Black businesses helping expand Omaha’s local economy

Black businesses are growing in Omaha
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 5:14 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Christi Ballard’s Status boutique gives Omaha the chance to tap into the finer things. For 20 years, the Omaha native has made luxury her business.

“Anything you spend your money on is a luxury. But I just really loved handbags,” Ballard said.

Ballard once sold her items at pop-up shops. She said if it wasn’t for community support during that time, it would have been tough to reach success.

“We all have to start and we all need help. We cannot do this necessarily by ourselves and if someone say they’re doing it by themselves, I would challenge that.”

Karine Sokpoh is the CEO of the Midlands African Chamber of Commerce. Since 2020, nearly 200 black and minority businesses have become members.

With the help of their Pitch Black Accelerator program and competition, entrepreneurs are overcoming hurdles that often keep businesses from growing.

“It’s lack of access to coaching, lack of access to capital, lack of access to networking,” said Sokpoh.

Jamil Djibril Bah-Traore, owner of House of Bah, won Pitch Black in 2021. Since then, his ability to educate and serve through African fusion cuisine has taken off.

“It opens up your eyes to what’s possible for you. The sky is the limit,” he said when asked about the impact of the Pitch Black competition.

Both Bah-Traore and Ballard tell 6 News it’s important to show aspiring Black business owners what can be achieved and you don’t have to leave Omaha to do it.

“We set the stage for others. So, the next generation knows that it’s possible. You can also do it. You can make it,” said Bah-Traore.

The winner of the Pitch Black competition receives up to $15,000 toward their business and contestants get $1,000 toward start-up costs.

This year’s participants have already been selected.