The LSU Black Student Union hosted their Black Business Expo event last night to showcase up-and-coming student-run businesses and provide networking opportunities.
The expo featured a Black-owned business panel of LSU alumni and Baton Rouge natives, student vendors and booths and a Shark Tank competition.
The event, which took place in the Magnolia Room in the Student Union, was intended to encourage LSU students with entrepreneurial aspirations and provide exposure for those who are already small-business owners.
The list of panelists included Cam Jackson, Millennial Park CEO, David Facey, entrepreneur and CEO of Dead Poet, ReAzalia Allen, attorney at SouthernBelle and Charles Daniel, owner of Geaux Ride.
Jackson, whose outdoor food court features eateries housed in re-purposed shipping containers, said that the inspiration for Millennial Park developed during one of the most challenging times in his life — the COVID-19 pandemic.
He hopes that sharing his entrepreneurial journey will uplift Black students and inspire them to start and believe in their own businesses.
“I was a student once, so it’s great to give my knowledge and insight,” Jackson said. “Being young myself makes it easier to connect with them.”
LSU student vendors at the event varied in major, classification and hobbies, but they all shared one common goal: Becoming successful Black business owners.
Venus Lashes, the 7-month-old lash company owned by LSU animal science junior Nya Lewis grew so much in such a short time that she now wants to expand her business.
“I started doing lashes over the summer and by August, I was already in a shop,” Lewis said. “This definitely helped my clientele grow. I get bored pretty easily, so now I want to try something new – I just launched my lash line two days ago and I’m thinking of starting a lip gloss line.”
Event organizer and BSU secretary Jada Lee said the surge in support for Black-owned businesses, that erupted after the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected them, is what inspired the event.
Between February and April of 2020, Black business ownership declined more than 40%, the largest drop across any racial group, according to a report by the House Committee on Small Business Committee. Black Student Union, on the other hand, has increased exponentially since the pandemic.
“BSU has grown in the last year from 100 members to over 300, and numbers continue to increase steadily,” Lee said. “Because of this, reaching out to panelists and vendors was much easier.”
The BSU event hosted 22 vendors and booths, and 7 panelists.
“BSU has a wide connection base now, and we can’t wait to continue to grow and put on more events like this where we can positively impact the community,” she said.