Dozens of Black businesses will be present at the fifth annual Black Business Expo at IX Art Park this Saturday. The yearly convention allows for Black businesses in Charlottesville to gain visibility and participate in a business pitch competition.

Following the harrowing events of the Aug. 12 rallies, Black Business Expo founder Ty Cooper wanted to find a way to support Black Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Cooper wanted to spread the word on local Black businesses that struggled to gain attention on their own.

“We want to use this as a platform and an opportunity to help Black businesses create more exposure and be seen,” said Cooper, who owns Lifeview Marketing.

Cooper says the expo has seen exponential growth since its inception in 2017. The second year of the business exposition alone saw a 35% increase in vendors. In 2020, despite being paralyzed from having in-person events due to the pandemic, the expo garnered over 900 guests at its virtual event.

This year’s free exhibition will be back in person. It will feature over 30 vendors, a fashion show, a business pitch competition in which contestants can win up to $1,500 for their business, and a performance by local funk band Ebony Groove. The expo will host multiple panels touching on various entrepreneurial matters, such as financing and strategic branding from local entrepreneurs.

“The interest has peaked in people trying to support Black businesses and things of that nature,” Cooper said.

DeVaughn Anderson, who owns a local newspaper, My Black C’Ville, loves seeing all the local Black businesses come together to promote their goods and services.

“I like to see more smaller Black businesses that don’t have the capital to go out and do a lot of advertising but still be out there networking,” Anderson said.

Anderson created the platform three years ago as a way to showcase Black people and businesses in Charlottesville. Today, his platform can be found on Facebook, Instagram and the Visit Charlottesville website.

Anderson’s been attending the Black Business Expo since its beginnings. He’s promoted his previous business endeavors and participated in previous pitch competitions. He plans on participating in the business pitch competition for My Black C’Ville again this Saturday. If he wins, he hopes to use the money to build My Black Cville’s own website.

The business fair will run from 2 to 9 p.m. at IX Art Park. The event is free and open to people of all ages. The expo encourages attendees who are unvaccinated to wear a mask.

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