Minority Enterprise Development Week

Here is a story I wrote for the October 2, 2013 issue of Mountain Xpress.

Minority Enterprise Week of WNC recognizes local entrepreneurs

Three-time world champion Cherokee hoop dancer Daniel Tramper helped kick off the 30th Annual Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week of WNC Awards. Tramper was one of four local winners recognized at the event, held Sept. 26 at Homewood in Montford.

Established in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan, MED Week aims “to recognize the outstanding achievements of minority businesses and to honor those corporations and financial institutions that support minority business development.” MED Week of WNC launched in 1983; it’s coordinated by a volunteer board and mirrors similar programs around the country.

“Minority Enterprise Development Week provides a platform for education, advocacy and promotion of minority-owned businesses in Western North Carolina,” says James Lee, MED Week Board Chair. “It is important because it provides support and recognition to minority business owners that may not otherwise be recognized for their success.”

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James Lee. Photo by Max Cooper.

The awards celebration capped a week of events that included free classes in Asheville and Cherokee, such as SBA Programs and Services for Your Small Business, Pricing and Budgeting, Starting a [Better] Business and How to Get Money to Expand Your Business. MED Week also offers a WNC-specific business resource guide which can be downloaded from their website, wncmedweek.org.

First came the Advocate Award, presented to Elder Johnny Hayes of the Empowerment Resource Center for his work with WRES 100.7 and the NAACP. Referring to Hayes’ dapper plaid suit, Lee quipped, “He’s so sharp he’ll cut me like a knife.” During his remarks Hayes described the challenges he had to overcome to launch the radio station, telling the crowd, “These beautiful mountains are a setting for opportunities.”

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Raynetta Waters, center, with friends Stacy and Calen Kelly. Photo by Max Cooper.

For the business awards, videos highlighted the accomplishments of each winner:

• Minority Retail Business of the Year, Corey Coggins, Studio Boutique

• Minority Service Business of the Year, Daniel Tramper, Deer Clan Productions

• Minority Restaurateur of the Year, Raynetta Waters, F & R Waters Enterprise

• Phyllis J. Sherrill Minority Entrepreneur of the Year, Justina Muniz, Soundview Family Care Homes. The Sherrill award is given to a business owner who “goes beyond what is expected, and gives back to the community,” said MED Week board member Hope Huskey.

Muniz’s business has more than a dozen locations — 10 in Flat Rock, two in Asheville and four in Black Mountain. Her family care homes offer an alternative to assisted living facilities, providing comfort and community to people of all ages who cannot live on their own. Muniz currently employs 22 people and is an active member of the National Alliance for Mental Illness. For Muniz, “Every day is an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.”

Amy Jackson of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce presented Muniz with an extensive scholarship package from the Chamber, including a year membership and other perks such as a booth at the Chamber job fair and a designated mentor.

According to MED Week organizers, the MED Week awards are “the only [ones that] specifically recognize outstanding ethnic minority owned businesses in Western North Carolina.” Board member Kimberly Hunter says that MED Week is “a way to level the playing field” and that it helps to “create opportunities.” Hunter was an award winner in 2008.

“It changes your life if you’ve won this award,” she said. “This is a place where the overlooked get seen.”