When Dr. Key Hallmon realized her friends needed a place to launch their businesses, she acted by creating The Village Market ATL. Founded in 2016, The Village Market ATL affords black business owners an opportunity to showcase their products and services to prospective consumers. Hallmon and her team also offer free master classes on financial literacy and entrepreneurship development to serve as a launching pad for entrepreneurs. Additionally, they use the event as an opportunity to expose those in attendance to plant-based foods and holistic products.
The Village Market ATL’s mission is to support the sustainability of socially conscious, community-minded, black entrepreneurs and black-owned startups. The Village Market is currently based in Atlanta and hosts three big markets each year, one in the spring, one in summer, and a Black Friday Festival—which is scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 29, 2019.
Black Enterprise contributor Nicole K. Webb caught up with Hallmon to learn more about The Village Market ATL.
Who is Dr. Lakeysha “Key” Hallmon?
An educator first. An orator. A writer. An education consultant. A business owner. A community builder. A community connector. A doer. A plant-based enthusiast. A nature lover. I am a person who is ever-growing and deeply passionate about living within my divine purpose. I am created to be a social entrepreneur and educator; everything I do within the layered work for the community is aligned with my personal principles and values. My life reflects what I love: people, purpose, nature, and impact.
My values: treat people well, build within our own communities first, operate with the highest integrity and in excellence, and invest in the journey of wellness.
What has been your greatest challenge since launching The Village Market ATL and how were you able to overcome it?
Like many startups, primarily black-owned businesses, getting financial support via sponsorship was a challenge and also securing community partnerships. Rather than seeking their support, I continued to work hard to grow the impact of my company. I am a firm believer that if you create something that is impactful, needed, and in excellence, the stakeholders will come. I did not focus on the resistance that I was facing. I focused on making my company impactful and the best. Now companies and partners have begun to reach out to us.
How have you been able to successfully grow The Village Market along with having a career as an educator?
I have an amazing, all-woman-powered team. My Village team allowed me to still be present and do impactful work for my 9 to 5. I am a former education and evaluation specialist, which required a lot of travel; having a good team in place and trusting their talents helped me operate fully in both spaces. As well, I am requested to speak nationally and internationally, either on entrepreneurship or education reform; my team manages the day-to-day when I am requested in other spaces.
How has your career as an educator contributed to your work with The Village Market?
My experiences as a 9-to-5-er trained my business savviness and my ability to be a solution-oriented thinker and executor. As a teacher, I would often tell my students that I fail them the day that I only teach them English. As the leader of the Village, I fail the companies if I only support them by creating a marketplace. Impact requires layers and a deep assessment that is result-driven. I married my two worlds and used my talents that I had been trained in to create my company. In addition, everything that I am a part of funnels into the other. When I taught, my classroom was a place of love, purpose, progression; I required my students to show up as themselves, to complete their assignments in excellence, to proactively respond to rigor; my Village operates the same.
Do you have plans on expanding The Village Market to other cities and states?
Yes. It is a goal to do a three to four-city tour of the Village Market. As well, we will launch an international experience. It is also our goal to attract more strategic partnerships nationally and launch the global expansion of our programming that is offered within the Village.
What can newcomers expect to experience at your next event this coming November?
“Black excellence. An actualized Wakanda Community.” Patrons will experience the diversity of black creativity, black love, and wealth of positive energy. They can expect plant-based foods, music, wellness classes, small business classes, good customer service, professionalism, and to be re-introduced to some of their favorite black-owned businesses and introduced to new ones. You can expect an experience that you’ve never had before and you will leave full, inspired, and wondering how did you spend so much money in such a short time.
What advice would you give to someone who is working a job but has a desire to launch a business or nonprofit organization of their own?
Launch it. Examine what you have learned from your 9-to-5 from management to experiences to networking, and leverage those skills as you start your new endeavor. Create clear, S.M.A.R.T., goals, pace yourself, and get a small group of accountability partners to hold you accountable. If you desire to leave your 9-to-5, be sure to have a plan in place to support your transition but do not rush your process. Your 9-to-5 provides invaluable experiences of how to manage a team, provide good customer service, and utilize systems. Create a flexible schedule that allows you to start building your startup and be present at your 9-to-5 so you can use your salary to help support the financial needs of your business. Above all things, trust your process and know that for some, it’s a sprint and others, a marathon; you just have to choose how you are going to run your race. But, the race that you are going to run, has to be yours—fully. If you are at all hesitant, I live by this: jump and trust that your parachute will open.
To learn more about The Village Market ATL, visit their website at https://thevillagemarketatl.com/about-the-village/
Black Enterprise Contributors Network