Founder, Executive Director, and Visionary of Our Village United, Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon is securing capital and generational wealth for Black women founders with her new pro bono program in partnership with Walmart.
Created in 2016, the Our Village United collective is a nonprofit organization born from the vision of one Black woman’s dedication to serve, and turned into an opportunity to bring other Black entrepreneurs’ dreams to the forefront.
“Rather than [put] a business here, a business there, or business there, I wanted people to see, and I still want people to see what it feels like to walk in a room and you got 150 Black businesses with products that you had no idea that Black people made,” Dr. Hallmon stated.
“It elevates your own lens and consciousness of what it means to be Black, you are unchanged, you are forever changed when you see that.”
After moving to Atlanta in 2011, Dr. Hallmon was mesmerized by the number of Black-owned businesses in the city, but she noticed one issue. For a lot of those businesses, the doors were closing on them faster than new ones were opening. Subsequently, one by one, those businesses began to fail before her eyes. Determined to do something about it, Dr. Hallmon decided to develop the idea of the Village Market.
“When I moved to this city 11 years ago, almost 12 years ago, I was in love, I fell in love [with the city]. [However], I also knew the number of businesses that through direct or indirect relationships were struggling. [Sometimes] I would find a Black business and I [would] tell my friends that you know, this business exists. And my friends were like, they had no idea. Or I [would] have friends who wanted to launch a business, [but] they had no idea how to start…”
“So, I took those fragmented conversations, and realized that this is a city where Black people exist, which means this is a city where all amazing Black ideas can grow.”
“So I had this idea to bring [Black] businesses front and center. [Just like] you know how concerts have headliners. I created Village Market where the businesses are the headliners,” Dr. Hallmon stated.
Now, the non profit organization is rolling out a pro bono program, in addition to receiving a $500,000 grant from the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, to offer technical assistance for retail-facing small businesses led by Black women. The new initiative will focus on helping Black women founders across Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Georgia strengthen their business model, while also positioning them to become credit- and capital-ready.
“Supporting Black women founders, who are sparking growth in Black entrepreneurship, is key to the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity’s aim to reduce the racial wealth gap by strengthening Black businesses in the retail industry,” said Monique Carswell, director, Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity.
“We are excited to support Our Village United’s Pro Bono Program and learn more about how targeted assistance and resources can help Black women founders overcome challenges to growing their businesses.”
Although this is only part of the journey to economic success, for Dr. Hallmon, this is a massive step in the right direction. Especially as she continues to emphasize the value of the Black dollar and pushes major retail companies to put the right amount of money behind it.
“This city is deeply influenced by Black culture. And then you follow the money of Black culture goals.”
“And because of that, Atlanta is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. So when you’ve invested in Black entertainment, Black fashion, Black athletics, when you invest in Black communities… The people in these communities have accelerated. This is the time. And what a time to be alive. And what a time to be imaginative and innovative. That’s what the renaissance is. The renaissance is a collection of a multitude of talented people who go fearlessly after their dreams. And because of that, the world improves…renaissance is a time of inspiration, it’s a time of dismantling constructs that no longer serve us, and a time to challenge cliches that we said for over 40 years that don’t make sense, such as [the notion of] being colorblind. Whoever thought of that [wasn’t] making any sense. See me fully, see me [in] all my colors, but do not allow my color to stigmatize me,” Dr. Hallmon said.
Currently, Dr. Hallmon is planning to release her first book and is looking forward to announcing further partnerships.