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New business seeks to bolster urban entrepreneurs

August 5, 2018

Bridgeport’s stock of urban entrepreneurs could use a boost.

While the population of Hispanic and black-owned businesses exist, consultant and entrepreneur Kim Bianca Williams said it’s been an underdeveloped and underserved component of the city’s small business community.

She should know. She’s in the business of helping others develop their ideas into thriving businesses that could impact their community. In the last year alone, the Bridgeport resident has been laser focused on igniting the entrepreneurial fire in the city’s black and Hispanic community with her latest project Urban Synergy in Action, or USA at 51 Crescent Avenue.

“What we are trying to do is create economic development from within,” Williams said. “It’s hard for us to tap into resources, especially as we’re building our businesses.”

It’s been roughly a year since the local business owner set out to increase Bridgeport’s stock of entrepreneurs that better reflect the neighborhoods they live. The company, focuses on assisting “urban” entrepreneurs get started by providing guidance and opportunities and develop their ideas into businesses that could impact their communities.

For the last four years, Williams has also been running her own consultancy firm, VCL Consulting Group, out of Bridgeport’s east side, providing professional and business training to go alongside her brainchild.

“We have a lot of entrepreneurs that have good ideas, but don’t have the capacity to make it thrive,” she said.

That realization served as the catalyst for the project, which is looking to expand her operation into a four-unit incubator-style business for people of color looking to turn their ideas into a business.

With the space, Williams said tenants would have access to a 500-square-foot studio and 1,000 square feet of office space to get started while also receiving guidance, courtesy of VCL.

Within three-year periods, Williams said tenants with fully developed business would be able to branch out and contribute to neighboring communities.

“Once they are fully ready, they go out and do it on a larger scale — not to go out and rent another space, but actually go out and purchase a building in our urban community, and repurpose that building,” she said.

Making it happen

After a year of pursing traditional funding through money lenders, Williams opted to find unique ways to make it happen on her own which led her to start what she described as side hustles, sticking with her entrepreneurial ideals.

“It’s huge for me, this whole urban entrepreneurship move and it’s very important,” she said. ”I think we have the power within ourselves to make this happen.”

USA offers a fully refrigerated and air-conditioned mobile café available for food vendors to rent so they can make and sell their goods at events. She also offers a pedicab that people with a driver’s license can rent and transport passengers for a fee.

While both allow for additional cash flow to go towards bringing the USA Building to fruition, Williams said it also keeps with her goal of teaching urban entrepreneurs how to make extra income and to gain exposure for their ideas.

While it is a means for obtaining wealth, Williams said the need for more people of color owning a business in their community goes beyond dollars and cents, as she looks to empower communities.

“So often the track that they put urban communities on is: ‘We’ll teach you skills to help you become employable,’ but who needs employment,” she said. “Why not teach skills that will help build wealth, which in my opinion is entrepreneurship, because not only are you building wealth for your organization but now, you are creating opportunities that help the community, for urban entrepreneurship.”

Overcoming the struggle

City officials and community leaders agree that the current state of the urban entrepreneur in the city is struggling.

The city has seen contracting business thrive, but there are some that see a growing need for professional services as well.

“The struggle is evident because it’s hard to drum up business with people who are struggling themselves for the services you may be offering,” said Fred Gee, director of Bridgeport’s Small and Minority Business Enterprise.

The importance of seeing more people of color opening businesses hasn’t been lost on local business owner Kelvin Ayala, who sees the development of local entrepreneurs as a win-win situation for more than just someone’s bottom line.

While development continues in different parts of the city, Ayala acknowledged the need for more black and Hispanic business owners to set up shop within urban communities as a means for creating jobs and circulating dollars within the community.

“I say it’s no different the school education system,” he said. “It’s important to see people who live in your neighborhood or reflect the demographic of the neighborhood, opening up businesses and having a slice of that American dream and American pie of being able to contribute, create jobs and be a fabric of the community.”

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