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Black business expo aims to heighten support, connection among local entrepreneurs after pandemic

Published: Jul. 26, 2021 at 7:35 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Damia Cungtion says cooking is her passion, and decided to turn it into a business during the pandemic. But, it wasn’t always easy.

“I don’t come from a background where everyone welcomed me at first. I had to go through a lot of loops. I’m just here to feed people,” Cungtion said.

However, she turned her passion into a reality, and she’s not alone. According to the Kauffman Foundation’s annual report of Black-owned businesses, in 2020 more new Black-owned businesses were started than at any time in the last 25 years.

“The problem with not having a lot of black businesses, they are scared that their personal past is going to bring up too many flags,” Cungtion said. “To this day, I have no government funding or grant funding. I’ve done all this from my own money.”

Cungtion said that collaborating with other black business owners has helped her. That’s one of the goals of the first-ever Black Business Expo being put on by the Black Men of Cedar Rapids and African American Professionals group next month.

“We do have challenges here within supporting ourselves, so it’s very important we come out and support our community, and our businesses because there is a lack of support period,” Zayda Maryland, vice-president for the African American Professionals, said.

The expo aims to help business owners connect and learn about the products and services of the more than 20 Black-owned businesses participating, something very needed after the pandemic.

“We know the pandemic has had a large impact on a organizations’ ability to meet face to face with people who are interested in what they have to offer, so having this expo as things have opened up will give the community a chance to have those one-on-one discussions,” Armond Dawson, with the Black Men of Cedar Rapids, said.

There will be employment opportunities as well. The hope is this will be the first of many opportunities, that business owners like Cungtion, said shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“It’s not always about popularity, it’s about purpose. As long as you are doing what you want to do to get to where you are going, it doesn’t matter who is in the room,” Cungtion said.

The free expo is happening on August 7 at Lindale Mall near the food court from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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