Grand Rapids businesses seek to boost diversity

By Mayra Monroy on March 10th, 2016 / Comments

In the city of Grand Rapids, the epicenter of food, beer, and startups, Jamiel Robinson and his team at Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses have created an organization to assist the community develop diversity in its businesses, creating leaders, growth, and pride.

GRABB, founded by Robinson in 2013, is driven by the need for diversity in Grand Rapids, something that the city needs not only for the economy, but also for the citizens. GRABB is motivated by the revitalization of neighborhoods in Grand Rapids, developing sustainable businesses, and for a more visible representation of people of color as entrepreneurs.

“Our focus is the people and the businesses,” says Robinson.

The economic development social enterprise was a product of Robinson’s note on the lack of diversity he saw in Grand Rapids business owners. GRABB was originally a directory for area businesses owned by black entrepreneurs, but as he noticed companies begin to close, Robinson knew that in order to create successful and sustainable businesses, entrepreneurs must be given the resources.

In researching the need for his company, Robinson discovered that in Kent County alone, African-Americans owned only six percent of businesses, while only three percent were owned by Latinos, and even less for other races.

“GRABB works to foster an economy that creates prosperity and supports the revitalization of predominantly black neighborhoods,” says Robinson. “GRABB expands opportunities for black businesses by assisting them acquire three forms of capital (social, intellectual, and financial).”grabawards

According to Robinson, the company works with new and veteran entrepreneurs in enhancing the company and expanding their reach.  GRABB has built a foundation of collaborating with other Grand Rapids startup communities, such as Start Garden, to provide entrepreneurs with the proper training and information to create a successful startup.

“We believe that creating vibrant business districts anchored by black businesses is vital in raising the quality of life for families in economically depressed [and] predominantly black neighborhoods in Metro Grand Rapids and beyond,” says Robinson.

And that is a main point for enhancing and creating successful black entrepreneurs. Not only would creating more sustainable businesses in these locations prosper the community, it would employ more people of color, create a more diverse workforce, raise the income of families and the local economy, and enrich the lives of children growing up in these neighborhoods.

In the resources GRABB provides for the community, it provides opportunities in creating and providing space for companies not located in highly trafficked places; providing knowledge for current and aspiring entrepreneurs that will give them the information on running sustainable businesses; create community engagement potential through marketing and promotion, as well as events to create awareness; and developing the resources needed for success in the Grand Rapids area.

All in all, Robinson and the GRABB team have had a successful few years. 2016 will continue to be a prosperous year for the organization, which has several forums and events scheduled later this year.

In March, GRABB is hosting the “Next Culture” series, which will facilitate a platform for “influences, doers, creative and tri-sector leaders to have engaging public conversations focused on Entrepreneurialism, Community Building, and Placemaking” in the city of Grand Rapids.

“Grand Rapids is in an economic book right now,” says Robinson. “Next Culture will discuss how to be intentional in about the culture of it.”

Next Culture is about “the people, ideas, organizations and businesses sharing information on what they are currently working on, why and how it’s transforming” the city.

This summer, GRABB is also working on collaborating with an accelerator for black entrepreneurs. For more information on this, and other events, please visit GRABB’s website.

About the Author

Mayra Monroy

Mayra Monroy

Mayra Monroy is studying communication and journalism at Aquinas College. A Texas native, she enjoys studying communication culture and the arts in West Michigan. She currently resides in Grand Rapids and works as a editor-in-chief for Aquinas’ collegiate student newspaper and a freelance journalist.