July 15th Transform Westside Summit: Highlighting Our Village United and ELEVATE

Westside Future Fund’s July 15th Transform Westside Summit highlighted Our Village United and its ELEVATE program dedicated to uplifting Black solopreneurs not only in business, but also wellness. Featured guests included: Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, CEO and Founder of The Village Market and Executive Director at Our Village United; along with team members Dr. Joy Beckwith, Clinical Psychologist; and M. Cole Jones, Small Business Champion. The summit also featured ELEVATE participants: Jade Weatherington, Founder of Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy; and Jennet Jackson, Owner of Weathered Not Worn. WFF President & CEO John Ahmann joined co-hosts Ebony Ford and Benjamin Earley in welcoming another robust audience before Earley, a fourth-generation Westside resident, went on to moderate the panel discussion.

Dr. Hallmon addressed the unique intersectional challenges of being both Black and an Entrepreneur.

Earley: “Thank you all for joining us this morning. So let’s just hop right into it. We can start with you, Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon. What’s the mission and the vision of Our Village United?”

Dr. Hallmon: “It’s the adage of teaching someone to fish. If you teach a person to fish, they can fish every day… We focus on sole proprietors because like the 95% of Black entrepreneurs in the city I was one… We wanted to make sure that we took care of all of those foundational needs, those questions that sometimes we’re intimidated to ask as entrepreneurs… ELEVATE is for those entrepreneurs, people like Jennet, people like Jade… that we see something so dope and so exceptional in you. And what we want the village to do is put a booster on your back so that you can elevate because we know that you are going to be socially responsible to pour into the community.”

What I’ve experienced with entrepreneurship is that if you have the support system, if you have the team, if you have the village, there is nothing that can stop you.” —Dr. ‘Key’ Hallmon, Executive Director at Our Village United


M. Cole Jones speaks passionately about the ELEVATE program.

Jones: “We have an opportunity to really help these solopreneurs, these micro-businesses, go from zero to one hundred in zero to twelve weeks… Speaking from a place of truth, all of us have been where they are.”

“99% of small businesses are solopreneurs you know, and as an entrepreneur myself, it can be really challenging… Solopreneurs need to know that it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to not know what you don’t know.”

Dr. Joy Beckwith shares the concerning statistics associated with mental health issues and entrepreneurship.

Earley: “What drove you to move towards having mental health and having this aspect be a part of the program?”

Dr. Hallmon: “If you’re building with the community, there is no way that you can talk about economic mobility, and we haven’t talked about the mobility of our spirits. We have to care about how the body is doing before we care about how the business is doing. So if the body is doing well, the business does well.”

What we did about emotions, emotional intelligence is that we humanized it because we bring the humanity to all the work that we do with Our Village United, with ELEVATE. I do not want an incubator that solely talks about economic mobility and we’re not talking about people and how they feel.”

Dr. Beckwith: “When it comes the general community, we know the numbers when it comes to anxiety. We know the numbers when it comes to depression. And we may know the symptoms or what burnout feels like. And it was confirmed when we got solopreneurs together. Those numbers are higher when it comes to being an entrepreneur… We know that we are six times more likely as an entrepreneur to have anxiety. We’re three times more likely to be depressed… It highlighted that these things are not only present as entrepreneurs, but at an elevated rate.”

Earley: “When I was coming out of my depression, I realized that a lot of my healing was in the fact that I hadn’t addressed certain issues from my childhood, including the fact that I had an absent father; and not realizing how deeply ingrained in myself that trauma was, and how that affected pretty much everything else that I move. But it’s only when you can shine a light on certain things that haven’t been at the forefront of your mind, that you can actually heal from them. You know, it’s crazy, just how much more life opens up to you after you make that step.”

“Dr. Key if you could, address the wonderful partnership that you have with the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and now with the Westside Future Fund for ELEVATE Westside.”

Click here to donate to Our Village United.

Dr. Hallmon: “We partnered with the Blank Foundation working on our partnership with the Westside Future Fund for ELEVATE West. We will be focused on serving entrepreneurs, small business owners, restauranteurs specifically on the Westside… to ensure that the businesses have the resources, that they know all the plugs in the city and that they get the capital. Because one thing that my friend, Terry, who’s in the audience says is that you can incubate a business to death. You have to make sure that they have the capital.”

ELEVATE participants Jennet Jackson, Owner of Weathered Not Worn, and Jade Weatherington, Founder of Teacher Jade’s Writing Academy, later joined the discussion to share how the program has helped their businesses thrive.

Jennet Jackson shared her personal experience working with the ELEVATE program to go from living in her mother-in-law’s basement to generating six figure revenue.

Jackson: “We started the company in 2017. Weathered Not Worn is a lifestyle brand that inspires people to embrace your story and express yourself through unique customized denim and camo apparel.”

“When we met with Chris, she offered ideas to help us manage our business better—thinking about duties and responsibilities and sharing the work. It was just an amazing experience. The speakers, the people we had access to, the resources, these were things we would have never come across had we not been a part of ELEVATE. It’s just been uphill from there. We’re still connected to people from our cohort, and it’s just been amazing. It’s been an amazing journey.”

Jade Weatherington started her business as a side hustle and thanks to the help offered from the ELEVATE program, she was able to turn it into a flourishing career where she is able to scale and hire teachers.

Weatherington: “I was checking my email and I started crying because I was looking for something, and I found it without even knowing what I needed. The hard part was not knowing what I needed. So I’m there and I’m trying to scale, but I don’t know what the next steps are. And I was raised in survival mode. So all I know is go get it, go get it, go get it, but I didn’t know how to stop and ask people for help. I didn’t know how to do that. So being in ELEVATE and having a community has helped me tremendously.”

“Teaching online and tutoring online was the side hustle until it became the business. And it took me a while to have that mindset shift where I was making more money than I had ever made in my entire life teaching online. So that’s when I quit my job.

View the full summit including the audience Q&A below!