5 merchants share lessons they’ve learned as we celebrate Black Business Month

Editorial Team

5 min read
clover merchants featured for black business month

This August marks the 18th anniversary of National Black Business Month, offering a chance to shine a light on the more than three million Black-owned businesses in the U.S. Black business ownership is on the rise–and Clover is pleased to share in supporting their success.

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In celebration of Black Business Month, Clover is sharing this guide that outlines resources Black business owners may find useful. We’re also spotlighting five Black-owned businesses that demonstrate excellence in business and in doing what it takes to make their businesses thrive. 

Take a look at the lessons these merchants have shared.

O’Shun’s Orchard 

Kemi Pavlocak, owner of O’Shun’s Orchard in Rachita, California, knows a thing or two about pushing past hardships. Last year, the business that she and her husband built burned down. In the face of that devastation, Pavlocak found solace in knowing that her community supported her and did all they could to help rebuild her business. 

In our Meet the Merchant interview series, she speaks of the importance of building a community around your business. 

“I think businesses need to get back to community. Times are changing, and it’s important for us to have an ethical stance and do more for the people who provide us with income and revenue,” she shared. 

Thanks to many supporters within their community, Pavlocak and her husband were able to crowdfund online, providing assistance to jumpstart their rebuilding process. 

Rollin’ Smoke BBQ 

Dejuan Smith and Taneesha Thomas own Rollin’ Smoke BBQ, a street vending and mobile catering business based in Conyers, Georgia. Smith began his career as part of a backyard BBQ competition team, competing locally and traveling to different states to develop his craft as a master barbecuer. 

When he teamed up with Thomas, they expanded their business, bringing their delicious BBQ right to their customers. Since then, the duo have curated a backyard BBQ experience for locals in their community, setting up tents and tables alongside their food truck for diners to kick back and unwind. 

As they continue on their quest to find a permanent home for their business, the pair told Clover that no matter where your business takes you, aspiring business owners should always believe in their abilities in order to achieve their goals. 

“Believe in yourself and believe in your craft. Be proud of it, and you will succeed. And people will follow you,” they shared. “Be tenacious, and don’t give up.”

Frozen Rooster

Mimi Leonard, who owns the Frozen Rooster in Leeds, Alabama, opened an eatery specializing in ice cream and chicken wings. Following in her grandfather’s restaurateur footsteps, she nourishes her community with her delicious eats. 

“People still tell me stories about how good his food was and how his establishment impacted the community. I wanted to follow my grandfather’s legacy and stepped out on faith,” Leeds told Clover in her Meet the Merchant feature

Like many businesses, Leeds had to temporarily close up shop in response to the pandemic. But, unlike some businesses, she was able to safely reopen the Frozen Rooster and continue operating thanks to the support of her community. 

Through that experience, she learned the importance of staying on top of your business’ fiscal needs, even when unexpected hurdles impact business operations. 

To aspiring business owners, she advises to “try to put aside whatever [money] you can. I’ve really tried to be more fiscally responsible and keep my overhead low as far as payroll and all of those things that I can control.” 

Elite Practitioner

In the wake of losing her father and facing a grueling schedule on the frontlines as a hospital nurse at the start of the pandemic, Emem Obot found a renewed sense of meaning as she built her non-surgical aesthetic practice, Elite Practitioner. Her business specializes in medspa services like Botox and injectables. 

While she appreciates the importance of traditional nursing and still provides a range of privately-contracted nursing services, Obot’s business now enables her to prioritize her own wellbeing and strike a better work-life balance, she told Clover

With Clover’s help, Obot was able to scale her business, thanks to the Back2Business grant for Black and minority-owned small businesses through Fiserv, Clover’s parent company. 

Obot shared that one of the most important lessons she’s learned since starting her business is the power of being informed on everything you need to know about how to operate and maintain your business.

“Do your research and stay the course,” she said. “Honestly, a couple of years ago — really even to this day sometimes — it’ll feel like I have no clue what I’m doing. Unless you know anyone who’s done this before, you likely don’t have guidance and you kind of just have to go for it.”

Aliska’s Amazing Pickles

Aliska Walker of Aliska’s Amazing Pickles in St. Louis, Missouri turned an icebreaker activity for her former first grade students into a business that specializes in “tasty pickles with an attitude.” 

Walker eventually left her teaching job to pursue her passion for pickles full time. Maintaining a commitment to education, she established pop-up pickle workshops at schools and various companies, using her pickles as a team-building workshop. 

Recently, Walker moved to a new location selling pickle confections in the South County Mall food court in St. Louis. Customers can even stop by Aliska’s Amazing Pickles and build their own “personality pickles.”

“It’s a hot commodity because everybody loves pickles, and there is no one market,” Walker shared with Clover

Among several things Walker credits for her success, she says it’s important to have “dependable and reliable equipment to help support your business to make your transactions efficient and effective for the customer.” Further, she encourages aspiring business owners “to have a reliable source of processing the transaction for the customer that makes it convenient and fast for them.”

Glean even more tips from Black business owners across the country in the Clover Meet the Merchant series.