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Entrepreneurs of color graduate second class of AMPED business incubator

A group of people posing for a photo against a dark background.
Jacob Munoz
/
LPM
A portion of the more than 30 business owners who graduated from the Russell Technology Business Incubator poses at the Jan. 5, 2023 ceremony.

Emerging Louisville entrepreneurs recently completed a new step in their careers.

A group of 36 business owners graduated from the Russell Technology Business Incubator during a ceremony at the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center on Thursday evening.

The Academy of Music Production Education and Development, a local nonprofit, has hosted the year-long incubator for Black and Latino entrepreneurs since 2021 after founding it in 2020.

Dave Christopher, Sr., AMPED’s founder and executive director, said the program was created to help small business owners of color overcome obstacles like access to capital and language barriers. The incubator provides services such as one-on-one coaching and help with accounting, graphic design and legal support.

“We have some people in the incubator that have been in business for eight years, but have never been profitable and struggling the entire time, because they didn't have that foundation that they needed to understand pricing strategies, and marketing and all those things,” Christopher said.

The incubator has already welcomed this year’s class, its third. Christopher said there are hundreds of businesses on the program’s waiting list. He said he wants it to eventually accept 100 entrepreneurs a year. It would raise its annual budget from about $2 million to around $6 to $7 million, which would require more fundraising. Organizations like Humana and the Rockefeller Foundation have provided grant funding to the incubator.

Kish Cumi Price, the new CEO of the Louisville Urban League, gave the ceremony’s keynote address and called on the graduating business owners to focus on cooperation in life.

“We all have something to give. And so the more that we tap into understanding that we were not designed to work against one another, that we're supposed to use our collective impact, the more that we can move the needle, the more that we can help each other,” she said.

The Louisville Urban League, which created the Sports and Learning Center, established a Black-owned business pop-up space at the facility last year. It also works with the AMPED incubator through LUL’s Center for Entrepreneurship.

Recent program graduate Chanel Wells-Henderson runs the Clarksville, Indiana-based Chanel Nicole Co., which offers photography and website design services. She said she joined after hearing positive feedback from earlier participants.

“Sometimes one of the biggest challenges is reaching out for help and finding resources. I think that the AMPED program has definitely made those resources readily available. So you don't have to go scouting for it trying to figure everything out on your own,” Wells-Henderson said.

Michael Jackson operates Kentucky Greens, which will soon change its name to Agriblock Farms. Also a recent program graduate, he said as a Black business owner it’s crucial to connect with others.

“It's hard a little bit, you know, especially when you don't have the resources or you don't know who to call. But when you collaborate with other businesses that are like-minded, somehow, someway, things get done,” Jackson said.

In July 2021, Louisville Metro reported that 2.4% of business owners in the city were Black, while nearly a quarter of residents identified as Black.

Incubator leaders also said they plan to incorporate more Latino business owners in the program. The latest class had only one: Shavonne Bass, who is Black and Latina and runs the Highlands salon Loc N Key.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.