Passing the Flame: Voices United

May 10, 2022 | By Megan North Shuford

"I've gained a family that I did not know that I needed. I have gained a network, which when I gained it, I didn't know how to use it. They have taught me how to use it. They have opened a conversation that I never knew I needed to have."

Dwight Campbell, Co-founder Cajou Creamery

The Black Butterfly Network launched its Pioneer Cohort of Baltimore Black business owners on October 24, 2021. On Sunday, April 24, 2022 a special “Passing the Flame” gathering took place to celebrate the success of this first cohort while welcoming the next generation of inspiring entrepreneurs into their network. The private event took place at LoCAL Kitchen and restaurant in Baltimore and included brunch, a welcome from funders and supporters, and presentations from various cohort members and partners of the Network. Below are some quotes from this powerful day of celebration from Pioneer Cohort Members Dwight Campbell, Melanie Kabia, Cleaveland Smith and Debonette Wyatt. To learn more about the Black Butterfly Network, read The Black Butterfly Network Launches Comprehensive New Platform to Uplift Baltimore Black Businesses by ESHIP Baltimore Local Organizer and Cohado Founder Paulo Gregory.

Banner Photo courtesy of Pammela Brown of Lens on the Move.

 

 

Black Butterfly Celebration

Dwight Campbell

Dwight Campbell

Co-founder Cajou Creamery

Hi, my name is Dwight Campbell. I am co-founder of Cajou Creamery. This has been one of the best experiences I've had in my life short of having my kids and getting married. I've gained a family that I did not know that I needed. I have gained a network, which when I gained it, I didn't know how to use it. They have taught me how to use it. They have opened a conversation that I never knew I needed to have. There are people here in Baltimore that inspired the rest of the country. I have friends on each corner of this country, and they are hearing about what we do. Let's keep going.

Melanie Kabia

Melanie Kabia

Momager Ice Queens

I'm Melanie Kabia and I am the “momager” (Melanie’s term as she is the mom of the owner) of Ice Queens snowball and dessert shop. I fell into that business quite by accident. I have spent about 20 years in human resources and nonprofits. I was working for a small nonprofit supporting children with cancer and their families when the pandemic came along and I got laid off. My daughter Dasia was opening up Ice Queens, the first of what will be many businesses, and I thought “Well, I can help you a little bit more now.” And a little bit more now just turned into our third season!

What got me into the Black Butterfly, honestly, it was really a desperation. Dasia and I were at a point in our season last year, as we were coming to the end of the summer into the fall, and I was looking at the bank account, and looking ahead and thinking, I think we're going to run out of money and I decided to apply for some grants. I opened up my email and the first thing that was there was an email from the Black Butterfly!  

I thought well — BAM — that's how God works. You're like, hey, I need something and here it is. I thought yes, you know, we're going to go learn some business 101 stuff and it's going to be awesome. 

And that was not what it was! 

I came into this thinking that we were going to learn these very practical ways of doing business. What we gained instead was a network of people that lift and support you, encourage you, and relate to you in a way that I could have never expected. The level of which we're able to converse with and support each other has really just been quite amazing. 

Cleveland Smith Melanie Kabia

The very first session we had — I always like to talk about this because I thought it was weird — Paulo had us stand in front of another person in the room closely with our masks on. And he asked us to stare into each other's eyes until we saw the other person. So we all did it and I had a few choice thoughts in my head about the exercise initially, but in that moment I sat across from Kelli from Mova Nature. She began to have a few tears in her eyes and so did I. 

Without any words, we saw each other. 

That is something that has really connected us — so much so that Kelli's niece, who she has taken care of in the passing of her sister, now works for us at Ice Queens! So that's what I mean about how we can support each other. It’s that kind of partnership, relationships, and community. And so I thank all of you, my pioneer cohorts, who are with me. Thank you for giving me something I absolutely love.

Cleveland Smith

Cleaveland Smith

Owner and CEO Perfect Alignment Realty LLC

My name is Cleaveland Smith. Today, I want to just echo what everyone has been saying. The Black Butterfly Network is about a servant attitude. Paulo, that's what you and Jen exemplify. The first day when we met on the block at MAMA D’s place, My Mama’s Vegan, you know, everybody's Mama is going to be vegan when we leave today, because everybody needs to go to her corner and see what she's all about!  — But what got me to be a part of this experience was just the authentic nature in which we were approached (by Paulo and Jen) that day.

Ultimately, I felt so a part of the process in that everyone had a similar approach, or journeys, even if we  may have been coming from different destinations. Our goal was to be a better version of ourselves, to align ourselves with individuals who had similar intentions, who wanted to see you become successful, and were willing to put in the time, the energy, and the resources to come together as a cohesive unit. It was no longer about the individual, but learning that you don't have to go this journey alone. We came into this world individually does not mean that's all we have to approach life every single day. 

We have been becoming a better version of ourselves and we know that the next cohort is coming in and we're going to be there to support you, to push you in a respectful way to let you know you can do this! No longer are you going to be in the back seat thinking that you will not be able to achieve your life-given talents and achievements. But move forward knowing if we can do it, you can also do it. We're here with you to support you, to push you, to inspire you, and to let you know that we are going to be there to build this ecosystem together— to be that unstoppable force and to be the brand ambassadors for this Black Wall Street here in Baltimore!

Debonette

Photo courtesy of Pammela Brown of Lens on the Move

Debonette Wyatt

Founder My Mama’s Vegan

According to Paulo Gregory, Debonnette expressed the feeling that imbues this experience. She said, “The one thing I love about this cohort is the ability to be transparent. Sometimes as a business owner, it feels that you are on an island, all – by – your – self. The world is watching. We need each other, and you need a safe space to be able to tell your story, and for people to be able to hear your story. After five minutes of talking, you realize, ‘Girl, me too!’ It’s okay to be authentic in this safe space so really speak your truth. Not speaking your truth could mean life or death, and we are all about life!”

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