Neighborhood business incubator helping aspiring minority business owners

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Posted at 6:06 AM, Jan 06, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis neighborhood business incubator has a goal of supporting local aspiring entrepreneurs.

It's helping a group of Indy residents develop the skills they need to start a successful business.

"I've always enjoyed cooking and baking," Wantonia Dyson said.

Dyson says spending time in the kitchen making sweat treats like cinnamon rolls is not only her passion, it's also a time to relax and relieve some stress.

"It just brings such serenity to be in the kitchen," she said.

The stay at home mom started selling Tonia's On A Roll Specialty Desserts at the Binford Farmers Market eight years ago.

"When I left the workforce, I said okay I want to do something to keep me occupied, for myself," Dyson said.

Now, she's hoping to expand her passion into something bigger, but she's not doing it on her own.

In November of 2020, she was chosen to take part in the Northwest Neighborhood Business Incubator.

"We really started this as a response to the question as a congregation, 'what does it mean to become an anti-racist church?'" Nicole Caldwell-Gross, St. Luke's United Methodist Church Pastor of Outreach and Mobilization, said.

The pilot program created by Crooked Creek Northwest Community Development Corporation is a shared mission with St. Luke's.

Pastor Caldwell-Gross says it is not enough to preach about dismantling racism; they want to give their congregation ways to take action.

"When we were wrestling with what that meant after the death of George Floyd, it meant something different than years previous," Caldwell-Gross said. "One of those ways is to dismantle the barriers that keep entrepreneurs of color from building businesses in their neighborhoods."

During the pilot program, Dyson and others received training and resources to help develop a comprehensive business plan and company brand.

"There have been 40 business leaders from our church and community who have been coming alongside these entrepreneurs and offering their decades of experience," Caldwell-Gross said.

One of the church's members is the founder of Arbor Homes, who helped Dyson design a layout for her own commercial kitchen. She plans to call it The Cooking Station.

"Although I started the baking business eight years ago, my direction shifted to realize there was a need in the community for the commercial kitchen," Dyson said. "Especially with the way the pandemic has shifted everyone to be more self-employed."

Dyson hopes The Cooking Station will make an impact on the community by providing a space for future entrepreneurs to build their own businesses.

She is still working on all the logistics of opening the kitchen and has a need for more donations to purchase equipment for the space.

You can donate at St. Luke's United Methodist Church on West 86th Street.

The next business incubator co-hort begins in January. There is still time to apply - click here for more information.