Building a small business community remains one of Mississippi’s strengths. For hopeful black business owners, help is found in a Clarksdale based advocacy group, Higher Purpose Co. (HPC).
The economic justice non-profit champions the black business owner. The black farmer. The black entrepreneur. The black artist. The black movers and shakers along with their dreams that follow.
The mission of HPC is to build community wealth with black residents in Mississippi by supporting the ownership of financial, cultural, and political power. Their theory of change is anchored by an integrated model of asset building, narrative change, and advocacy.
“Solutions-based organizing and community wealth building amplify our theory of change to unapologetically tackle generational poverty, structured inequality, and institutionalized racism in the state of Mississippi,” according to their mission statement.
Membership is free and members are accepted twice a year.
Oberlin Marshall, is the owner of Pearlfect Locs Industry in Southaven which opened in 2019.
Marshall is originally from Clarksdale and moved to DeSoto County two years ago. She offers hair and wig services including sew-ins and makeup services.
“I started my business here and I wasn’t sure if my clientele would travel with me or not,” Marshall said. “I took a chance and started here and it has been an awesome experience.”
Marshall also recently has started an accessory line for her edge tamer and other hair care products. The venture is a family business with Marshall’s husband, children and parents also helping.
Along with God, she credits HPC and her acquaintance with HPC founder Tim Lampkin, for her advancement in the business world.
“I initially wanted to be a part of it but didn’t really know how,” Marshall said. “Then a fellow classmate told me about the business fellowship program. It provided so many workshops that helped my business. They had speakers on how to grow and brand your business.”
Marshall felt inept navigating the marketing field to promote her business when she first began. Her association with HPC has encouraged her to take on a more professional approach to branding.
“We also worked on a business plan, how much money we wanted to make, what type of profit we needed by a certain timeline,” Marshall said. “It really helped me with the framework of my business plan.”
Marshall is currently operating out of her home but plans to open a brick and mortar storefront in the future. Now she is traveling for clients, helping with weddings or even women who are suffering with cancer and want a new style.
“It brings joy to me, seeing them smile,” Marshall said. “They feel more confident about themselves. I had a client’s daughter reach out to me…by me coming in, giving her hair, made her feel more confident for herself. I was grateful to help.”
Jarquita Brown, communications and events coordinator, outlined the resources available to those with the want-to but necessarily the know-how.
“We have four programs currently,” said Brown. “The business membership includes over 350 business members, we meet every month. We have business leaders speak to our entrepreneurs. We cover topics like starting a business, finances, credit, how to brand. Then we have our business fellowship program, community wealth institute and Higher Purpose Business Funding Network.”
The business fellowship program is for members. Every quarter 15-20 members complete a seven week program. At the end, they’ve studied seven different modules and then participate in a business pitch competition. That allows a business member to win over $2,500 and learn everything they need to know to grow and sustain their business.
The community wealth institute hosts weekly events like the Money, Purpose, Success, Women’s Entrepreneurship Program.
“That started in 2016, it’s for purpose driven black women with an entrepreneurial spirit,” Brown said. “They learn about starting and growing a business, networking, and they get free professional headshots. This year we will also be launching our men’s summit for entrepreneurs. The last one is our Higher Purpose Business Funding Network. That network connects our entrepreneurs to financial institutions to help them finance their business.”
Operating as a non-profit means the organization is fueled from donations and grants.
Chief Operating Officer Shequite Johnson said HPC is funded through private grants and donations.
Johnson said there are strong reasons to give to HPC’s mission.
“We are a black economic justice non-profit,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to help create generational wealth amongst black people and black families in Mississippi. Our system is unique in that we offer that one-on-one advisement, offer capital opportunities, refer outside agencies to our members and help with business applications.”
Johnson said HPC strives to not let black business owners simply fend for themselves.
“We take into consideration that everyone starts at a different level and that one person’s needs may be totally different from the next,” Johnson said. “If we have to walk someone through the application process for a loan or grant, that’s what we do.”
Other business aspects HPC guides young and upcoming business owners on may be something as simple as a new logo, website, Google listings, social media branding or even assistance with photography.
Most services are free to the business owners. Some services are offered at reduced rates.
“We will even go so far as to create a website,” Johnson said. “We have a consultant that does that. We’ll try to provide as much help as we can.”
Jokendrick Calhoun and his fiancee’ Tanisha Jenkins operate an in-home daycare service based in Horn Lake called Learn N’ Playhouse. The business started in 2021 and employs four total people. They care for children six weeks up to three years old. Calhoun said his businesses’ hope is to stay affordable and flexible for working parents.
Calhoun’s idea began through a mutual contact who knew about HPC’s resources. The COVID-19 pandemic led to an awareness for more in-home child care for working parents, who are also at home.
Website creation, email skills, networking and marketing workshops drew interest for Calhoun to pursue HPC’s resources.
“I completed one of their courses and at the end they give you a $1,500 stipend,” Calhoun said. “I took their workshops and modules. Each module is based on different things including leadership. It helped me to realize that whether a business succeeds or fails, it’s you that’s over it.”
Calhoun said neither him or his fiancee have encountered any racial or social disparities while running their business. HPC champions in addressing racial or social disparities on behalf of business owners.
Jessica Reed, operates a counseling practice, Reed Counseling and Consulting, LLC in Southaven. She was born in Tunica and raised in Clarksdale. She moved with her family to Southaven when she was in middle school and went on to graduate from Southaven High School. Reed attended Mississippi State University and Delta State University for her specialist degree.
Reed is grateful she was able to pursue her passion for helping people and opened her doors in April of 2018.
Reed became acquainted with HPC early on in her business when she sought out resources in the state for small ventures like hers.
“I wanted to know the ins and out of running a business apart from just doing what I love,” Reed explained. “I applied for one of their programs and they helped me with branding and marketing.”
The experience felt like falling in love for Reed, who learned to lean on HPC resources and team.
“They have a very warm team,” Reed said. “Everybody you speak to is very knowledgeable and patient. They really make you feel like they want you to win.”
Reed said she has never directly experienced any social or racial disparities in Southaven. She is thankful HPC can still function as a buffer between her and financial institutions.
“They have certain connections with certain places around the greater Mississippi area,” said Reed. “I trust these connections will stand behind HPC and If I never need them I feel really good about going to them.”
Even legal counsel is an open door for Reed and others through HPC connections.
“That’s really important to me with all I have to deal with as a therapist,” Reed said.