When you look around at small retail businesses along various streets in Buffalo, there’s something you should consider. Each of the business owners is a community activist in one way or another. These business owners act as the “glue” on the street. They are also the “eyes” on the street, as well as the activists. They attend business association meetings, clean up their neighborhoods, occupy commercial spaces that might otherwise be empty, and help to create vibrant and healthy commercial districts.
One such business owner is Leslie Thomas (lead image in pink), a graduate of the Community Action Organization of WNY’s (CAO) Business Development Workshop Series. I remember when Leslie first opened her shop at 1474 Fillmore Avenue in the MLK district back in 2017. The opening was also made possible thanks to the Open Storefront Makeover Program, as well as a strong support group.
Buffalo’s Common Council voted to name Fillmore Avenue, between Main and Seneca Street ‘Black Lives Matter Way’
Leslie’s success story is remarkable in so many ways. First, it’s about a community coming together to help a small business owner. It’s also about investing in a neighborhood that is on the rise – Leslie purchased the building and rents out a second storefront to Darren Anderson, owner of Andersons’s Flower Shop. And finally, what comes around goes around – Leslie is now one of the Fillmore business owners that is leading the way for others to follow in her footsteps. She’s using her skills as an entrepreneur, and a graduate of CAO’s workshop series, to rally others to follow in her footsteps.
“CAO’s business development workshops helped me reach my dreams of owning my own business,” Thomas said. “CAO was with me every step of the way by educating me on personal and business financials, business loans, grants and even business plan development. I am proud of our community and the continued transformation.”
Now, CAO is looking for more aspiring entrepreneurs to sign up for the workshops, to help more people to follow their dreams. Fillmore Avenue (and the MLK District) could use a few more “Leslies,” who are just as determined to make a go of it – the resources are available; it’s only a matter of taking the leap of faith.
CAO’s workshops have been very successful, with more than 60 graduates over the past few years, many of whom have gone on to launch their own businesses.
“Our Business Development Workshop series has helped so many individuals gain confidence to achieve entrepreneurship,” said CEO of CAO, L. Nathan Hare. “The facade improvements and business activity is incredible because it is transforming Fillmore Avenue. These individuals are reaching goals they never thought were possible, and are able to work for themselves, hire family members and put business back into the community they live in.”
“We teach our business development participants to believe in their dreams and to reach beyond the stars,” said CAO’s Business Development Director, Pamela James.
Let’s get together and build a community that we can all be proud of.
The workshop series offers a holistic approach to help aspiring entrepreneurs get to where they want to be. By working with CAO and the Masten Resource Center, workshop participants have access to WiFi, computers, meeting space, child care, and even food pantries so they can prioritize their business planning. 2020’s Business Development Workshop Series students will graduate December 14. Learn more at caowny.org/business-development.
Schedule for Holiday Pop Up Events on future ‘Black Lives Matter Way,’ with special guests
November 13, 2020 from 1-6pm
Leslie’s Boutique (sale on new and used clothing for men, women and children) & Anderson’s Flower Shop – Sale on Winter Items & Flowers
1474 and 1476 Fillmore Ave, Buffalo, NY 14211
November 20, 2020 from 10am-5pm
Nikki’s Chocolates, Assorted Chocolates for Sale
27 Chandler St. 2nd Fl. Ste. 205, 14207
November 27, 2020, All Day Online Event
LadySuperb (a Fillmore business) – Women’s Handbags & Accessories
Sale: 30% Off Women’s Apparel
December 4, 2020 from 10am-6pm
Ansar Fragrances and More, Essential Oils, African Shea Butter & More
1371 Fillmore Avenue, Buffalo, NY 14211
December 11, 2020, All Day Online Event
People Helping All Mankind (PHAM), T-Shirts and Hoodies
December 18, 2020 from 8am-3pm
Soulfully Prepped LLC, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinners and Desserts
Pre-order for Pick Up Available Online or by calling 716-465-1447
68 Tonawanda Street Buffalo, NY 14207