Dozens of business owners showcased their ventures during the annual YES Fest in City Heights.
The enterprises ran the gamut: A cold-pressed juice company. A photography and media business. A company that sells all natural hair spray. And several that sold clothing and jewelry.
With a palpable sense of pride in their businesses, black entrepreneurs showcased — and sold — their varied products Saturday in the heart of City Heights.
The ventures were on full display at Fair@44 — an outdoor food and craft market space on El Cajon Boulevard — as part of the second annual Y.E.S. Fest, an event that aims to empower black business owners by allowing them to promote their companies and expand their network.
“We believe that our network is out net worth,” said organizer Roosevelt Williams III of Young Black & ‘N Business, which supports black entrepreneurs. “The more people you know, the more resources you have to pull from, the more opportunities you have at your exposure.”
And because it’s important for entrepreneurs to be connected with resources, organizations such as the Central San Diego Black Chamber of Commerce were on hand.
“If the meetings don’t come south of the 8, we don’t know about them,” Williams said, referring to the city’s neighborhoods south of Interstate 8. “That’s what we’re doing — connecting the resources to individuals.”
Organizers also viewed the event as a way to create a sense of community among black entrepreneurs.
“So they can see other like-minded individuals that’s going through the same learning process as each other,” Williams said. “So we can be each other’s crutch.”
For Raymond Verin, 37, the event helped with something he has struggled with: promoting his new business.
A process architect manager for a consulting firm by day, Verin launched Lavish Ocean, a company that sells natural hair sprays, including a line that includes sea salt and is designed specifically for dreadlocks, less than two years ago. His first product was ready to be sold in November.
“The main thing is just not having the resources to get your name out,” Verin said. “That’s the hardest thing.”
It’s why he values the support the event provides for both the black and entrepreneurial community, he said.
“An event that supports the African-American community here in San Diego is super important to me,” he said. “And anything that highlights young businesses — I’m brand new trying to get a start. Any place that I can go to spread the word about my products, that’s what it’s all about.”
Garik Pugh, who two years ago co-founded GPC Media, a video and photography company, echoed Verin’s comments. He said an event like Saturday’s was important for the black community — especially the youth — to expand their horizons.
“For a lot of us young black people, we still default to what are the main things we think will bring us success, whether that’s sports or entertainment,” the 30-year-old said.
And yet, he said, as clearly displayed on Saturday, black entrepreneurs can find success by starting their own businesses in a variety of sectors.
The event for him was a strong demonstration that an entire community is behind him and other black entrepreneurs to help them succeed in their ventures.
“This tells us, having these events in our community, that I can have a business right now in 2019 and have a support system that’s going to help boost me up.”
Companies at the event included More Life Brands, a cold-press juice company; Reasonings 4 Seasonings, which sells homemade spices and seasonings; Integral Hygienic Solutions, a cleaning and disinfecting supplies company; and Natural Beauty Designs, which sells rhinestone T-shirts and handmade jewelry.