“Regular or Unleaded?”
I remember like it was yesterday! My parents owned a gas station on Gary, Indiana’s West side for nearly 35 years, and I had the distinct pleasure of pumping gas for customers at the tender of age of 7! I was proud to be the daughter of an entrepreneur, although I didn’t really know what the term meant at the time. I did realize that my father was the boss and that he made his own hours!
I share this memory to call attention to a time when Black-owned businesses were the norm in Gary and lined the blocks in neighborhoods like Horace Mann, Midtown, Downtown, Glen Park and more! Further, there were organizations like the Tolle-Mann Business Association and the Midtown Businessmen’s Association that supported the efforts and values of Black business owners.
As Black History Month comes to a close, I pen this blog as a newly established Gary entrepreneur seeking to revitalize the energy and visibility of Black businesses in Gary and throughout Northwest Indiana. For many years, I fought the very idea of going into business for myself. I was comfortable with applying my expertise as a communications professional in a 9-to-5 capacity with a livable wage and benefits. It wasn’t until I really listened to the urges of my spouse, family members and fellow entrepreneurs in my community that I actually mustered the courage to actually go full-time with my business in March 2019.
Opening a business in the region is not an easy task, but I have found it to be worthwhile for me and a host of my colleagues. We are steadily developing a network of support where we are purchasing one another’s products and services while sharing resources for access to capital, training, marketing and the like. In fact, it warms my heart when I am able to post pictures and contact information of businesses that I support throughout my city and NWI.
I am learning more and more that our support of locally owned, Black businesses has a great impact on the economic turnaround in Gary and beyond. As vacant and abandon buildings are being demolished, the path is being cleared for new business ventures, and I happy to see my generation jumping on these opportunities.
Without question, we have quite a ways to go but our progress has not gone unnoticed. A simple search on Google or social media will reveal an exhaustive list of small businesses that provide unique offerings. I encourage you to take the time to explore then support us! Oh and don’t forget to share your findings with your networks. Every dollar spent makes a huge difference while helping fuel the dreams of ambitious, Black entrepreneurs like me!
Happy Black History Month!
Chelsea Whittington is the CEO of C WHITT PR with offices located in Gary and Hammond. Areas of focus include public relations, social media strategy, email marketing and communications training/coaching. Learn more by visiting www.CWHITT.biz.
C Whitt Public Relations Consultant