‘Generations of Success’ panel kicks off Black Business Month in DeKalb CountyL to R Decide DeKalb program manager Geoffrey Loften, CD Moody Construction owner David Moody, SwemKids/SwemSchool owner Trish Miller, Mason's Super Dogs owner Mason Wright. Photo by Sara Amis
DeKalb County, GA — The Decide DeKalb Development Authority on Aug. 2 brought three Black business owners to Hippin’ Hops Brewery, owned by Clarence Boston, for a panel on Black entrepreneurship.
The first of two events to bookend Black Business Month, the panel included David Moody owner of CD Moody Construction, Trish Miller owner of SwemKids, and 16-year-old Mason Wright, owner of Mason’s Super Dogs.
Moody said that he started his career as an architect building power plants, and moved to Atlanta in 1983. The business he worked for went bankrupt two months later, which ultimately led to him founding CD Moody Construction.
“If that person hadn’t gone bankrupt, I probably never would have gone into business for myself,” Moody said.
Miller said that her business, SwemKids/SwemSchool, is the largest Black-owned swim school in Atlanta. She said that she almost drowned as a teenager and also has a background in public health, both of which inspired her to make sure that other people could learn how to be safe in the water. Miller said SwemSchool has three locations in DeKalb County, along with locations in Atlanta and Walton County.
Miller said that Black people have less access and knowledge of being on the water than white people typically do, which has impacts on safety.
“It’s not leisure,” Miller said.
Wright said his goal was to build generational wealth and circulate money in the Black community and would like to see Mason’s Super Dogs become a tourist attraction. Wright said that he benefited greatly from the amount of support he received from the people around him, including his mentors. To learn how to run a restaurant, he learned everything he could from Telley Anthony of This Is It! Southern Kitchen.
“I shadowed him for a few months, he showed me the ins and outs of how to run a business and work your business,” Wright said.
Wright now owns a restaurant and a food truck and is looking to open a second location and acquire four more food trucks.
Moody said that the biggest obstacle to being an entrepreneur is other people’s belief that you will fail and that the responsibility of always being “on” and having to make payroll when other people depend on you can take a toll.
Miller agreed. “I just ran payroll before I got here. I know that feeling. Other than childbirth, and rearing those little people, [running a business] is the most grinding thing I’ve ever done, and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done,” Miller said.
The panelists each spoke about the resources that had been made available to them as they were starting out. Moody said that he had started his business back when it was “against the rules.” Despite his degree in architecture and experience, a bank gave him only $2,000 to start his construction business.
In contrast, Miller said she had received fellowships and had also been able to apply for grants that supported her work. Wright said he had received mentorship and had attended every entrepreneurship program he could find.
In terms of future support for Black businesses, Wright said that he would like to see more entrepreneurship programs specifically aimed at youth in schools.
Moody said that he would like to see a place for young entrepreneurs to interact with more seasoned entrepreneurs and gain the benefit of their experience, as well as have the opportunity to be heard by investors.
Miller said that the main thing she felt is missing is commercial real estate ownership, which would allow more stability and potential for expansion.
“It’s hard for us to grow and scale our businesses when we don’t own the spaces that we operate out of,” Miller said.
Miller added that the problem isn’t a lack of capital. “It’s just a lack of availability and knowledge of how to navigate that process,” Miller said.
Geoffrey Loften, the Equitable Economic Development Program Manager for Decide DeKalb, said that Black businesses serve both as hubs of community and agents of change.
“The impact of Black businesses goes beyond the simple transaction of goods and services. Black businesses are transformational,” Loften said.
Decide DeKalb will hold a second event, a South DeKalb Pop-Up Business Incubator, at New Life Community Alliance 3592 Flat Shoals Rd. on Aug. 31 from 9 am to 3 pm.
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