VA Black Business Directory to host inaugural expo in October

FREDERICKSBURG, VA – The founders of the Virginia Black Business Directory and Fredericksburg Black Restaurant Week discovered an untapped market for their services. They hope to build on their success in 2020 by hosting the inaugural Virginia Black Business Directory Expo in Stafford County on October 17.

Organizers, Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall, want the expo to serve as a place for black business owners to promote their services and products and for attendees to learn about many black-owned businesses in the state. They plan to leverage the hundreds of businesses listed in their nonprofit Virginia Black Business Directory to attract business owners to the expo on Saturday, October 17, which runs from 1 to 5 p.m.

In January, the Halls launched the Virginia Black Business Directory, an online platform that lists black-owned businesses in Virginia and the Washington, DC area. Earlier this month, their business directory, with more than 400 businesses listed, proved helpful in attracting restaurants and stores to Fredericksburg’s inaugural Black Restaurant Week, which ran from 1 to September 7.

Locals visited black-owned restaurants and stores in the city of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania and Stafford counties in large numbers. The event culminated in a food truck festival in Stafford on September 6 which attracted over 1,000 people. Of the. Joshua Cole, who represents Fredericksburg and parts of Stafford County in the Virginia House of Delegates, helped organize the food truck festival.

Fredericksburg Black Restaurant Week was organized in part in response to the lack of culinary diversity at the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce’s “Taste of the Region,” according to Ernisha Hall. The Chamber of Commerce described Taste of the Region, which ran from August 3-31, as a way to support “locally run or owned businesses”.

“If you hear something called Taste of the Region, you expect it to be representative of the whole region,” Hall said. “If you look at the area covered by the Chamber, it was not representative of different cultures.”

In hosting Fredericksburg Black Restaurant Week, Ernisha and Tracey Hall — who also own and operate Niray LLC, a website, graphic design, and branding firm in Fredericksburg — viewed their efforts as a missed opportunity by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“There was no black representation at Taste of the Region. There were no people of color,” Ernisha Hall said. “When I looked at the list, they were all House members. That means the House needs more diversity.”

The Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this article’s publication.

For the first Virginia Black Business Directory Expo, a location outside of Stafford was selected, but Hall said they were still awaiting final approval. The exhibition will be a socially respectful distancing event. 6 foot tables, table linens and chairs will be provided to each vendor. Sellers can apply online to participate in the exhibition.

Attendance at the expo is free, although community members are urged to book their free tickets on Eventbrite so that organizers can anticipate the number of attendees.

Food trucks will also be at the expo for attendees to enjoy the food while networking with vendors and other attendees.

“This event is a wonderfully affordable and effective way to market your business,” the show’s website says. “We are looking for vendors willing to showcase their brand, while networking and building positive relationships.”

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