Small Business Advocate of the Year

“I have always been passionate about small businesses,” explains Denise Moore. When launching her own retail store back in 1995, she experienced firsthand the difficulties of navigating the startup world—especially as a minority. “I quickly realized that reading about doing things can be different than trying to do that thing.” After putting her store on a firm footing, she committed herself to passing on the lessons she’d learned—a path which eventually led her to form the Black Business Alliance Peoria Chapter (BBAPeoria) and open the Minority Business Development Center (MBDC).

With low startup rates in the minority community, it can be difficult to find mentors and business advisors who relate to the minority experience. The MBDC, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was born of Moore’s desire to change that dynamic. It exists to serve those who struggle to see themselves in the businesses they patronize and would like to explore business ownership themselves. The MBDC guides new entrepreneurs to help them achieve their goals of business success and financial independence, providing a full array of business training and assistance with focused outreach on minorities, women and veterans.

Among its classes and workshops are startup bootcamps, financial literacy seminars, contractor development training and, starting in 2020, IT training programs. It provides office and meeting space, a business address and other services critical to startup companies, and collaborates with the Illinois Office of Minority Economic Empowerment to alert the community to opportunities provided by the state. It also offers evening and Saturday hours, which is “especially important for those who still need to work a full-time job to support their dream of business ownership,” Moore stresses.

Prior to starting the MBDC, Moore assembled a team of advisers to determine if the concept was feasible or even needed, which included the director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Bradley University. Today, the SBDC director comes to the facility on a weekly basis to provide business counseling services.

After several years of work, the MBDC expects to fully open its renovated 6,500-square-foot space in the fall of 2019, with plans to add additional staff members as it continues to build its training programs and services. PM