The building at 1200 West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis that was known for the Breaking Bread restaurant is now owned by Black. Kenya McKnight-Ahad, President and CEO of the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance (BWWA), recently purchased the building after renting it for three years.
McKnight-Ahad is proud of their acquisition, which has an interesting backstory. According to McKnight-Ahad, she took a leap of faith in acquiring the property. “My goal was to buy a building in the long term, but it came earlier than I planned,” she said.
âI am the owner of a building that is being converted into an incubator for black women entrepreneurs that also promotes health and wellbeing. Now that I own a building the idea is to expand it so other black businesses can thrive and grow, âsaid McKnight-Ahad.
BWWA serves as a “social enterprise focused on improving the economic stability and prosperity of the historic careers of black women and entrepreneurial professionals,” said McKnight-Ahad.
The BWWA organization provides business assistance to black women in the Twin Cities. They focus on key areas of services ranging from “wealth literacy, professional development, business technical assistance, financial assistance”. Each service area includes coaching, workshops and courses. “
She added, âWe are still developing our own cultural tools. We are planning to reopen to the general public in autumn. We are currently working with our alumni. “
She was inspired to own property and plans to help black women across the community. The building is called ZaRah, which refers to something that “is very feminine and means to bloom, flourish, shine”.
BWWA currently operates stores at 1101 West Broadway, which is where they have been headquartered for two years after partnering with Episcopal Church, which owns the space.
The organization recently received a big boost when singer Lizzo raised funds for it as part of her annual giveaway in June. âYou are doing the real work at the forefront of progress and I am honored to be able to help you in any way I can,â said Lizzo.
McKnight-Ahad has a history of leadership on economic issues and has even worked with the City of Minneapolis on the Minneapolis Forward: Community Now Coalition. “There was a group of us who are all business leaders – we are basically helping the city reshape its priorities and focus on how our businesses and communities can get economically healthy and how blacks can increase commercial property ownership,” she said.
The entrepreneur, an Illinois transplant who grew up on the North Side of Minneapolis, was recently a 2021 Flagship Fellow of LISC Color Developers.
She is also a recipient of the Minneapolis 2021 Minnie Fire Awards and the St. Paul Business Journal, an award given to innovative entrepreneurs “who break new ground and shape the Twin Cities economy.” In 2019, she was recognized as a Top Woman in Business Honoree by the Minneapolis and St. Paul Business Journal. In addition, she was voted Top Woman in Business and Finance by Finance and Commerce magazine in 2019.
McKnight-Ahad was also selected as a Bush Fellow in 2012 and served as the first African-American Met Council delegate to serve on the Transportation Advisory Board for six years. In 2009 she also ran for the Minneapolis City Council.
“People who are interested in companies need to find out more – understand that there are no real limits or barriers in life.”
– Kenya McKnight-Ahad
The BWWA is the first black-owned nonprofit corporation operating in Minnesota. When founding BWWA, McKnight-Ahad focused on its goal, its results and its impact. “The goal is to build a prosperity alliance among black women that will be passed on to their families to build intergenerational wealth and prosperity in the wider community,” she said. âOur goal is to increase it by 35 to 40% over the next few years.
âAfrican Americans were predicted to have purchasing power of $ 1.4 trillion last year, before COVID. Black women influence the way money is spent, âshe said. McKnight-Ahad seeks to work with a wide variety of entrepreneurs and working class women.
âYou have to have a certain amount of stability and be driven; We need sisters who are really trying to figure it out and make it work. You could be the matriarchs in the family, âshe said. “If we give her a scholarship, it will actually be used for the things she needs.”
BWWA works with a “Resistance and Thrive” micro grant and loan program that provides capital for business owners and financial assistance for individuals. âWe helped repair vehicles, helped people buy vehicles. We helped pay off people’s balance – up to $ 5,000 of the total balance of attendees, “she said. “These things made a difference to these women and that’s why we do it.”
So far, several grants have been awarded to black women entrepreneurs in the twin cities. In 2020, BWWA launched âThe Bee Marketplaceâ, where its products were presented. 34 women were involved in the online marketplace.
According to McKnight-Ahad, â17 of them said they had made $ 51,000 in sales in just 30 days. All women participating in this program received a US $ 1,000 grant to support their businesses. “
Tamika Jones, CEO of LipEsteem LLC, was selected to join the Deluxe Corporation Small Business Revolution and is a Bee Marketplace graduate. Her participation in this program has provided BWWA with a $ 5,000 scholarship for women in the beauty industry.
There are ups and downs in the operation of an organization, explained the entrepreneur. âThat is my purpose in life. I am a ship chosen for this work. I can’t make it the way I want. It shapes me based on the needs and demands of the time, and that’s the challenge, âsaid McKnight-Ahad.
âI think that people who are interested in business have to explore something – understand that there are no real limits or barriers in life. You have to choose what you want to do and who you want to be and put yourself in a position to win. “
Further information on the Black Women’s Wealth Alliance can be found at www.bwwa-us.com.