In Baltimore, a new program is paving the way for entrepreneurs to attract and uplift Black-owned retail businesses in Downtown Baltimore neighborhoods. With support from Downtown Partnership of Baltimore’s (DPOB) Black-Owned & Occupied Storefront Tenancy Program (BOOST) program, led by Shelonda Stokes, president of DPOB. The first of its kind, BOOST’s purpose is to strengthen and revitalize the Central Business District of Baltimore by supporting small, creative Black-owned retail businesses and arm them with expert resources to set them up for success.

The selection process is simple. An Advisory Committee composed of local stakeholders chooses the top five applications submitted by the budding businesses. From there, each applicant will pitch the stakeholders and based on strength of concept and vision, uniqueness for Baltimore, community impact and financial performances, winners are finalized. Then, they get to work. 

The five selected Black-owned businesses will be provided up to $50,000 in grant funding for capital and operating expenses to bring dreams into reality. Next, the program connects the businesses to a robust cohort of experts for technical, legal, accounting and marketing advice to set them up for success. In addition to mentorship, businesses selected for BOOST will open a physical retail location at one of several available downtown storefronts to fill retail space vacancies in Downtown Baltimore – which have increased since the onset of COVID-19. 

2021 BOOST Advisory board and recipients. Image: courtesy of BOOST.

The latest cohort of Businesses selected as 2021 BOOST recipients include: The Black Genius Art ShowNKVSKINCodetta Bake ShopElite Secrets BridalMedia Rhythm Institute. Recipient Nikia K. Vaughan, owner of NKVSKIN developed a line of products she formulated and launched her brick-and-mortar spa in Downtown Baltimore. Vaughan’s storefront – which just opened June 1 – fulfills the mission of her brand: to provide excellent skin care services and products, while giving back to the community.

BOOST is presnted by Fearless, the $40 million Black-owned technology company located in Downtown Baltimore. Founder and CEO, Delali Dzirasa, has long been committed to helping Black entrepreneurs explaining, “We have an opportunity to shift the narrative and create a culture that values Black businesses,” Dzirasa said. “BOOST provides capital and business tools to begin to overcome the systemic and structurally racist policies that have prevented Black people from building generational wealth for decades.” 

For more information about BOOST, visit