As early as middle school, Mandy Bowman knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. The Brooklyn, New York, native went on to study entrepreneurship and global business management at Babson College in Massachusetts, and then took a job as a social media manager by day, while she worked on developing her own business at night.
By October 2017, Bowman was a full-time entrepreneur and had launched her business — the Official Black Wall Street app. “I wanted to support black-owned businesses in my local area, but was unable to find a directory that was current or easy to use — so I created my own,” said Bowman. The app is now the largest directory of its kind in the world, according to Black News, and allows users to find and rate black-owned businesses in their neighborhoods and nationwide.
Bowman’s business, like other small businesses, required hard work, dedication, and, most of all, support to succeed. Currently, there are more than 2.6 million black-owned businesses in the U.S., according to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Survey of Business Owners Facts (PDF). In support of these businesses, and in an effort to strengthen communities, Wells Fargo is saluting and highlighting Community Builders — the African American small business owners who go above and beyond to make things better for their businesses, their customers, and their neighborhoods.
Supporting and inspiring black entrepreneurs
“Initiatives like Community Builders help encourage and inspire black entrepreneurs, and we hope this initiative will encourage others to seek out and support the Community Builders in their neighborhoods,” said Candace McCullom Gainer, Wells Fargo’s head of African American integrated campaigns. Wells Fargo launched the Community Builders initiative in 2017 by spotlighting the stories of African American business owners nationwide who were working to give back to their local communities. In honor of Black History Month, Wells Fargo is once again celebrating Community Builders.
“Supporting small business owners is critical to the success of our communities and a priority Wells Fargo takes seriously,” said Lisa Frison, multicultural segment strategy leader. Wells Fargo has helped small businesses in local communities through focused investments and by providing small business tools and resources.
The company also supports small businesses through Wells Fargo Works for Small Business® and the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital program. The Diverse Community Capital program, established in 2015, provides capital to Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs. CDFIs provide technical assistance, financial services, mentoring, and other resources for diverse small businesses that may not qualify for conventional bank loans.
Celebrating Community Builders with Chef Roblé
Throughout February, Community Builder recognition events are taking place in Atlanta, Houston, and New York City. The marquee event in New York City will feature Bowman and special host, entrepreneur, and celebrity chef Roblé Ali.
Ali understands firsthand the hard work, persistence, and passion it takes to build a company from the ground up. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he worked his way up the ranks from the youngest sous-chef ever at an elite New York catering company to the executive chef at an exclusive gastrolounge in Manhattan. Soon after, Ali launched his own catering business, Roblé & Co., creating captivating, one-of-a-kind dining experiences for high-end clientele. His 2011 reality television series on Bravo, Chef Roblé & Co., followed him on his journey to becoming a business owner, catapulting him to celebrity status.
“I’m excited to work with Wells Fargo to celebrate Community Builders,” Ali said. “Simply trying to run a business as an entrepreneur takes a lot of work, so going above and beyond that takes even more effort, but also brings even more rewards. I am proud to be in a position to acknowledge other entrepreneurs who are doing great business and serving as Community Builders for their neighborhoods.”