‘You’re supporting a dream’: Memphis businesses strive to close the wealth gap

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There’s nothing “butter” than a cookie with community.

“When you’re supporting a local business, you’re supporting a dream!” said Tamika Heard, the owner of Butterific Bakery & Café. “You’re supporting a vision. You’re supporting us. You’re supporting Memphis!”

According to a 2019 study, Black-owned businesses have created one million jobs in the United States and generated $165 billion in revenue.

“When you support Black-owned businesses, it helps bring money back into the community,” said Mary McConner, who founded Inclusive Excellence Consulting in December 2021. “As a nation, we’ve made some great strides. But there still is so much more work that needs to be done.”

In the Edge District, Marcus Jackson launched Craft Axe Throwing to inspire other entrepreneurs.

“By supporting local businesses, you’re supporting families,” he explained. “You’re supporting community. You’re really supporting Memphis in general.”

D’Angelo Connell launched his photography business with just $300.

“I get it,” he explained. “I understand the comfortability of having a job, having a security, of getting paid every two weeks. But if you’re in a situation to where you can afford to take that risk, why not?”

Fabian Matthews founded Spotlight Productions in 2000 hoping to capitalize on his talents as a television photojournalist.

“I was scared,” he recalled. “But, you know, you take a chance on yourself and you believe in yourself and you believe in your abilities and you just do it.”

Born on Beale Street, Larry Springfield now serves soul at SugaShack every day.

“We can keep Dr. King’s dream alive by continuing to support Black businesses,” he explained.

In East Memphis, Veve Yates and Carlee McCullough opened Mahogany Memphis just before the pandemic. Their goal was to cultivate an environment that was “rich, dark, beautiful and rare,” just like Diana Ross in 1975′s Mahogany.

“You have to know and believe what you’re doing,” Yates said. “Martin Luther King said, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.’”

They now hope to inspire little girls to launch businesses in the communities where they grew up.

“It can be done,” McCullough explained.