Annual Expo Highlights Black-Owned Businesses in NWA

Interested vendors must submit applications by midnight Feb. 19.

Black Business Expo
Courtesy of Black-Owned NWA

The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for small businesses, especially minority-owned ones. Black-Owned NWA is offering support to these local entrepreneurs by highlighting them during the Northwest Arkansas Black-Owned Business Expo. The 2nd annual event is scheduled for Feb. 27 at Shiloh Square in downtown Springdale. 

“This is an opportunity not only to generate traffic sales, leads, commerce for your business, but just to get out there and get to know your community in a more intimate way so that you can establish sustainable streams of income that can sustain your business beyond this crazy time that we’re in,” event organizer Jasmine Hudson says.

The inaugural expo took place in early 2020 at the Record in Bentonville and Hudson says it was a success with 35 vendors and more than 400 attendees.

“We had several businesses sell out,” she says. “We had a lot of feedback where the community said that they didn’t even know these businesses existed.” 

Plans to host a second expo last year were put on hold because of the pandemic. This year’s event has been developed with COVID precautions in mind, starting with moving the expo to an outdoor venue. The free event is open to members of the public who must reserve timed tickets in advance. To help limit crowd size, no more than 50 guests will be admitted to the venue during a two-hour time period. 

State-approved COVID-19 health guidelines will be enforced for all age-appropriate guests, volunteers and vendors. This includes completing health screenings, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing. 

Registration for vendors closes at midnight tonight. The application fee is $50, which will be refunded if your company is not accepted. Because of COVID restrictions, vendors will be limited to around a dozen; however, Hudson says organizers are exploring virtual options for highlighting businesses that aren’t selected as well as including them in another event that will occur around Juneteenth. 

“What’s important for us is that we have a diverse representation of the businesses themselves, so we don’t want all food or all the gyms or the hairstylists,” Hudson says.

The goal of the expo is increasing awareness to and exposure of Black-owned businesses. It’s also about providing support to aspiring entrepreneurs who are considering starting a business as a result of the pandemic, event organizer Sierra Polk says.

“One thing that we did last year during the expo was also use that space as an opportunity to share resources about entrepreneurship and just getting started on that journey for some people who were aspiring or considering, so we’re hoping to also be able to add some elements of that this year too,” Polk says.

The Northwest Arkansas Black-Owned Business Expo is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 at Shiloh Square, which is located at 106 W. Emma Ave. in downtown Springdale. In the event of rain, the expo will be rescheduled for March 6. 

Vendor applications are due Feb. 19 and volunteers can sign up through Feb. 24. Registration and more information is available here

Antoinette Grajeda
Antoinette Grajeda

Antoinette Grajeda is an Arkansas-based journalist. She has covered race, culture, politics, health, education and the arts for NPR affiliates as well as print and digital publications since 2007.