Sept. 27, 2021
As a senior marketing manager at the United Center in Chicago, University of Missouri alumnus Derrick Christian spends a lot of time on social media. In summer 2020, he started noticing lists of Black-owned businesses and restaurants circulating on his news feeds: People around the country were looking for ways to support racial justice and shop Black-owned businesses.
Christian, the founder of a motivational accessories line and creator of the #NOIRMIZZOU community, wondered how to take the trend and support Black Mizzou alumni. He partnered with the Mizzou Black Alumni Network and launched a list of more than 115 Black Mizzou alumni-owned businesses. Found online at buyblackmizzou.com, the list reached more than 10,000 people in the first week it was published. One of those people was Annette Kendall, an assistant teaching professor of entrepreneurship in the Trulaske College of Business’s Department of Management.
“I was just scrolling through Instagram one day and saw that Derrick had created this list,” Kendall said. “I just messaged the page and was like, ‘Hey, this is so cool. We should do something to highlight these businesses.’”
As the director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Kendall hoped to showcase diverse business owners, raise awareness for Black Mizzou-alumni-owned companies, engage students with alumni and present a picture of what is possible for students — and she had the resources to help Christian do that.
In April 2021, Christian and Kendall partnered to launch the #BuyBlackMizzou Meetup, a three-week virtual series featuring a marketplace, interactive roundtable discussion and a featured interview with Mizzou Black entrepreneurs. Co-hosted by Christian and a current Trulaske College of Business student, the webinars showcased several Black Mizzou alumni who run their own businesses and tackled topics including diverse representation, removing stigma from the narrative of their industries and celebrating diversity.
After the events, student attendees reported they learned about the extra barriers Black entrepreneurs face and how important it is to have a support network, received insights from each panelists’ path to becoming a business owner, and gained confidence in their own entrepreneurship journey.
“I am from a very small town, and sometimes with that comes the stereotype that I am probably a redneck or uneducated,” said one student attendee. “I learned that I should be excited to get up and show people wrong and embrace where I am from because it makes me who I am.”
Christian and Kendall are planning next steps, which might include hosting virtual office hours where students can get advice from Black alumni entrepreneurs and selling boxes featuring products from some of the Black-owned businesses highlighted at buyblackmizzou.com.
“It’s all with the intention of showcasing diverse business owners and raising awareness for them and inspiring a diverse set of students at Mizzou to say, ‘Look at them. They’re doing this,’” Kendall said.