by Jennifer Sharp
According to Score.org, being “ready to be my own boss” was the primary reason African-American survey respondents started their businesses (thirty-four percent ) followed by a “desire to pursue my own passion” (twenty-nine percent). These black male entrepreneurs are certainly pursuing their passions while being their own bosses: Anthony Latiker, Sr., owner of Slice of Soul Pizza Lounge, and Dwayne Chaffen and Rick Askew, owners of Memphis Grindhouse Coffee.
After driving trucks for over 15 years, Memphian and Tennessee State University graduate Anthony Latiker, Sr. came up with an idea to open a pizza lounge in Memphis with his business partner Howard Bell IV.
“We both wanted to do something unique for Memphis, so Howard and I came up with this concept while sitting on his patio, and we have now been in business for over 3 years now,” said Latiker.
Slice of Soul Pizza Lounge, located in the Memphis Medical District at 1299 Madison Avenue, is a restaurant and lounge that serves Memphis-themed menu items, such as the “Al B. Green” pizza, the “Beale Street BBQ” wings and the “Earth, Wind & Fire” cocktail, and offers live entertainment.
Former college classmates and Memphians, Dwayne Chaffen and Rick Askew, wanted to open a local coffee shop in order to provide a place for people to enjoyed freshly brewed coffee and for parents to read to their children. However, difficulty of funding has made it difficult for them to open a brick and mortar; but, they did not let that stop them from opening up Memphis Grindhouse Coffee.
“We wanted to provide a good product and service and give back to the community,” said Chaffen.
Memphis Grindhouse Coffee sells one-hundred percent specialty grade coffee that is made from Arabica beans imported from various locations such as Peru, Guatemala and Africa. Founded in 2019, Memphis Grindhouse Coffee is considered to be “coffee with a cause” due to their mission of helping Memphis elementary children improve reading comprehension. Memphis Grindhouse Coffee donates a portion of its sales to Shelby County Elementary Schools.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the current racial climate have impacted many entrepreneurs, especially black entrepreneurs.
Latiker states the pandemic negatively impacted his business as business slowed down considering that a lot of resources come from the bar and entertainment.
“COVID-19 hit us hard and we are trying to rebuild,” said Latiker.
“Fortunately, we did receive funding and we are trying to get people in the door.”
According to Latiker, Slice of Soul received funding of $7,000 from the Memphis Medical District Collaborative Grant, a $10,000 grant from the Small Business Association and a Paycheck Protection Program loan of $17,000 with seventy-five percent of the money being used for payroll for existing employees to come back to work.
For Chaffen and Askew, their online presence and sales have increased due to the pandemic and uptick in support for black owned businesses. They have also received support from other cities and states.
Both business owners plan to navigate the new normal and grow their businesses. Latiker is currently searching for ways to re-brand and attract both new and returning patrons. Chaffen and Askew plan to expand and one day open a physical location as they take a slow approach to gain funding.
Latiker instills into his two sons that “there is nothing like investing in yourself,” and that having freedom is more important than money.
“If you want to become an entrepreneur, just do it and never give up,” said Latiker.
Askew shares this advice for emerging entrepreneurs.
“Don’t focus on a variety of entrepreneurship; remain focused on one thing and be diligent,” said Askew. “Also, set your goals, budget and timeline.”
Jennifer Sharp is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.