published Friday, February 1st, 2013

Chattanooga Community Business Professionals group forms

Business events

• First Friday gathering today from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. First Fridays at Mocha's Restaurant and Lounge. $5 cover charge after 7 p.m.

• Monday 6 p.m. Political candidate forum

• Tuesday 6 p.m. Chattanooga Community Business Professionals will elect officers

• Feb. 21 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mocha's will host a Chattanooga Area Chamber Business Afterhours for networking

• March 26, Daymond John, CEO and founder of FUBU and star of ABC's Shark Tank, will be the speaker for the Urban League's Inaugural Entrepreneur Power Luncheon at the Chattanoogan Hotel. To be a sponsor or purchase a table call 756-1762.

Less than two years after the Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce lost funding, nearly a dozen black-owned businesses are forming their own network and marketing organization.

Sharon Kelly, owner of Mocha's Restaurant and Lounge, launched the Chattanooga Community Business Professionals this year. The group will have its inaugural First Friday celebration from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mocha's today.

"We want to get the CEOs and the upcoming CEOs together," said Kelly. "We need that to create wealth in our community so we can have our businesses grow."

Of the 17,465 businesses in Chattanooga, 14.9 percent of them are black-owned firms, according to the 2010 U.S. Census Business Quick Facts.

Kelly wants the share of black-owned businesses to match the 34.9 percent share blacked comprise of the city's population.

Her plan for making that happen is to help black business owners and upcoming business owners develop relationships, share information and get more involved in legislative and political matters that help minority-owned businesses.

"We need somebody representing African-American business at the table," said Kelly.

The group is also hosting a political candidates forum at Mocha's at 6 p.m. Monday night.

Chattanooga Community Business Professionals is the largest local organization formed by black business owners to help black businesses, but the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga and the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce are also making strides to help minority businesses.

Daymond John, CEO and founder of FUBU and star of ABC's Shark Tank, will be the speaker at the Urban League's inaugural entrepreneur power luncheon on March 26. Some local minority and women owned business owners will be awarded at the event. Proceeds from the luncheon will support the Urban League's Entrepreneur Center that offers businesses classes to minority business owners

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce also started an African American business development initiative in July to support and launch black businesses. Mocha's will host a Chattanooga Chamber Business Afterhours event from 5 to 8 p.m. on Feb. 21.

The Tennessee Multicultural Chamber of Commerce was initially established to help minority businesses, but the organization lost its funding in 2011 and it became the target of FBI and HUD probes after accusations of financial mismanagement.

Today and subsequent first Fridays of every month, business owners are encouraged to be at Mocha's from 5 to 8 p.m. Each business owner will speak in the microphone about his or her business. Each person will be encouraged to distribute business cards and network.

All business owners and people who want to be business owners are welcome to join Chattanooga Community Business Professionals, said Kelly.

Membership fees are $150 for the year for those who join by the end of February. The annual fee on March 1 will be $295 annually. That's about $25 less than the $320 charged to most small businesses that join the Chattanooga chamber.

The membership fee for CCBP will be used to support social gatherings and marketing for businesses, said Kelly.

So far, the group includes Tracy M. Shaw, who co-owns ACE [Advancement of Community Entrprenuership] Net Cafe with Tracey Thomas. Shaw was voted CCBP President on Tuesday. Other members include Mike Stewart, owner and regional director of Advantage Windows and Melanie Brooks Settles owner of MelRose Boutique.

Kelly, who owns five businesses, is vice president. She asks that all elected officers for CCBP be business owners.

More officers will be elected at the group's meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mocha's.

"What has happened before is that we had people over organizations who have never owned a business," said Kelly. "We don't want people leading you that have never led a business."

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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