Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon started Atlanta-based Our Village United (OVU) in 2016 to ensure that entrepreneurs, especially those that are sole proprietors, had a community that they could “lean into.” Years after its inception, Michael Jordan and the Jordan Brand have taken note of the burgeoning organization focused on building up and training entrepreneurs to be job creators in the local community. Last month it announced that Our Village United was selected as an inaugural recipient of its Community Grant.
“We received hundreds of applications for Community Grants, and every single one of them was a reminder of the unique impact and powerful personal connections local community efforts can make happen,” said Craig Williams, President of the Jordan Brand, in a press release shared with EBONY.
Having resources, access and a committed community are what Hallmon considers essential to the growth and the trajectory of Black founders. Being able to partner with the Jordan Brand is furthering the OVU mission, allowing the women-led institution to focus on the health of more businesses and their business owners, and provide much-needed mentorship. “Mentorship is one of the most important factors in this program,” Hallmon, 40, insists. “Entrepreneurs need a credible ear and a tangible model to assist them in their growth and development and we work to make mentorship and modeling key factors in our programming.”
With the money, Hallmon, a Mississippi native, says the org plans to expand the services within Our Village United by scaling its ELEVATE program, a 12-week incubator that is tailored to serve the most urgent needs of small businesses by providing resources, tools, mentorship, training, wellness support, and connecting them to thriving community partners. “We also hope to expand our Unstuck program, which provides opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses to present their business challenges to a village of dynamic leaders and trendsetters in their respective fields,” Hallmon adds. In the near future, Our Village United desires to develop its shared professional service model and offer more programming opportunities to businesses beyond the Atlanta area.
Over the years, OVU has supported several entrepreneurs with the opportunity to get into their first retail locations, open their first brick-and-mortar locations, and land partnership deals with national retailers. The Village Marketplace, which opened its doors last November in Atlanta’s Ponce City Market—and was featured in EBONY’s Blocky Party—is a representation of the organization’s mission. “The store typifies that when given access, Black entrepreneurs can accelerate,” says Hallmon. “It’s also proof that there is strength in numbers and when we make the collective commitment to investing in ourselves and our community, we can create efficient economic vehicles that filter back into our communities.”