This December, team ESSENCE is partnering with Target to bring the first-ever ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneurship Summit And Target Holiday Market to Atlanta. In anticipation of this premiere holiday shopping and entrepreneurship-building event, we’re excited to spotlight a few local businesses and entrepreneurs in the Atlanta area who are on track to take the city to higher heights as we enter a new decade.
For numerous shoppers and small business owners in Atlanta, Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon puts the “black” in Black Friday. Hallmon is the founder and CEO of the Village Market ATL, which launched in 2016 and has since evolved into a must-attend market for both locals and those visiting the city.
As their website highlights, the market’s mission is to support the sustainability of socially conscious, community-minded, Black entrepreneurs and black-owned startups. Here, Hallmon shares her vision of Black excellence and the role of Black entrepreneurship, cooperative economics, and the importance of community.
ESSENCE: African-American buying power is currently 1.1 trillion, and yet only two cents of every dollar an African-American spends in this country goes to Black-owned businesses. Why dedicate your business to solving this problem?
Hallmon: Fundamentally, I believe that all businesses should be rooted in purpose. And that purpose should close a gap. And in my case, it’s to close the gap in the realm of education, economics, and specifically cooperative economics.
There’s such a disparity between Black-owned businesses and our counterparts. However, we know that we spend money. If we could put our efforts to spend money on each other, like the data you just shared, we, as a community can collectively begin to change outcomes and begin to build a legacy of generational wealth.
We won’t need to beat down the doors of VCs (venture capitalists), investors, and banks to have to support our excellence. We can support our excellence.
ESSENCE: You founded the Village in 2016. But it’s not only a marketplace for Black businesses to showcase their goods and services. You offer financial literacy workshops for entrepreneurs and kidpreneurs, plant-based nutrition classes, and mentorship. Could you speak to this holistic approach to Black excellence?
Hallmon: If I only built a marketplace, I’d feel as if I’d failed miserably. I would be dishonoring my gifts. I was created to be a teacher. And I know people seek money and wealth, but I know the greatest wealth of all is health. And secondly, we can always attain wealth if we have the right resources and acquired knowledge.
If the Village were to go away, I’d know that I served hundreds of business owners with resources they need to survive outside of the marketplace. I’d know that had been part of a pipeline of consciousness: if we eat well, carry positive thoughts, and surround ourselves with an edifying community, we will always grow and be able to build no matter what type of resistance we receive.
ESSENCE: Support is a Verb is an initiative that you’re very proud of. What should we know about it?
Hallmon: I believe Black people should have a mindset that if we support each other, we should do it faithfully and consistently with our actions; because only in actions do we see progress. We started to use #supportisaverb and then we created a T-shirt. Now, it’s a campaign. Every purchase is circulated right back to our community in the form of village clinics, and village grants.
ESSENCE: As a leader of a community movement and a member of this village, what role does self-care play in your leadership practice?
Hallmon: Self-care is vital to me. But at one point, I failed so miserably back in 2016 and 2017. I found myself one day, when I went to my last meeting of the day (I had gone to nine meetings in that day), I got to the car and I didn’t know my body felt it, but I had tears coming down my face.
I had to tune into myself—a practice I had started when I was a kid. I asked myself, “How are you feeling today?” I literally said, “I don’t have any more to give.” I sat in the car and cried for an hour. I gave myself the grace to cry and to be honest that entrepreneurship is exceedingly hard and lonely and that you always feel have to prove yourself.
That was the last day that I felt I had to take meetings to get people to see the Village. That began the renewing of my mind and consciousness about self-care. Self-care is about knowing that you are enough, your work is enough, and went to cut if off.
ESSENCE: Where do you see your work in the next couple of years?
Hallmon: I see the vision of the Village being beyond Atlanta. We’ve already made footprints in 21 states and three countries from businesses coming to partner with The Village Market; most recently, we created a partnership with the Bahamas. I see this multiplying. I see us being able to have this national and international footprint deeply rooted in our guiding principle that programming comes first, and showcasing comes second.
This month, team ESSENCE is partnering with Target to bring the first-ever ESSENCE + New Voices Entrepreneurship Summit And Target Holiday Market to Atlanta. Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon will also serve as a curator for the event. To learn more, click here.