I think it’s definitely something where I feel the stakes. But I think the thing that has encouraged me is we have a really amazing artist who’s on board for the project — his name is Kevin Libranda, and his art is really incredible and really spirited. When I complete a script and see how he’s brought what I wrote to life, it reminds me that this character is fictional but she means a lot to a lot of people, including me. So I just try to focus on that and not be too intimidated. I definitely feel like I have to remind myself that it’s OK to not be perfect, and I’m often my own hardest critic.

eve ewing

I think that whenever you’re a black woman doing something, people are paying a little bit more attention and that’s a blessing and a curse, so I have to remember to keep it fun, and keep having a good time and keep exploring and stretching as a writer. That’s the thing about being a writer — my philosophy is, my job is to lay the groundwork for these stories, but a reader gives them meaning. A reader decides how a story is going to live in the world, and so I absolutely hope to meet some old Marvel fans and some new converts who might jump on board because they’re excited about this character. I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

… on one thing that you hope to add to the Marvel lexicon to show that Eve Ewing was here?

“There are heroes all around us, and anybody can be one. I love Shuri (from “Black Panther”), but I think it’s also exciting to have an ‘around the way girl superhero.’ Shuri’s a princess; Riri takes the No. 4 Cottage Grove bus to get places. I want people to feel there are superheroes all around us.”

Source: Chicago Tribune

7 mins read

Chicago Area Woman Opens Beauty Supply Store

Princess Dempsey knows that she’s a rarity — it’s nothing new. The Broadview businesswoman has for years owned one of the few minority- and women-owned certified staffing firms in the country. So owning Princess Delights Beauty Supply — what she and some of her patrons suspect is very likely the first and only black-owned beauty supply store in Proviso Township — is just another unorthodox entrepreneurial venture for Dempsey.

Dempsey held a full-day grand opening celebration for the store, located at 1907 S. Mannheim Rd. in Westchester, on July 28. More than 30 people lined up at the door before the store opened at 11 a.m. By noon, Dempsey said, she had sold around $1,000 worth of product.

The store is stocked with the standard beauty supply fare, including hundreds of hair extension packs that line one wall. Shampoos, conditioners and other hair maintenance products line shelves that Dempsey bought from a Toys R Us after the chain announced that it would be going out of business.

But there are also other products, such as used clothes and accessories that feel like extensions of the mission of Dempsey Staffing. Over the years, the firm, which has an office in Westchester, has placed Proviso Township residents in temporary and permanent jobs throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

Dempsey said the firm goes a step above typical staffing agencies, equipping candidates with life skills and essential tools that are critical to landing many jobs in today’s economy, such as suits and ties. The staffing firm, Dempsey said, is currently being run by her sons.

“We have everything you’d get at a normal beauty supply store and more,” Dempsey said during her grand opening on Saturday. “What we do differently is price comparison. If you see a product we carry at a certain price somewhere else, we’ll sell you ours at a lower price.” She was also happy to report that having the best beauty supply pos has supported her business.

If the product isn’t in store, she said, employees like Heaven Manning — a 13-year-old upcoming freshman at Proviso East High School — will take a note to order it. Working at the beauty supply is Manning’s first job.

“During the summer, I don’t have any programs or anything, so coming to work is fun,” Manning said.

Dempsey and Manning are part of a trend in the consumer spending category that a 2018 Nielsen report describes as ethnic hair and beauty aids. Blacks are around 14 percent of the U.S. population, but they commanded nearly 86 percent of the $54.4 million spent last year on ethnic hair and beauty aids in the U.S.

Despite their spending power, however, blacks have historically been underrepresented among beauty supply store owners. According to the National Federation of Beauty Suppliers, around 70 percent of beauty supply stores in the U.S. are owned by Korean-Americans.

Dempsey said that she’s well aware of the disparity — one, she added, that is only beginning to narrow.

FullSizeRender (5)

Dempsey said that she broke into the industry by letting distributors know that she’s serious. | VFP

“They have us working in their stores now, but we don’t own them,” Dempsey said of Korean-American-owned beauty supply stores. “But look how long it took for them to even have us working in their places.”

Lately, however, there’s been a national surge of black-owned supply stores cropping up, according to a WOSU Public Media report.

“Two major shifts in the beauty supply industry are happening at the same time: More black women are sporting natural hair, and as Korean-Americans leave the industry, the stores that long catered to black customers are increasingly moving into black ownership,” according to the report.

“The Black Owned Beauty Supply Association says there are now about 3,000 black-owned beauty supply stores in the country. That’s about 150 more than last year.”

Dempsey said that she broke into the industry after discovering that a Korean-American beauty supply owner in Chicago was getting out of the business.

“He had not paid his taxes for 30 years and I went into his establishment and he said he had to leave and I offered to buy the store,” Dempsey said. “He said, ‘You have no money.’ I said, ‘God has it all, tell me the price.’ So, we ended up buying his inventory of hair.”

Dempsey said that having gained control of that inventory, she’s had no problem maintaining a source that will distribute to her indefinitely.

“I noticed that the distributors, even though they’re Korean, they don’t care if you’re black or white — they just want their money,” Dempsey said. “They knew I was serious when they saw what I bought. So, they’re looking for serious people. My orders are nice.”

Dempsey said that she currently employs two teenagers, including Manning. She added that she’ll soon be stocking an exclusive line of makeup by Landis, the Chicago-based celebrity makeup artist.

The store is opened Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is closed on Sunday. For more info, call (708) 938-5427.


Source: Village Free Press

3 mins read

15 Black Owned Restaurants in Chicago

The Windy City has always been able to hold its own against the best food cities in the country. We’ve listed a few of the Black Owned Restaurants in Chicago that make the city special.

Black Owned Restaurants in Chicago

Peach’s is a comfy American eatery with biscuits & other Southern staples for breakfast & lunch.

Batter & Berries serves creative pancakes, omelets & other breakfast eats plus sandwiches & lunch fare too.

Black Owned Restaurants in Chicago

5 Loaves  is a family owned and operated catering/restaurant that is known for its quaint feel and down-home cooking and hospitality.

Normans Bistro offers an American Creole Cuisine with a Brazilian Flair. Outstanding dessert menu and wine list are served in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.

Luella’s Southern Kitchen serves traditional Southern favorites in a simple storefront space with a BYOB policy.

Litehouse Whole Food Grill was opened with the hope of bringing healthy fast food to his community in the most wholesome way.

Sweet Maple Café offers country-style comfort food including all-day breakfasts & hearty lunches served in a homey space.

Ja’ Grill offers curries, jerks & other Jamaican specialties in an upscale-casual space with a lounge & weekend DJs.

Ain’t She Sweet Café is a casual, cozy eatery offering counter-serve sandwiches, smoothies & house-baked desserts.

Original Soul Vegetarian offers a one of a kind culinary experience in innovative vegan cuisine and a unique take on vegetarian fare that is big on taste without compromising health.

Pearl’s Place offers a unique experience, combining delicious home-style foods with the service and attention of a fine-dining restaurant.

Gorée Cuisine – Concentrates on Senegalese food. A West African cuisine influenced by North African, French, and Portuguese cuisine and derives from the nation’s many ethnic groups, the largest being the Wolof.

Turkey Chop is an upbeat, bright grill offering a turkey-centric menu of Italian, Mexican, Asian & Southern dishes.

Currency Café –  is a neighborhood cafe featuring cuisine that embodies a modern mix of Mexican spice, American nostalgia, and Southern soul.

Simply Soups and Salads keeps it simple with delicious soups, salads and sandwiches. Seriously, they have 17 sandwich choices on the menu.

-Oluremi Lawson

7 mins read

From Prison Chef to Successful Burger Business Owner

By 11 a.m., the first hungry customers start milling about outside of James Purifoy’s burger joint, 15th & Chris in Rockford, Illinois. By noon, the line often snakes around the small, red building and into the parking lot.

“Some of the customers I see so often that I already know what they’re ordering, just by the way they’re standing and looking at me,” says Purifoy.

Purifoy opened 15th & Chris in September 2014 and in less than four years, he’s become a local culinary celebrity. The no-frills operation offers no indoor seating, just a few picnic tables out front. But people come from miles around for Purifoy’s burgers.

“They’re not just coming from 20 or 30 minutes away. Someone in Minnesota saw my review on social media and ended up at 15th & Chris to try my burger,” he boasts.

Purifoy created every burger recipe on the menu and named them himself.

Among some of the most popular burgers is The Mackaveli, a patty with BBQ sauce, melted cheese and beer-battered onion rings. Then there is The First Lady burger, which is basted with steak sauce and topped with Swiss cheese, mushrooms, grilled onions and mayo.


Oddly enough, Purifoy says he wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t served time in prison.

Surrounding 15th & Chris are the housing projects where Purifoy and his siblings were raised by their mother. “We were six kids and she was a single parent with multiple jobs,” he says.

Although he was the first in his family to make it through high school, he says “inner city street life” eventually consumed him. “I was in a gang. I had a gun, I was dealing drugs to make money for myself and for the family,” he recalls.

He was arrested multiple times as a teenager. Then, when he was 17, he shot a rival gang member. “I never thought it was right, but I didn’t want to die either. For me, I had to stop them before they got me,” he says.

At 19, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Walking into the penitentiary was a wake-up call. “I decided prison was not going to be my revolving door anymore,” says Purifoy.

He took classes to pass the time. He pursued an associate degree in automotive technology, followed by vocational certificates in custodial services and building maintenance. But it was the associate degree he attained in culinary arts that struck a chord with him.

“I remember watching my mom cook and wondering how she made things taste the way they did. It always intrigued me,” says Purifoy.

Eventually, he became head chef at one of the prisons where he was serving out his sentence. While there, he designed and cooked meals for an inmate population of 2,800. As his confidence grew, Purifoy knew cooking would one day help him get back on his feet.

In 2004, Purifoy was released. He was 29 years old. At first, he landed odd jobs and took business classes at a local community college. He saved his money and started a small trucking company, JFP Trucking, which he ran for a few years.

Work was steady, but his heart wasn’t in it. “Cooking was my passion,” he says. The self-described “burger fanatic” couldn’t stop thinking about how the neighborhood was desperately in need of a great burger joint.

In 2012, Purifoy drove past an abandoned shack that used to sell ice cream. “I thought, well, there it is. I’m going to open my burger spot there.”

Purifoy sold JFP Trucking to raise capital. He also received a $50,000 grant from the city and drummed up additional help from family. Two years later, after putting a total of nearly $100,00 into renovations, he opened 15th & Chris.

Today, the business has 10 employees, including a few workers who have served time in prison. “These are people from all walks of life. They’ve been to prison and just need a chance now for a fresh start,” says Purifoy. “They need jobs.”

Purifoy starts his day shortly after 5 a.m., helping his wife Latasha get their five young children ready for school. After that, he heads to the restaurant where he cooks and helps serve the food.

The business is now profitable and Purifoy is looking to expand, he says. Last year, he bought a food truck to cater events, but now he is using it every day to sell his burgers around town.

Up next: To open another restaurant in Rockford, one with more indoor space so he can offer table service. Across the parking lot from 15th & Chris is Penguin Foods, a third-generation meat shop and catering business.

“He buys ground beef and sausages from us for his restaurant,” said owner John Ciembronowicz. Purifoy, in turn, uses the freezers in Ciembronowicz’s shop to store his supplies.

“We help each other out,” says Ciembronowicz. “The way he’s turned his life around is incredible. And he’s helped to revitalize this area, too…Small businesses like ours are vital to this community.”

Purifoy is trying to give back to the community in other ways, too.

“I speak with inner city kids just like me and I’m very upfront about my life story,” he says. “I tell them that education is everything. If you know better, you do better in life.”


Source: CNN Money

4 mins read

Black Owned Construction Firms Hired for $300 Million Obama Foundation Project

Three Black-owned construction firms joined forces to form the Presidential Partners consortium. It has recently been announced that this new joint venture will take the lead on the $300 million construction of the Obama Presidential Center. Construction is one of the most lucrative industries on the planet. There are many successful construction companies across the world, going to show you this. It is great to see business booming and small businesses with also hopefully benefit from this large-scale project. Both in the United States and across the Pond in the United Kingdom, it can be a real challenge for businesses to thrive. This is why they often choose to cut costs wherever possible. One really useful way of doing this is opting to lease a van rather than buying outright. UK based IVL are helping small businesses to do this.

Image courtesy of the Obama Foundation

The Presidential Partners consortium of Powers & Sons Construction, UJAMAA Construction, Brown & Momen, and Safeway Construction. These companies represent some of the most established and well-respected Black owned construction firms in Chicago. It is wonderful that Chicago is home to so many excellent construction firms that are experiencing high levels of success across the country. It is reflected in their customer satisfaction ratings and the number of top of the range equipment, like a scabbler, that they have to help them carry out their job.

Mamon Powers, Jr. CEO, Powers and Sons

Alone, none of these companies had the experience to win the bid to construct the institution that is slated for Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Together, according Mike Strautmanis, vice president at the Obama Foundation, it was an easy choice.

Image courtesy of the Obama Foundation

“One, they’re talented,” Strautmanis says. “We know they’ve been involved in other construction projects around the city and the Midwest, so between them all we knew they could handle the complexity.”

Jimmy Akintonde, CEO , Ujaama Construction

President Obama himself signed off on the new team, and Strautmanis says the selection is part of the president’s commitment to the community.

“We want to set the stage for a new model,” Strautmanis says. “The new model is you don’t have to have a white firm with minority partners on the side. You want to have real diversity: minority firms in the lead with a seat at the table.”

Ernest Brown, President, Brown & Momen, Inc

According to Next City, community activists and residents are reportedly still pressing the foundation to sign a contract guaranteeing well-paid, long-term jobs to local residents.

Obama has said that he will not sign such a contract. But the foundation believes that in selecting a construction management team, it has “picked firms that demonstrated they could handle the community’s concerns,” according to the Tribune.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of the year. It will start on the west side of Jackson Park.

The Obama Presidential Center is scheduled to open in 2020.