All photos via: Lakeysha Hallmon
For Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, an educator and social entrepreneur, “the village represents the magnitude and impact of what comes when we collectively join together to pour into our community and pull each other up as we climb.”
With that in mind, Hallmon, a Mississippi native and Tougaloo College graduate, started “The Village Market ATL” in April of 2016 to provide a space for small Black-owned businesses to reach a wider audience. Since launching the event two years ago, the market has hosted 818 small businesses, circulated over $600,000 dollars, and welcomed more than 3,200 attendees.
“I started the Village Market because there was a need to bring exposure to Black-owned businesses who operate in excellence,” Hallmon told Because of Them We Can. “Our programs are designed to help small businesses receive capital, resources and to have an operable and engaged ecosystem.”
In addition to helping circulate Black dollars within the Black community, the market also includes an all-plant based “Village Café,” as well as a village and come up clinic, where 20 Black doctors offer free services and participating business owners learn how to scale and attract customers respectively.
“My grandmother Bobbie Smith is the first entrepreneur who I witnessed operate in excellence. She’s a retired seamstress in the Mississippi Delta,” Hallmon shared. “I would watch her create patterns and then sew some of the most beautiful wedding dresses and some of the nicest Sunday’s best outfits. But, what I did not realize or understand is that she was an entrepreneur, who used her talents to feed her children, to purchase her home and the undercurrent of that was having a granddaughter watching her closely- I had an opportunity to witness what can manifest when you are dedicated to customer service and excellence. She never made it look easy but she did make her work look intentional.”
While the market is hosted quarterly, a nonprofit is surprised with its “We Got Your Back” grant every year. The businesses that participate in the market are selected through a detailed screening process. Now, in the fourth quarter, the Village is gearing up to host its Black Friday market, which will be held on November 23rd and 24th at the Georgia Freight Depot from 2-7 p.m.
Here are a few pieces of advice that Hallmon would tell aspiring entrepreneurs: “Commit to doing the work- exposure, success, support comes when you are committed to labor for your business. Commit to understanding every function of your business, commit to delegating and operating in the highest level of excellence. Trust the process of incremental growth and above all things, ask for help when you need it and when you are tired, rest.”
“The Village Market ATL” is the fruition of Hallmon connecting “her love for plant-based foods, art and live performances” to curate an event that empowers both Black business owners and the community – and we thank her for it.