Black owned business set to take on NBA All-Star Weekend

CLEVELAND — The responsibility of life’s purpose can sometimes weigh heavy. Yet for LaRese Purnell, his purpose, which is rooted in his community, seems to have never wavered.

“I started to help to bring awareness to Black-owned businesses…along with that is helping them to create access to tables that sometimes typically Black-owned businesses were not at,” he said.

His purpose came to light seven years ago, which he says, “spiritually that means a year of completion.” It was then, he created “The Real Black Friday.”

“Black Friday was one of the most hashtagged words when it came to retail and people spending money so I just put a spin on it and said we’re going to call it the ‘Real Black Friday,’ Purnell explained.

The event is meant to empower minority entrepreneurs like Daisun Lee Santana, who is the coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers Scream dance team and of the Citybreaks barbershop in Tower City.

“I’m also a professional breakdancer that’s why it’s called Citybreaks,” Santana explained.

Santana, a proud Cleveland Latina, says the success of his shop wouldn’t have been possible without overwhelming support.

“What helped me get to where I’m at is my roots in the community,” he said. “They need to shine a light on the minority owners…we need resources to succeed but once we have that everyone has their grind everyone has that uniqueness to really become successful.”

Myia Ellington agrees. The Cleveland native owns the newly built children’s school, the Learning Experience, in Westlake.

“My whole life has been a learning experience,” she said. “I came from the projects here…my plate was just really figuring it out on my own.”

Ellington’s school focuses on early education, which has been a dream of hers for as long as she can remember.

“I wanted to start a school that specialized in foreign languages,” she explained. “I could’ve gone anywhere in the world but I chose to come back here and really just expand and grow my community.”

Both businesses are succeeding with the help of their communities despite the odds stacked against them. According to Purnell, 40% of Black businesses will not survive the pandemic.

“I always say the happy grand opening sometimes unfortunately is the happy grand closing as well.”

But through the Real Black Friday Black Business Expo, more than 100 other Black-owned businesses will get the help they need as the event takes their brands to the NBA All-Star stage at Tower City.

“Never has there been such an intentional, I would say generation or event, that really focused in on black on businesses all under one roof,” said Purnell. “This will be the catalyst to again re-energize communities and people within our communities to go out and support these businesses because now we’re giving them a platform so you’re aware that they actually exist.”

The Real Black Friday Black Business Expo kicks off this Saturday, Feb. 19 from 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday, Feb. 20 from 12 pm to 6 pm

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