Sometimes being a resource can make all the difference.
“For small business owners, it’s hard to find good resources,” said Frederic “Fred” Brown, owner of Versatility Catering in La Grange, Illinois. “That’s what Sam’s Club has become for me. What matters is being a solid resource for others.”
We love our small business members, and that’s why Sam’s Club is happy to be that support for diverse business owners, including Black and African American members who serve as a bridge to the communities we serve.
From food trucks to restaurants, to education services and an organization to feed the homeless, these critical small businesses are working to help strengthen their communities and inspire others. And we’re happy to simply be available to provide some of the resources they need to make that difference.
So, who’s that member?
Let’s take a look at a few of those diverse small business owners, and what they are up to today:
Fred Brown, owner of Versatility Catering in La Grange, IllinoisFred is a former finance professional who started bringing his colleagues meals he made at home. “I just started cooking and knew I liked it,” he said. So he began cooking full time and knew he could make a difference through the versatility of his food and diversity of flavors to reach people of all cultures. Along with catering meals to local schools and other venues, he also shares his expertise. Fred has taught two young male community members how to BBQ and now his niece wants to go to culinary school.
“It’s a way to inspire the youth and show different ways of using science, physics, biology. You learn math, social skills. I love spurring people on. It helps progress not only your business, but your community,” he said. “And when I train up people who look like me, the road they’re coming through is paved, not cobblestone.”
Jamaica Thomas, owner of Brilliant Minds Learning Academy in Houston, TexasInspired by children’s ministry and her role as a family services case worker, Jamaica decided to seize an opportunity and fill a need in her community. She opened a child care business for children 6 weeks to 12 years as well as those with disabilities.
“Children are my life,” Jamaica said. “I find it important to be a resource to children and empower them to be better.” Not only does she love children, she’s is dedicated to her community, which is why she and her husband opened the Center in the neighborhood where she grew up. “It’s considered impoverished, a low income area. I said, that’s exactly where I want to be. We wanted to give back to the community and turn it into something positive.”
Jamaica also serves on the board of a local community development organization and understands the need for services not only for children, but also for adults and the underserved. Last September, Jamaica organized a back-to-school giveaway, giving more than 200 kids a backpack filled with new school supplies. “We want to give them hope,” she said. “We want to give them the tools to succeed.”
Rev. Elijah Mitchell, executive director of Seashore Mission in Biloxi, MississippiRev. Elijah is a pastor and leader of a mission that provides meals and additional services for people who are homeless. “Most people do not know the resources they’re entitled to, they don’t know how to navigate the system,” he said. Rev. Elijah added that he listens to where each person is on their life’s journey to help determine what resources they may need. “That’s how we can help them.”
Having dedicated his life to leading missions and working in prison and homeless ministry, he knows what it takes to serve in his community. From food to guidance, Rev. Elijah and friends continue to show their community love. “I have a compassion for seeing people who had nothing. That’s what really inspired me,” he said, noting a colleague at the mission asked him to “go homeless” with him for two months to really understand the perception and the needs in the community.
“Until you understand what they’ve been through, you need to show them love and compassion,” he said. And that’s what he continues to do through the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve never closed the doors, just limited the number of services we can provide. We still serve carryout. We still do case management, medical, mental health. And people say thank you for what you’ve done for me.”
DeMarcus Rodgers, owner of Kuntri Kitchen in Birmingham, AlabamaDeMarcus started barbecuing when he was 20 years old after taking his mama’s love for baking and the knowledge he learned from his sister to the grill. Now he shares that home cooking with his community from his locally famous food truck.
“In the beginning, I experimented until I found the perfect seasoning, now known as Mama’s Blend. It’s essentially what she used when I was growing up,” he said, adding his mom passed away in 2013. “She always said that if you marinate your food and you put it in the fridge, and you don’t smell your food the next morning, you didn’t use enough seasoning.”
It seems DeMarcus has found not only the perfect blend of seasoning but also an opportunity to serve his community as a role model for other Black men and women.
“Growing up, I looked up to NFL athletes and baseball players,” he said. “I know for a fact we did not have one Black-owned business in my hometown.” DeMarcus wanted to change that and does so through example and community involvement. “I was a Big Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, so now I’m a mentor. I go back to my hometown and talk to the kids back there to help motivate them.”
He recalls one particular moment it all became surreal for him, when a student who graduated from Spellman college, wrote a paper on him and his business. “That was mind blowing. It showed me that people are watching, so I have to try to motivate the young people.”
Kimberly Watson, owner of Kakes by Kim & Attention to Detail Event Planning in Baltimore, MarylandKimberly started making treats for the holidays, but because of her work ethic and attention to detail, she was able to merge two businesses – her event planning job and her holiday baking – into one that makes people smile and brings them joy.
“With my event planning business, I would get a yes or a no. I was more needed with baking…” she said, realizing she could make a difference doing both. “I noticed that the business just took off. And I’m forever grateful for how it just blossomed.”
Kimberly doesn’t take her success for granted and gives back to her community. She does a lot of charity work, donates her time, baked goods and mentors girls in her community with other female business leaders. “We do different sessions with the girls. I encourage girls to be entrepreneurs,” she said, adding that it’s important for girls to see different women who represent many areas of success. “You get what you can get from the people before you. I always want to be that asset and outlet.”
A resource in their community. That’s what Sam’s Club is to these amazing members. With their hard work, they pay it forward and make all the difference.