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The woman leading the push to revive black-owned businesses in Minneapolis

Rebuilding black businesses in Minnesota
Woman rebuilding black businesses in Minnesota 03:39

Efforts are underway in Minnesota to rebuild the small businesses that were damaged or even destroyed during civil unrest following George Floyd's death, with an estimated 220 buildings damaged at a cost of more than $50 million. Nancy Korsah is helping organize the rebuild as the founder of Black Business Minnesota, a Facebook group with more than 35,000 minority business owners. She spoke with CBS MoneyWatch about the push to help black-owned companies recover. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

What have black business owners in Minneapolis-St. Paul been focusing on following the unrest that led to the damage?

Nancy Korsah: Right now, the focus has been rebuilding, helping, cleaning and starting a whole new business plan with the thinking that nothing can go back to what it was. 

What has been the biggest obstacle to getting business owners back on their feet?

The No. 1 challenge has been obtaining funds. We raised $38,000 for seven businesses, so that was $5,500 per person, which really doesn't get anywhere when you look at the extent of destruction that happened on Lake Street. 

Not long after these businesses were looted or vandalized, you were on Facebook trying to help out. What motivated you to do that?

What motivated me was to just give these people hope because I watched them one-by-one slowly build up their businesses with their blood, sweat and tears. There were 27 businesses in the group that were affected, and we were not able to help all of them. So in return, we've been gathering volunteers. I myself have painted, swept and done everything I could to help.

I can endure any physical pain – that's nothing. The mental aspect been declining, seeing the devastation to your own community and watching security footage and seeing who actually did the looting to these businesses. They were not black, so mentally it has been very challenging to understand all of this. The biggest toll has been really just kind of feeling a little bit helpless because I can raise money, I can go paint and sweep, but it's only so much one person can do.

What are your immediate goals?

We're still down there cleaning, sweeping, trying to help any way we can. And we started this initiative — we want to be able to purchase this warehouse and call it the Black Marketplace. We want to see if we can provide a place where it's affordable rent and people can say, "OK, I don't have to shut my doors for good." It's a million dollars and I know that sounds crazy, but that's our mission right now because otherwise we're going to be extinct. Black business is going to be extinct. 

The businesses that were looted or ransacked or burned down, they're not wanting to come back, and we really want to try and deter that. And if that means giving them a space and giving them free rent for a year, that's what we're gonna do. 

Research shows that 41% of black businesses around the U.S. have permanently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Are you concerned that the Twin Cities is going to lose many black businesses for good?

Coronavirus' crushing impact on small business in America 05:43

We've listed all the [affected] businesses and created a small directory of sorts, and it looks like 4 out of 10 businesses will not be coming back, which is almost half. It does alarm me, quite a bit. And that's the reason we want to create Black Marketplace. Almost half is too many. This includes the hair-braiding shops and the barbershops. And some of them haven't completely closed, but they can no longer afford that space. 

Some of them are wanting to operate out of their home, which is the last thing that we want. We don't want them to go backward. Forward is the only way at this point. 

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