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African-American businesswomen spell out challenges to Treasury official

U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo Tuesday (March 8) praised the “creative and innovative” spirit of African-American female entrepreneurs during a luncheon in Memphis on International Women’s History Day.

Engaging with African-American women business owner, Adeyemo lauded the entrepreneurs during what he called a great time to recognize the valuable contributions of Black women.

“It takes strength and lots of creativity to build a business from nothing,” said Adeyemo. “You and women all over this country are carving out a place for yourselves in business. It is an honor to be here with you on International Women’s Day.”

With the Four Way Restaurant as the setting, these business owners were among those who lunched with U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Adewale “Wally” Adeyemo on International Women’s Day. Pictured (l-r): Christina McCarter, owner, City Tasting Box; Jennifer Ransom of the Ransomed Group; Alandas Dobbins, owner, Oteka Technologies; Adeyemo; Patrice Thompson, owner, Four Way Restaurant; Cynthia Daniels, creator of Memphis Black Restaurant Week, and Carmeon Hamilton, owner, Nubi Interiors. (Photo: Dr. Sybil C. Mitchell/The New Tri-State Defender)

Adeyemo asked each woman to talk about their businesses and the challenges faced during the global pandemic and beyond.

“Since women have been included in that small and minority business designation, majority business owners started listing their wives or daughters as the actual business owner,” said Jennifer Ransom, owner of The Ransomed Group construction company. “They are already receiving 98 percent of the contracts. This is terribly unfair.”

Ransom also blasted what she called Memphis’ “good ole boy network,” explaining how difficult a time she is having opening a line of credit through a bank.

“I have either not accepted work or lost large contracts we’ve already committed to because we could not purchase the necessary materials,” said Ransom.

She continued, “We had a very large contract which required the acquisition of $1 million worth of materials. Obviously, I had to open a line of credit, but I couldn’t open one large enough, so we lost the contract.”

Adeyemo promised Ransom and the other women that help was on the way.

“In the next few weeks, $2 trillion will be infused into the economy,” said Adeyemo. “You may go to those institutions and apply for funds. These loans will provide support for your businesses.”

(The funds are being provided through The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which has also been called the COVID-19 Stimulus Package.)

Alandas Dobbins said her company, Oteka Technologies, has faced similar challenges. 

“There really is a good, ole boys’ network,” said Dobbins. “Larger, more lucrative contracts continue to go to the same people. Even with small business set-asides, the contracts are awarded to white women who are listed as owners. 

“No one is monitoring this practice of listing a wife or other female relative as the owner.”

Adeyemo initially came to Memphis to commend Shelby County’s Emergency Rental Assistance program and how it has helped county residents stay in their homes.

The Treasury official said Memphis and Shelby County have worked together to build one of the strongest eviction diversion programs in the country.

“It is our job to make sure families facing eviction are getting real help,” said Dorcas Young Griffin, director of the county’s Division of Community Services. 

“We want to keep families from losing their homes, as well as use these federal dollars as efficiently and as effectively as possible. We appreciate Deputy Secretary Adeyemo for recognizing the hard work of everyone involved.”

Downtown Memphis Commission President Paul Young organized the luncheon as a tribute to International Women’s Day.

“I felt these women have done an outstanding job working to build their businesses,” said Young. 

“I know I head a Downtown entity, but we want to lend support where we can so that these women-owned businesses will not only stay alive, but also thrive and flourish in a very difficult economy. 

“We want all of Memphis to thrive economically. Small businesses need our support.”

March 8 has been International Women’s Day since 1914. The United Nations first recognized International Women’s Day in 1975. 

The month of March was designated National Women’s History Month in 1957 when women from various New York City factories protested poor working conditions.

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