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New Market Spotlights Minority, Women-Owned Businesses

By MARCUS NAVARRO, Greenville News

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Minority and women entrepreneurs spent time with the Greenville community and introduced their businesses to potential customers in a new monthly market last Thursday.

The Third Thursday Market was started by Village Launch and will be held at Poe West on the third Thursday of each month this summer. The first market was held last Thursday and included over a dozen vendors, live music and the Project Host food truck.

Charles Davis, Jr. joined Thursday’s market to increase brand awareness of his new business, A Polished Man, and to interact with customers.

“The Poe West market, today, was a great opportunity for us to get out in the Greenville community and introduce people to the brand,” Davis said.

A Polished Man is a men’s accessories store. Davis calls it his “Covid baby” because the idea was born during a birthday trip to Spartanburg this past year.

Davis likes to shop for pocket squares whenever he visits a city and thought of creating a space focused on men’s accessories. He hopes to open a physical location in downtown Greenville by the end of this year.

These markets will be fun events, but are also meant to assist minority and women owned entrepreneurs from the area, Rhonda Rawlings, Mill Community Ministries’ neighborhood engagement director, said.

With so much growth coming to Greenville, Rawlings hopes this market will highlight hometown small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Jessica Rose hopes to be part of that Greenville growth soon. She said joining the market will help her attract Greenville customers to her day spa in Spartanburg, Forever Yung Day Spa, at a time when she’s thinking of expanding her business.

Dan Weidenbenner, executive director of Mill Community Ministries, said these markets target businesses with Village Launch — which is a part of Mill Community Ministries and is a business incubator for minority and women entrepreneurs in west Greenville — as well as businesses with START:ME SPARTANBURG — a small business incubator in north Spartanburg.

West Greenville is a historically Black community and local small businesses were a great platform to build wealth and jobs in the area from within the community, he said.

Minority women in particular have been the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the country in recent years, and Weidenbenner said it was important that these entrepreneurs have access to the necessary opportunities and resources.

Tamika Thompson — owner of Beyond This February, an online bookstore that prioritizes Black authors and Black characters — participated in the market to connect with the community and other entrepreneurs.

“I’ve been able to not only talk to people but actually learn a little bit about why people are shopping with me,” Thompson said.

Thompson — who is looking to open a physical storefront in Spartanburg next year — learned that reading groups and book clubs need orders to get filled for certain titles and that these groups prefer to get input from someone, rather than just picking books online.

Weidenbenner added that interacting with customers and the community is an important aspect of these markets — especially with how difficult it was to do so during the heights of the pandemic.

“This is such a great test market — test field for entrepreneurs to get feedback from the community,” Weidenbenner said. “To see how their product is doing — are people purchasing it? Is it solving a problem in the community?”

The markets — a collaboration with Poe West, 98 Ventures and the Truist Culinary and Hospitality Innovation Center — will run through the summer and potentially into the fall.

Each Third Thursday Market could have different venders as business owners will register for each individual market. The market does not charge vendors for space at the market and vendors can register on the Village Launch website.

“We just want to be an encouragement to those small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Rawlings said. “That their services are valued and they can make a difference with their companies.”

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