The idea emerged from a simple question, explains Sandra Moss the extension agent for business development with West Virginia State University. When asked if she knew of any African-American architects in the region, she had no answer.
“I have a lot of resources, so I believed I could come up with one Well it took me 2 weeks to come up with a black architect. So after we were able to come up with a black architect, we just sat down and said there’s got to be a better way,” Moss continued.
The result was the formation of BBASE which stands for Black Business Association Supporting Entrepreneurs. The group promotes black entrepreneurship and serves as a resource for black-owned businesses.
“BBASE is about showcasing black businesses in our communities and providing opportunities for their support through networking, training and mentorship,” says Moss. “BBASE is about helping to make a change,â€ she said. “It’s not about being separate but, instead, being economically stronger within so we can branch out.â€
Black entrepreneurs in the West Virginia area were quick to join the group, including C. Anthony Parker, owner of Charleston Pre-Owned Luxury Auto.
“At the age of 19, I started buying cars and selling them, and buying cars and selling them, I said I wanted to defeat all odds. I rented property, bought 2 buildings, and started out with one vehicle,” Parker said.
“In African American society we tend to not come together, I’ll be honest with you, and that’s through my experience in business,â€ said Parker. “But mentoring is the key. It’s generational, because I’ve been mentored, and my mentor was mentored.â€
Moss will serve as president of the association. She says she’ll keep a special focus on African-American youth.
“There are so many creative minds out there, and they don’t know where to go. They don’t know how to do it,â€ she said. “And so if we can set up this community of people who work together we can stimulate a younger generation to consider starting small businesses.â€
The WVSU Economic Development Center will host BBASE development, training, networking and mentoring programs. BBASE’s launch party for interested African American business professionals, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Feb. 2 at 5pm at the West Virginia State University Economic Development Center on Kanawha Boulevard West.