Robert Blair, the owner of B Media Communications, helped organize the event/ Photo by Brooke Wanser.
By BROOKE WANSER
About 40 black business owners gathered at the Williamson Inc., Chamber of Commerce on Thursday night for the first-ever black business mixer.
“To our knowledge, it’s never been done before on a business mixer level,” Franklin native, Robert Blair said of the gathering.
Blair, who is a local black business owner himself, said he thought of the idea after working with the Williamson Herald on their special edition “Salute to Black Business” guide, which ran in June.
As founder and owner of B Media Communications, a media group which works with nonprofits to strategize and event-plan, Blair has his finger on the pulse of the community.
“There’s about 40 or 50 small black businesses in the area, and we should highlight them,” he said. This thought was where the idea began.
Blair partnered with the chamber for the project, bringing his contacts in the community in the hopes that they would benefit from the chamber’s resources.
“Historically, we haven’t had a tremendous amount of engagement with black businesses in Williamson County,” Renee Shafer, Williamson Inc’s director of business partnerships, said. She said she was hopeful that black business owners could network with one another while learning about resources the chamber can provide them with.
Shafer said business owners may find memberships with the chamber useful for the value they provide. The chamber offers 130 different workshops and meetings each year that inform the community about critical issues and provide opportunities for professional development.
Memberships range from $400 or more a year for small businesses, and $250 a year for nonprofits.
“The focus is to get as many people within your organization involved as possible,” she said, “Because we have something to offer for everyone within each company.”
Two of the business owners, one owning Moe Better Barbeque and the other, Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish, catered the event.
Maurice “Moe” Pope, the owner of Moe Better, was one of the local business owners spotlighted in the Herald’s special June edition.
Pope opened his business part-time in 2006, and can speak at length about the qualities that make the best barbeque; he said his personal specialty is spare ribs and brisket.
Pope grew up with Blair in Franklin, so he immediately accepted when Blair asked him to cater.
“It’s a good event, because there’s a lot of people I don’t know,” Pope admitted.