The Congressional Black Caucus honored the small business community as the strong anchor for the U.S. economy during the 50th anniversary of National Small Business Week. They also acknowledged that Black entrepreneurs and small business owners had played a significant role in the Black diaspora. The Black community has a long and proud tradition of entrepreneurship. In this cycle, when the COVID pandemic so disproportionally impacted Black businesses, it is cause for celebration to see that Pennsylvania's first Black-owned winery, A Concrete Rose, will open here in Lancaster.
SCORE Mentors Partner for Success
Evita Colon and Solise White leased space in the Spanish American Civic Association's Plaza Centro Commercial Center in the Lancaster City Southeast community with the hope of a summer 2021 opening. The pair reached out to SCORE Lancaster-Lebanon to request a mentor for assistance with their business plan. They were assigned mentors Dave Diffenderffer (now retired after ten years of service to SCORE clients) and Larry Keating.
"Larry and Dave helped us strengthen our business plan. They challenged us by asking difficult questions to help us align our numbers with our strong business narrative. They made suggestions and respected the things we wanted to keep. Solise and Dave spent a lot of time crunching numbers, and I (Evita) worked with Larry on researching the market, legalities, and resources. They also assisted us with the lease negotiations by giving us insight on what to look out for, what questions to ask, and what we needed to request. When we were finished, we were confident in our business plan, and it has made it easier to answer the questions vendors, contractors, grant applications have asked."
- Evita Colon, founder, and co-owner, A Concrete Rose
SCORE mentor Larry Keating continues to work with the couple as needed and is inspired by their commitment and dedication to their dream.
"Solise and Evita have put in the hard work needed to establish a solid foundation for a small business start-up. They are motivated, creative, and constantly curious about the world they are entering. Both are also deeply committed to the idea of contributing to the Southeast community where their new start-up will be located. All of the elements are in place for small business success. It has been an honor to provide them with a measure of guidance."
- Larry Keating, SCORE volunteer mentor
A Vision to Move A Community Forward
A Concrete Rose is the vision of Evita Colon and Solise White, business and life partners, because as Black queer women they personally needed a safe space and welcoming space like this in Lancaster. They recognized that the Black community also needed a space to learn about their rich culture and help them move forward.
The couple has faced many challenges on the road to their dream and pivoted their business model on the path to success. Their original concept was for a Black book store and café similar to those they enjoyed in nearby Philadelphia and Washington D.C. But they soon realized that this model did not wholly reflect their goals.
"Originally, we had intentions to follow their business model and make it a cafe/bookstore; however, it was not something we were both passionate about (Solise doesn't even drink coffee). The overhead costs to focus on something we both weren't passionate about made no sense. We both love wine and have seen various wine and book bars pop up, which was a better business model for us. We learned obtaining a liquor license would be a bigger challenge than we wanted to deal with opening our first brick and mortar. As creatives, we pondered the possibility of making our own wine. When we looked up the process, the fees and evaluated how it would fit in our business model, we were sold. We took our first winemaking class right before the Covid Stay at Home order. When the world shut down, we took the time to study the industry and the winemaking process. We took various online classes on wine from Philadelphia to Napa Valley. We networked online and bought lots of wine. As performing artists, incorporating live entertainment was a no-brainer."
- Evita Colon, founder, and co-owner, A Concrete Rose
Creative Crowdsource Funding
In June of 2020, Evita and Solise began a GoFundMe for A Concrete Rose with a modest goal of $25,000. Through a serendipitous series of circumstances, the pair came to Express's attention during a program they were partnering with GoFundMe called the "Dream Big Project." Much to the couple's surprise and delight, they were featured in a billboard on Times Square and awarded a check.
"In the promotional video released by Express, Colon and White can be seen watching the electronic billboard unfold with a message for them in real-time: 'We want you to keep championing new voices & uniting your community, so here's $10,000.' Then, a previously unseen Express representative makes his way through the small crowd carrying a comically large check, presenting it to the teary couple for the photo finish."
- Kevin Stairiker, LNP Digital Staff, November 25, 2020
As start-up female black entrepreneurs, there are steep barriers to traditional funding for this enterprise's business capital. Evita and Solise have approached this as a challenge and actively seek community support for their project through fundraising efforts. Donations are being gratefully accepted on their GoFundMe account here.
A Rose That Inspired Action
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
- Tupac Shakur
Like the 1999 poem by late rapper Tupak Shakur that inspired Evita Colon and Solise White, their project is about keeping dreams alive for their community. The opening of A Concrete Rose is planned for 910 S. Duke Street sometime this summer. Evita and Solise are using this time to perfect their winemaking, educate themselves on their industry and on the community they will serve. We look forward to raising a glass with them on opening day!