A Win for the Black Community: Village Financial Cooperative

what tragedy brought

It was on July 6, 2016 Philando Castile was murdered by St. Anthony Police leaving a community feeling powerless, angry, terrified, and left with so many questions. How could this happen? How do we recover from this tragedy? Why did this happen? How can we reclaim our power as a community?  

A community seeking answers through healing, collaboration, and ensuring continued existence soon created Blexit (the real one). Blexit, a community organization seeking empowerment within black communities that challenge the root of oppressive systems by finding ways to exit them by creating and/or using replacement systems that support the community (#investdivest). With more than the idea and a plan coming to life the Association for Black Economic Power (ABEP) came together and powers combined to take with action.

Thus, forming what is known as Village Trust Financial Cooperative (VTFC) a banking alternative.

big banks and people of color

Big Banks are traditional financial institutions have been known to habitually exploit and profit off of people of color through practices that focus on penalization and punishment for profit. With accessibility to traditional banking no longer being a viable option for many, people are looking for an alternative.  

Members of communities of color are seeking financial institutions that they can trust, as the current relationship between Big Banks and communities of color uneasy. Village Financial Cooperative provides an alternative and helps reclaim economic power within the Black Community and trust in the (African) American dollar.

what is this black-led financial cooperative

Through collaboration and action the road to solidifying the first Black-led state-chartered credit union to be approved in the last 15 years, Village Financial Cooperative Credit Union is a reality. A significant difference between Big Banking and Village Trust Financial is that VTFC is a nonprofit organization that operates following the co-op model designed to serve its members.

Village Financial Cooperative is a credit union that provides free check cashing and start up capital for Black Cooperatives. Members of Village Trust have ownership in the credit union and have a vote in operations and services.

Big Banks on the other hand are for profit financial institutions that practice penalization and punishment for profit (all of those extra hidden fees you end up paying for everything bank related) and in turn that money goes into the pockets of CEOs and shareholders.

membership and getting involved

This mission-driven financial cooperative is located on the Northside (Minneapolis) located at 227 Colfax Ave N Suite 230 currently serving the community. Membership and pledges are still being accepted by those that that live, work, attend school and/or worship in Hennepin and Ramsey County.

Village Financials membership goal is 5,000, and you have the opportunity to help them meet that goal. Not only do you have the chance to show your support right VTFC has opportunities for the community to get involved by pledging, sponsoring, volunteering or taking advantage of the interning opportunities. You can expect to attend the grand affair and opening during Juneteenth. Pledging today won’t cost you a thing except bit of your time. Get involved (or pledge) today by visiting https://villagefinancial.org.

Don’t just be woke, do the work.

How You Can Support POC Owned Businesses

One of the things that limit us in our communities of color is that we don’t share enough praise to those outside of our inner circles especially in the realm of business. It is one of our greatest downfalls. The demand is there, the potential to profit is there, but we are caught up in us vs. them within our communities. If we want to claim and change the tide of the economy we have to meet our businesses halfway. It no longer works to have only Black people supporting Black businesses or Latinx people only supporting Latinx businesses.  Nope, we have to as People Of Color (POC) support people of color in general, we have to create a business and economic block out. Historically, we are and have always been the backbone of the economy forced or otherwise. We now have the resources and access that will allow us to reclaim what we have built by supporting businesses in and a part of our communities. Read on to learn what you can do to help make the dollar of color (oc) stronger and support at the same time creating bridges between our communities of color.

 1.     spread the word

Something that communities of color have always been good at is having conversations. We talk like nobody’s business, so it’s no wonder that word of mouth that travels in a click of a button when it comes to what we buy into and won’t. One of the best ways to support the dollar of color is to let others know about the legitimate businesses that have products and/or services that people are seeking. 

Never be afraid to ask for a few business cards or contact information whether they are tangible or intangible. It’s easier to spread the word when you have readable information rather than just guessing when your memory fails you. The next important step is to make sure to share information about businesses that you know of not only people of color, but with those that fall outside of POC communities, as well. If you have had great experiences with a company the best praise, you can give them is more business. More business means more profit and more expansion which leads to more power in our economy. When sharing keep in mind the person you are speaking with about a business may not need said business “here in the now,” but they may know someone else that does or may need it in the future. Word of mouth is one of the best marketing and advertising tools that we can use to our advantage in communities of color.  It definitely brings to life the old saying "Sharing is caring."

 2.      give some good feedback

 If you love something about a business make sure that you let it be known. Businesses can only make assumptions at best if they aren’t getting the proper feedback from their clientele. All legit companies have some type of way for you to communicate with the people that are trying to give you what you want (and make a profit). Therefore, use the contact information and share critical feedback.  Believe it or not, it’s the most successful businesses that learn what their next power moves are and what works best for their customers’ by learning from their clients’ rather than taking a shot in the dark hoping to hit the target.  Good feedback should always let a company, business, or organization know what is or not working for you the consumer.  Keep in mind businesses have specific markets that they are marketing to so you may not even recognize that your situation and experience is unique unless you tell them that. Not all good feedback has to be a sunshine-rainbow,-unicorn rave. 

Sometimes critical and useful feedback can just be recommending that the packaging be reinforced with something so that the product doesn’t leak everywhere. Or maybe some customer service training needs to be implemented because a few employees are completely missing the mark. Whatever the feedback it should add to the experience to make the business do better. If you don’t have something helpful, useful, or good to say, don’t say anything at all. You’ll end up messing everything up for the rest of us.

3.     stop asking for a hookup

Businesses are in the business of making a profit. Businesses can’t make a profit if they are giving discounts to people in every circumstance or giving their products and services away at the drop of a dime. If we expect our minority-owned businesses to support us, we need to support our minority owned businesses, and that means doing so financially. When we ask for freebies in most cases, people are simply asking for something for free just to have something for free with no intentions of purchase or making a commitment for future purchases. When you go into Target and buy shampoos, toothpaste, makeup, etc. you don’t ask for samples you just purchase, so why wouldn’t have the same expectations for our businesses owned by POC? We as consumers should be mindful in helping our minority businesses succeed and become profitable by allowing them to become healthy competitors the right way. Let’s not forget that it’s an insult to business owners and service providers not to get paid for their time and hard work.

Business owners face many risks; it’s even more so for our Black American business owners, Latinx American business owners, Asian American business owners, Indigenous Native American business owners, and multi-ethnic people of color business owners. It's unfortunate that there’s something riskier when POC try their hand at running a business versus their white counterparts when trying to succeed in a system where they are not accepted as a mainstream competitor. Heck, if you are just dying for a hookup, let it happen through a job opportunity. There are minority owned businesses that could use the extra bodies and minds so offer up your services, then as an employee, and you can respectfully get the perks without coming off as an @ss.

4.     avoid bad blood

If you have a bad experience with a company or service provider try to speak to someone that deals with customer service issues to see if they are willing to right a wrong before completely giving up on them and cursing them to damnation.  As tempting as it is to make a mountain out of a molehill as a consumer, businesses are a trial and error type of entity. Before you ultimately put businesses owned by POC on public notice try to communicate as calmly and effectively as you can.

When addressing your concerns about an issue, be sure to give as much detail as possible about the situation as you know it to be true to convey your frustration and asking for a resolution. Most businesses don’t want to lose you as a customer, so they will try to negotiate to the best of their abilities to make a wrong a right.  Just don’t get crazy and try to take advantage of the situation otherwise, things will escalate negatively very quick.  Where a business is at two years after they began is a huge difference especially when it comes learning the ups and downs of a business and services. We have to give our businesses in communities of color to learn from their mistakes. It’s easy to write a business off after one bad experience.  When you have a cool head and time to reflect, give a business one more try to do right by you the customer. After all, they need you the consumer to stay in business.

5.     shop, buy, speak, repeat

Of course, the number one thing that we can do to support businesses and organizations that are run and owned by POC is to shop with intent to buy. Shopping around implies that you are browsing, making price comparisons, asking questions, etc. Buying is actually making the purchases. Buying is where the real power starts to kick in. The more we buy, the more successful we can expect our businesses to be. By ensuring our minority-owned businesses are successful, we are in essence helping them build a better reputation. As businesses build great reputations, customers get to talking to non-customers about their experiences and what works creating a potential consumer.

As the online marketing increases and political lines are crossed by companies, more and more people are willing to take the risk of trying something new, even when something that falls outside the purview of mainstream buying options. Now is one of the greatest times to convert people from looking at large businesses and to begin seeking out our small and local businesses. Every time we encounter a new business run in our communities of color that are run and owned by POC we get the opportunity to practice this “Shop, Buy, Talk, Repeat” more often than people believe. We don’t even realize that we are doing it. The more shop around in our communities with the intent to buy the better the chance we have to support our minority-owned businesses.

This list was by no means the be-all and end-all comprehensive list of what we can do to help our minority-owned businesses, but it’s a start.  Tell me what else do you think that we can do as consumers to support community of color businesses? If you are a business owner, do you agree or disagree with this list?  Leave a comment and share!

Muchos besos,

xX mahina Xx

people of colorcommunities of colorminority owned business