Photo of a vendor from CWRU's Black Business Expo.

CWRU’s second annual Black Business Expo to take place in Tinkham Veale University Center Ballroom

Last June, the team in Case Western Reserve University’s Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Engagement brought the inaugural Black Business Expo to life as more than 40 representatives from Cleveland-area Black-owned small businesses showcased their services in Tinkham Veale University Center’s ballroom. 

The event was a success—and it continues to grow. This year on Thursday, Feb. 15, community members will find 55 participating vendors serving up products and services from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Tink.

“By participating in the Expo [last year], Black business owners received an exclusive opportunity prior to the public event to network and learn from financial literacy experts from TIAA Financial Services, Cleveland’s Real Black Friday Black-owned business initiative and The President’s Council,” said Diversity Program Manager Tiara Sargeant, one of the lead organizers of the event. 

At this year’s event, vendors will participate in workshops again, during which they will hear from representatives of The President’s Council, local business and Case Western Reserve preferred vendor Del’s Catering, The Urban League, Case Western Reserve’s Office of Government and Community Relations and the university’s Office of Procurement and Distribution.

For participants such as Tawanna Carter, who took part in 2023’s workshop and expo with her business, the event’s schedule offers a valuable experience on multiple fronts. 

“It was great to be a part of an expo not only to be able to connect to customers, but to also have the opportunity to learn concrete steps about how to become a vendor at the university,” said Carter, a licensed massage therapist and co-owner of M&T Massage Therapy. 

At the Feb. 15 event, members of the Case Western Reserve and surrounding communities are encouraged to attend to learn about vendors’ offerings and perhaps even purchase products and services. Community engagement with and support of Black-owned small businesses not only facilitates economic growth—it furthers the building of generational wealth among Black entrepreneurs in Cleveland. 

“It was amazing to receive tools and resources I can now use to grow and better my business, but what really meant the most to me was being in a space with other Black and Brown business owners,” said Kanisha Rounsaville, owner of Balance Cheer and Gymnastics and a 2023 participant. “Being here and connecting with like-minded individuals allows us to feel seen and important—like we matter.”

“It is our hope that this expo will provide valuable information and product exposure for Black businesses,” said Heather Burton, associate vice president and senior director for faculty and institutional diversity. “We are committed to implementing projects and programs that not only provide services but also provide information and education. The business expo is a time both to learn the business of being a business and to garner customer support.”