Helping Businesses and Communities Thrive: Supporting Black Entrepreneurs Through Storytelling

Dawn Kelly, owner and founder of The Nourish Spot smiles in her restaurant. She is wearing a black sweatshirt. A chalkboard menu is visible behind her.

For Dawn Kelly, building community in Jamaica, Queens, has always been a family affair. Her roots in the New York City neighborhood go back to 1942, when her grandfather purchased a home after returning from World War II. She bought the house from him in 2003, but it wasn’t until 14 years later, when she found herself grappling with personal health issues, that she realized her community lacked access to fresh, healthy food.

With her son Owen and daughter Jade, Dawn opened Nourish Spot, a haven offering healthy salads, smoothies and wraps. It did not take long for Dawn to discover that small entrepreneurs like herself face many challenges to success, and Black Americans in particular have less access to wealth-building resources. As Dawn worked to grow her business, she joined the Wocstar and Ghetto Film School Entrepreneur Academy to learn how to raise capital, attract investors, and tell her story.

“Wocstar provides access to capital funding techniques, while Ghetto Film School supports entrepreneurs in developing branding and marketing campaigns through storytelling,” said Montea Robinson, CEO of Ghetto Film School. “…GFS believes that the artist, entrepreneurs and creators that we support have the inherent talent and ambition to be successful. Our role is to simply support that by providing skills and professional development.”

The Wocstar and Ghetto Film School Entrepreneur Academy was supported by a grant from Walmart through the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, which is focused on eliminating barriers and creating opportunities — including for small business owners like Dawn.

“We have been on this journey with Ghetto Film School and Wocstar for three years now, and it’s been incredible to be in collaboration with them and watch them grow and support organizations across the country,” said Monique Carswell, director, Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity. “The impact of this program can be seen in incredible examples like Dawn and the Nourish Spot.”

Since completing the academy, Dawn has used the knowledge and skills she acquired to grow and strengthen her business. Alongside Jade, who now serves as Nourish Spot’s chef and chief operating officer, Dawn opened a second location with her business partner Angela Lee in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and began selling Nourish Spot’s signature herb salad dressing. Her journey has gained recognition across media and business platforms, and she’s been sharing what she learned to help other small business owners like her succeed.

But as her story inspires entrepreneurs across the nation, Dawn’s heart will always be in Jamaica, Queens. “To be able to establish a business in a neighborhood where my grandfather first laid down roots means everything,” she said.