Small business on the big screen: Black women business owners get special recognition

Four women smile for a photo
Sheletta Brundidge, second from left, posing with three business owners near the billboard ads in downtown Minneapolis.
Courtesy of Sheletta Brundidge

Starting a small business is hard enough. But once that business is off the ground, spreading community awareness of your business? That's key to success. And it can be really difficult if a business owner doesn't have extra funds left over for marketing.

August is National Black Business Month, and last week, Sheletta Brundidge made a big investment that got five black women entrepreneurs that chance to put their small business on the big screen — right in front of the U.S. Bank Stadium for thousands of people to see in the form of a billboard.

Sheletta is a media producer in the Twin Cities. She joined MPR News Cathy Wurzer to talk about the businesses she is supporting.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: Starting a small business is hard enough. But once that business is off the ground, spreading community awareness of your business-- well that is a key to success. And it can be really tough if a business owner does not have the extra money left over for marketing.

Well, August is National Black Business Month. And last week, our friend Sheletta Brundidge made a big investment that got five Black women entrepreneurs that chance to put their small business on the big screen right in front of the US Bank Stadium for thousands of people to see in the form of a billboard. Sheletta is a media producer in the Twin Cities, owner of her own business, which is a podcasting platform among other things. She does a ton of stuff, and she's with me right now to talk about the businesses she's supporting.

Hey, friend. Good to have you back.

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: Well, thank you for having me. It's always a good time to be with you in the afternoon. Oh my gosh. I just can't appreciate you enough for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Well, you always have something going on. And I noted that you picked these five entrepreneurs. What got you thinking that you needed to jump in and help them out?

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: Well, it started with Tameka Jones. She's the owner of Lip Esteem in Rondo. You know, they've got this big revitalization program where they're rebuilding Rondo.

And Metro Transit came through and did some road construction, as they needed to. There were potholes. People were complaining. But that was so detrimental to her business.

And I watched as she tried online and on social media to get people to come to her shop. She lost about 35% of her business during that time. And for a small business owner, we can't lose 1%.

And I just sympathized with her, and I thought, what can I do? And so I'm looking around, and you know, it's Black Business Month. And I thought about, you know, as a Black woman in business, we get less than 2% of all venture capital funds that come out. And we have to split that with white women and Indigenous women and Latino women and Hmong women.

And I thought, this is my opportunity to support these businesses. And so I said, I'm going to go and take the profits from my podcasting company. And I'm going to get five clear channel outdoor digital billboards. And I'm going to help these women promote their businesses, so that they can get more customers, so that they can go from just surviving to thriving.

CATHY WURZER: And this is not a cheap thing that you did. I mean--

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: No, it is not. No, it is not, Cathy Wurzer. Baby, let me tell you. I had to break it down to my kids. We will not be going to Disney this year.


But I have to realize that we are all we've got. You know, as a Black woman in business, nobody is coming to rescue us. You know, there's a fund set up called the Fearless Fund. It's a national organization, Cathy. And what they do is they provide grants to Black women in business.

Because we don't get the PPP loans. We don't get the regular loans. We don't get those opportunities that are white male and female counterparts get. And somebody is suing them now to keep them from supporting Black women in business.

And I thought, you know what? We've got to be the change we want to see. That one lawsuit is not going to stop the success of the women that I know. And so I just decided I'm going to take my profits, and I'm going to buy these billboards.

And in addition to that, I picked five different women to donate $1,000 to each one of them. I was like Ed McMahon Prize Patrol, Cathy Wurzer. I was running up in the office with my flowers and the big check and a card. And these women was crying and screaming. We had to mop up all the tears.

Because, you know, what they told me is that nobody sees them. You know, nobody celebrates them. They're just working, and they're grinding. And every dollar is hard-earned.

And so for somebody to come in there and say, I see you. I see your sacrifice. I see your struggle, and I want to bless you. You know, you don't have to fill out an application. You don't have to do any kind of essays. You don't have to do any kind of interviews. I just want to come in here and give this to you. It meant so much for them.

CATHY WURZER: The looks on their faces-- because you posted some pictures on social media-- just they have these looks of shock. I mean, they're just-- they just-- you're right. They just can't believe somebody is helping them, especially as you all are out in front of some of the billboards, you know. And have they mentioned that-- has it been a boost to the business? Have they seen increases in traffic?

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: Oh my gosh. Tameka Jones at Lip Esteem says people are coming in. They saw the billboard. She's getting ready to be at the state fair. Sylvia Williams has Soul Grain, and it's a granola product. It's a healthy snack. And she has it at Kowalski's.

They're out. There's no more. Like, she took pictures of where, you know, her product typically is in Kowalski's stores. And there's a big hole, right? Because, you know, people are buying it, and they're seeing it.

Lutunji's Palate-- she makes desserts, and she has a storefront, you know, over in Minneapolis just near downtown. And she had so much more foot traffic. So people are seeing these women. They're recognizing and realizing that Black Business Month is a time to, you know, look for these opportunities to support small, Black-owned businesses, and especially those owned by women, which are the ones that I'm shining a spotlight on.

So it's really made a difference for them-- and not just even the traffic, Cathy, but the confidence, the assurance, the claps, the applause, the celebration of these women. Because when you're in business for yourself, you'll never work harder.

And they work so hard to keep their companies afloat. Just to take a minute and celebrate the small successes and know that somebody sees that-- it has meant the world for these women.

CATHY WURZER: You are also, though, one of the most hardest working individuals in this market. Now, you were talking about blessing these women and their businesses. Who helped you grow your business?

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: Cathy Wurzer, it's just me and Jesus over here. I have to tell you. I was just crying the other day when I was praying. And I said, God, I'm always pouring into other people, and people are pulling me.

You know, I need somebody to pour into me. I need somebody to come to me with a big old check and some flowers one day, you know. And then I walked into my church-- Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church-- and look at the title of the sermon. I came in 30 minutes late because I was in the car posting on social media.

So I came to church late-- don't tell the pastor I said that. But when I walked in, the title of the sermon was on the big screen right next to the pulpit. And it said Created to Shine and Purposed to Pour.

And so I took that as a sign from God, Cathy Wurzer, that God is going to take care of me as long as I keep taking care of his people. And I'm created to shine. I'm created to get the spotlight. But then I take that spotlight, and I take the gifts, and I take the resources that I have, and I'm designed to pour it into other people around me.

CATHY WURZER: Hmm. What-- by the way, you've got your fingers in so many other different things. You're helping others, yes. But you have a thousand different projects. Every time I talk to you, there's something else that's coming up.


What are you working on that really-- what are you working on now that feeds your soul?

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: You know, I am really just excited about the podcast network We have 10 weekly shows all hosted by Black subject experts. And it is so amazing how we are able to use these podcasts to reach people in communities of Color and celebrate and tell our stories in an authentic way.

A lot of times, you know, with mainstream media and news, there's a time crunch. You know, you don't have time to get to every celebration-- every backpack giveaway, the free haircuts, celebrate the businesses that are doing amazing things-- because there's so much breaking news.

And so I'm able to tell those stories that mainstream media overlooks and give voices to people in underserved communities who don't typically have one. So to be able to share the celebrations in the Black community here in Minnesota is just-- it's a mission for me. And I'm so glad that, you know, God chose me to do it.

CATHY WURZER: All right. You know what? It's always fun talking to you. Thank you, Sheletta. I'll talk to you soon.

SHELETTA BRUNDIDGE: Thank you for having me. Love you, girl. Bye, y'all. Bye everybody in MPR land.

CATHY WURZER: Sheletta Brundidge-- she is a media producer, comedian, founder of

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