Chandler group aims to help Black-owned businesses - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler group aims to help Black-owned businesses

April 2nd, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler group aims to help Black-owned businesses
Business
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By Ken Sain
Staff Writer

There may have been some progress in efforts to improve opportunities for Black business owners, but that doesn’t mean there still remains a lot to do.

Just ask Keasha Beach of Chandler, who started BASE Arizona, an acronym for Black Alliance & Social Empowerment.

Beach recalled a woman telling her how she walked into a bank 10 years ago to secure a loan.

“She said, ‘You know, about 10 years ago when I had just started my business, she goes, ‘I walked into the bank and I had everything all put together. Everything sounded good on the phone, but the moment I walked into the bank, they just denied it. They didn’t even ask me any questions about it.’”

Experiences like that strike close to home for Beach.

“My dad has had issues with that,” she said. “I remember sitting with him, kind of talking to him about that, and he said, ‘Look, I just try not to walk into the bank. I don’t even give them my full name. I give them like an initial. I don’t want them to be able to recognize as being a Black applicant … because I know right away it’s going to be denied.”

Beach started BASE Arizona after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. She was on a video conference with other Black activists who were detailing many of the problems they face.

“I remember getting off of that call and going, ‘Man, there was nothing to really take away from the call besides we have all these issues, we have all these problems,’” Beach said. “I felt like we didn’t do anything and I wanted to do something with this call.”

Her brother started BASE of Southern Oregon and the two of them worked out what they wanted this organization to be. Beach reached out to others in Arizona to form BASE Arizona.

She said its mission is to empower the Black community.

As its website, basearizona.org, explains, it aims to “provide a space to promote solidarity, empowerment, and economic development that might be imagined for this generation and the next, given the realities of the history of Arizona.

“BASE respects the past by drawing from the wisdom of the Civil Rights Movement and acknowledging the organizational genius that resulted in equality for Black people nationally,” it continues. “It updates this legacy and honors the current collective of change makers and activists who strive for inclusion and equity that is real.”

It adds that it “serves to create a welcoming and supportive community where Black people in Arizona feel safe, respected, and comfortable being themselves when expressing any aspect of our many cultural ethnicities.”

Since Beach grew up in Chandler, graduating from Dobson High School, her initial focus is this city.

However, her goal is to grow beyond it.

The funding for BASE Arizona has come from three individuals, but Beach says they are growing fast and need corporate funding going forward.

That money goes to a variety of events and programs. For example, BASE started offering $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors.

It runs several other programs as well.

Afro Skoutz helps youngsters ages 5 to 13, to become “culturally knowledgeable, empowered and respected members of the community.”

BASE Worx is an incubator program for Black-owned businesses that “emphasizes strategic planning, operational efficiency, and maximum profitability with a heavy emphasis on business strategy and planning.

Additionally, each month BASE Arizona sponsors events to celebrate the community. It started as Food Truck Friday. Beach said hundreds of people turned out and it has become one of their more popular events.

“We don’t see ourselves as the whole pie, but we see ourselves as a piece of the pie,” Beach said. “We collaborate a lot, that’s huge for BASE.”

She estimated there are about 50 Black-owned businesses in Chandler. Beach said BASE helped 25 of them acquire paycheck protection program loans during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. All of them are still open today.

Beach attended Mesa Community College and then graduated from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State. She also serves on a committee with the Chandler Chamber of Commerce.

Even though she set out to help the Black community in Chandler, Beach said others have reached out to her and their events are drawing even more people. That’s why she’s looking for corporate sponsors.

In the meantime, it is doing what it can to support Black-owned small businesses.

“Access to capital, that’s the biggest issue,” Beach said, recalling how one Black business owner couldn’t get funding to fix a company truck that had been vandalized.

“This company has been in business, they’ve gotten through COVID, you know they’ve been around for the last four years, and here they are asking for some capital to get their truck taken care of so they can continue their business, and they haven’t been able to do that,” Beach said. “They set up a GoFundMe. So, yeah, it’s something that’s still happening.”

Information: BASEArizona.org.

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