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Peoria Black-Owned Business Entrepreneurs Share Their Visions

A Sharp Effect
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Becoming an entrepreneur takes a large amount of effort, dedication and tenacity.

Due to systemic racism embedded throughout history, becoming a Black entrepreneur is even more of a feat. National Black Business Month gives us yet another reason to highlight the success of Black business owners and entrepreneurs.

Peoria is home to successful Black-owned businesses. Prestige Barbershop is owned and operated by Jorell Glass. Mr. Glass started his business originally in Mississippi in 2013, and reopened in Peoria in 2018.

"It started out just a regular your typical barber shop I started in Mississippi and I just knew that there was a brand of barbering that I do not see. And the brand of barbering was, you know, like the old school with razor shaves," Glass said. "I watched the industry and I saw how that was kind of leaving. So I wanted to invigorate that that tone of, Oh, you know, and kind of bring like a revival of sorts."

Glass created an acronym for a store prestige to describe the vision he has for his business, professionalism, respectability, excellence, service, tenacity, integrity, greatness and empowerment. Glass says the main struggle he encountered when getting his business started, was the fact that he was a first generation business owner.

"I would say the main thing was the knowledge, the business knowledge. I'm first generation, first in my family. To incorporate is such a learning curve in our community, I had to struggle to learn things that was seen as common knowledge in other communities," he said.

Adrienne Jones is the owner of A Sharp Effect hair salon. Jones started her business in 2015. After years of experience doing hair, she felt that she was equipped enough to pursue her goal of owning her own salon.

"I moved to the city about 12 years ago. And you know, started my career in the hair industry. I was at a salon in the Heights before then I was there for a couple years. And like I said, the opportunity came and opened in my own business was something that I always wanted to do. So I felt like I was, you know, fully equipped and had the tools that I needed. So I went ahead and did it with the help of my husband. And you know, we just worked it out. And there's the support of that community as well. Like I said, they've been really good," she said.

Jones says that while the Peoria community has been a great home for her business, collective community support is needed to help businesses survive.

"Empowerment comes to mind. And I just think that that's something that we need to continue to do as a community, is empower each other," she said.

Nina Wyatt is the owner of Your Soul Essentials beauty supply store. The business is in a unique position, being the only local Black beauty supply store owned by a Black woman.

"they might sell the shampoo and those hair moisturizers, but didn't sell the conditioner. And sometimes that happens because most stores like I said, they don't know like, hey, you should carry this whole entire line. And not just bits and pieces of it," she said.

Wyatt says that having diversity in business is key to growth. And having the ability to relate to your customers will make your business grow even more.

"I've used these products. When you have a business, especially a Black owned business. It's always good to be in a business where you can more relate to your customers as walking in the door," she said.

Glass said becoming an entrepreneur, especially as a minority, can be a struggle, but he says he has no regrets.

"There has definitely been blood, sweat and tears and sacrifices, but I do not regret any of it so that the bigger picture is creating an institution that will impact lives beyond now," he said.

Glass, Jones and Wyatt all agree that anyone and everyone who wants to own a business should pursue their dream wholeheartedly. No matter the obstacles that are in place, they all agree that with the help of a supporting community, businesses can thrive and leave a lasting impact on a city for years to come.

Olivia Streeter is an intern at WCBU. The Illinois State University student joined WCBU in 2020.