How you can support Black start-ups without red tape

Tosha Wilson wants less talk and more action. She despises red tape, especially when it comes to establishing Black businesses. And she believes that a simple action, especially a collective one, can lead to great change.

So on June 25, Tosha, who was born and raised and works in Evanston, started a Facebook group called Boosting Black Business. In just a week, the group has to more than 1,000 enthusiastic members, who clearly support Tosha's vision.

The premise is simple but powerful:

  • A committed group of individuals (Tosha's dream is 10,000) agree to contribute $20 or more each month for the next 12 months to support a Black start-up business that has an established crowdfunding site.

  • People who are interested in supporting Black start-ups join the Boosting Black Business Facebook group, and each month, Tosha announces that month's start-up, the reasons she's selected it, and the link to its crowdfunding website.

  • If 1,000 people each contribute a minimum of $20 to that start-up, collectively they'll have supported it with $20,000. If 10,000 people contribute, that's $200,000 toward making the start-up team's dream a reality.

  • The group will focus on local Chicago-area start-ups first, then broaden its scope nationally.

  • Tosha will announce the first start-up--which she has researched and vetted--on July 2o. And she's brimming with excitement and anticipation for that day to arrive.

  • To participate in this project and get the links to each start-up's fundraiser, go to the Boosting Black Business Facebook group. If you're not on Facebook, we'll keep you informed on Dear Evanston too.

Tosha, who along with her cousin Jacqui White, is working on her own Evanston-based start-up, has learned a lot from the experience, and she and Jackie both recently graduated from Sunshine Enterprise, an academy for budding entrepreneurs.

Tosha's Evanston roots go back five generations. Her great-uncle William Logan was Evanston's first Black police chief. Her father is well-known activist Lonnie Wilson.

I spoke to Tosha via Zoom yesterday afternoon to hear all about this small BIG idea. I've excerpted some of our conversation below. You can learn more by watching the video (unfortunately the sound and picture aren't quite synced--sorry Tosha!).

DE: Tell me why you started the Boosting Black Business Facebook group:

TW: As you know, I have a low tolerance for talk. This was the most practical way to get people together to support start-up businesses. I don't believe the small business association, or the large bank, or local bank should be in charge of the success of any business, let alone Black businesses.

We always have to wait around for the establishment to say it's okay and I'm just trying to figure out: why can't the people say it's okay: Why can't the people say, hey, for $20 and a collective effort, if we do that once a month for one business, why can't we push forward these businesses?

Why do we have to wait? Let's say, hey as a group, let's support it.

It's like a trunk party for the business. The business may not succeed, or it may be the biggest thing that ever happened to the world. So we put everything in the trunk, and we send that kid to college, and we hope they make it, but we don't judge them if they don't. We don't--if they come back--demand our money back and say, hey, you flunked out of college.

It's just support on a basic level to get things done without having to fish through all the red tape.

DE: Is there a reason you started it now with all the extra attention to racial injustice, enslavement, Jim Crow, all these things coming to the fore? Why now?

TW: Why not now is pretty much my answer. Every discussion that's been had in the last two weeks, two years, 20 years, my father and our family have discussed this for decades.

I'm actually tired of the discussion. So because people are talking about it now is not why I started it, but in real terms, it's annoying to constantly hear it. We can talk about buying Black, we can talk about supporting Black, but my experience is it's always talk. Always this level of emotional energy, and then once it comes down, we settle back in and then boom, it happens again.

I remember 1992, sitting with my mom while my sister was at Camp Timber-lee and Rodney King is getting beaten in the streets, and we watched it again a couple of months ago, and we will watch it again.

In the meantime we can do something about it.

DE: Explain how it will work?

TW: Everyone will put $20 (or more) into a crowdfunding source that already exists. Entrepreneurs have to show their EIN, IDs, their social security number when they start a business crowdfund, so they've been vetted already. There's a process. They just need the attention and the support.

I've found some super-great businesses that are sitting there and being ignored. so why not highlight them, have people each give a minimum of $20, so even if it's just 1,000 of us, it's $20,000 minimum.

I'll highlight why they're being featured, what their expertise is, what their story is. My friend Jennifer Friedrich of Bon Creative will help write up their profiles and missions.

DE: What kinds of business start-ups have you found in your research?

TW: Farming businesses, tea companies, syntax companies, a brewing company, These people, you can tell the passion behind what they want to do, and we have to wait on systems to get them to where they want to go in order to build some financial wealth with their families. I think that's crazy.

DE: You yourself have dreams of establishing your own business, The Laundry Cafe, with your cousin Jacqui, in Evanston's 5th ward. You have an active GoFundMe. Why didn't you start with your own business idea?