Meet the Collaborators Behind this Workforce Program
Minority-owned businesses unite to revolutionize the small business landscape in Richmond, Virginia
November 9, 2023
Throughout his illustrious career in the culinary arts, renowned Chef Antwon Brinson has prepared specialty dishes for restaurant-goers domestically and abroad. During his 15+ years traveling the world, Brinson also discovered a deeper passion beyond cooking — the art of forging meaningful connections.
Upon moving to Charlottesville, Virginia, Brinson quickly uncovered that this compact city had more than 500 restaurants in a 10-mile radius — a feat typically reserved for major U.S. cities. Brinson says that this led culinary professionals to hop from restaurant to restaurant, focusing on maximizing salary rather than investing in one establishment. At the same time, entrepreneurs often feel overworked, which in turn can diminish the time dedicated to investing in their employees.
Brinson sought to combat this disconnect by launching Culinary Concepts AB, an organization whose mission is to empower people and build community in the kitchen through inclusive workforce training programs. Through collaborative efforts with like-minded organizations, its training programs aim to empower minority-owned and women-owned small businesses in the food and beverage industries. These programs are specifically designed to enhance their technical skills and provide access to invaluable resources within their local communities.
After successfully launching several workforce programs, beginning in Charlottesville and expanding throughout Central Virginia, Brinson joined forces with Capital One and Bridging Virginia and Hatch Kitchen RVA (Hatch) to lead a six-week pilot program for culinary entrepreneurs based in Richmond, Virginia.
“Working alongside an organization like Capital One breaks down so many barriers from a training perspective, and shows small businesses that they have the support needed to take their operation to the next level,” Brinson said. "Food is the intrinsic motivator for all people, and I believe that through working together, we can create an environment that empowers small businesses — in turn leading to scalability and more opportunities for other upcoming culinary professionals."
How Capital One is supporting diverse entrepreneurs in Richmond
Capital One is supporting these Richmond-based entrepreneurs through offering resources such as grant funding and skills-based volunteerism through Capital One’s Pro Bono Growth Consulting program.
“Capital One is committed to nurturing an interconnected business ecosystem in Richmond designed to help small businesses grow, scale and build wealth,” says Matt Briggs, VP of Product at Capital One. “In addition to Capital One funding Culinary Concepts AB’s expansion to Richmond, Capital One associates are giving their time and expertise to help these entrepreneurs uncover additional analytics and deliberately craft their strategy around growth.”
A recent report from the Capital One Insights Center titled Strengthening the Links Between Business Ownership and Minority Wealth Building found that while small businesses in Richmond can generate substantial wealth, community benefits, and independence under the right conditions, business ownership for Black and Hispanic communities does not guarantee wealth growth.
Key factors that often impede success must be addressed for Black and Hispanic businesses to achieve economic parity with their non-Black and Hispanic peers, such as:
- Initial funding and growth funding: For Black and Hispanic business owners, access to capital has a greater impact on their ability to grow wealth, potentially because they have fewer funding alternatives, such as personal wealth or friends and family. Similarly, Black and Hispanic entrepreneurs that receive growth funding for their businesses increase their wealth by nearly 50% more than those who do not.
- Capabilities and expertise: Black and Hispanic businesses in Richmond often find it difficult to access resources generally available to other businesses. These include deep talent pools possessing specific skill sets, well-established markets, and networks that offer revenue growth opportunities and third-party expertise, including consulting and other infrastructure support services.
- A coordinated ecosystem: To achieve wealth generation through growth and longevity, small businesses need an “invisible scaffolding” of mentorship and expertise — often external to the business. Players in the local and virtual small business ecosystem can provide this support through technical assistance, connections to business networks and access to capital and other resources. However, they need sufficient resources to ease navigation, improve coordination and collaborate effectively.
Capital One’s sponsorship of workforce development programs such as Culinary Concepts AB is a key way in which it is leaning into these findings to promote inclusive growth for diverse small businesses in the region.
“For small business owners, knowing how to connect with resources in their community can make or break their growth trajectory,” says Leah Fremouw, President and Chief Executive Officer of Bridging VA. “Initiatives like this collaboration are building a visible path to capacity and capital building tools in the area, which in turn strengthen the infrastructure of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Cultivating a Coordinated Small Business Ecosystem in Richmond
Capital One is proud to support the collaboration of Culinarily Concepts AB, Hatch and Bridging Virginia to empower entrepreneurs as they grow their skills as entrepreneurs.
Hatch offers its members access to a shared commercial kitchen space, private food production suites, co-warehousing and mentorship.
Additionally, entrepreneurs will receive support from Bridging Virginia, a non-profit community development loan fund that provides access to affordable capital and technical assistance for historically marginalized small business owners.
“This partnership is an example of smart collaboration,” says Bernard Harkless, Co-founder of Hatch. “Hatch created the physical space for food and beverage entrepreneurs to make their products, but did not have the soft infrastructure in place. Bringing Bridging Virginia, Capital One and Culinary Concepts to the table reimagined what success could look like for these small businesses. Providing space, access to capital and skills training can greatly reduce the barriers that these small businesses face in their journey to scale.”
Many of Capital One’s efforts to support workforce development in the communities it serves are made possible through the Capital One Impact Initiative — a multi-year commitment that strives to catalyze economic growth in low- and moderate-income communities and close gaps in equity and opportunity.