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Florida Black Expo returns to Jax Thursday 

Published on February 8, 2023 at 5:18 pm

Faith Bradley was always known as “the girl with the camera.”

In December, after years of photographing her classmates, working on her high school yearbook and snapping portraits in her home studio, she incorporated Vivid Prowess LLC.

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This weekend’s Florida Black Expo in Jacksonville, Bradley believes, will open up her burgeoning business to networking and other opportunities to sell prints and multimedia artwork online.

Saturday’s main event will bring together clothiers, consultants, janitorial companies, candle makers and more. Larger organizations, like Jacksonville-based CSX Corp. and cyber security firm Lannan Technologies, will also have a presence inside TIAA Bank Field.

“I love other Black businesses and seeing people who look like me who are getting into entrepreneurship and are creating whatever it is they want to create: photography, art, makeup, food,” Bradley says. “I love to see us branch out. I know where we came from as a people. Seeing us have these opportunities and going to that road to financial freedom or whatever freedom means within our business or creativity, I love seeing that for us.”

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Faith Bradley launched her photography business Vivid Prowess LLC in December 2022. She will be an exhibitor at the 2023 Florida Black Expo. | Photo courtesy of Faith Bradley

Events begin Thursday at the Ritz Theatre in LaVilla with a supplier-diversity panel discussion hosted by the Jax Chamber’s Lewis and White Business League  — an offshoot of the Chamber that was created in 2020 to provide exposure and opportunities to Black-owned businesses in Jacksonville. Public sector leaders and private sector innovators will share how businesses can access capital and become certified through the Jacksonville Small & Emerging Business program or the Florida Department of Management Services. 

“Presenting at the Florida Black Expo is a great opportunity to share what we have learned working together and provide steps that interested small businesses can take when including large enterprises in their go-to-market strategies,” the Chamber wrote in a statement to Jax Today.

Thursday’s event rounds out with a recognition of 20 Black business leaders under 40.

Friday evening is The Taste of Jacksonville, where attendees can sample dishes conjured by chefs to determine awards like Best Dish and Best Presentation.

A portion of the proceeds from the Taste will be donated to the Shannon Smith McCants Memorial Pharmacy Scholarship. McCants was the chief pharmacist at what is now UF Health Jacksonville when she was shot and killed inside the Shands Hospital pharmacy in November 2006.

Saturday’s exposition will be inside the East Club, West Club and Touchdown Club at TIAA Bank Field. It includes a marketplace, financial empowerment workshops, food and live entertainment. 

It isn’t an event Bradley would have previously attended, despite earning her moniker while a student at what is now known as Charger Academy more than a decade ago.

“For me, attending the event is very special and very important,” Bradley says. “I do want to branch out. I want to face certain fears, grow in my creativity and in my business.”

Organizer Mincy Pollock says his marketing firm, The Pollock Group, moved the Florida Black Expo from the fall to February this year to coincide with Black History Month. 

Hurricanes and the pandemic had been kidney punches to Pollock’s plans, with the most recent expo in October 2021. This year’s timing means the expo will not compete with the Northwest Classic or Edward Waters’ homecoming. 

Mincy Pollock (pictured here in 2022) is the founder of The Pollock Group, the Jacksonville-based marketing company that’s behind the Florida Black Expo. | Claire Heddles, Jacksonville Today

“It was a lesson of resiliency, so we could immediately relate to the exhibitors and the businesses,” Pollock says. “So, one of the things that we decided to do is: How can we make sure that we give folks an experience that when they come, or they’re involved, they leave different, they leave changed or not the way they were?”

This year’s motto: New Day, New Say, New Slay. Emerging from the worst of the pandemic signifies a new day for business. The racial reckoning that transpired after George Floyd was killed in May 2020 fostered discussions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion. To Pollock, “new slay” refers to business opportunities that are out there for those who dream big enough. 

When it started in 2003, the expo was more of a business-to-consumer event. But now it has more of a business-to-business component, says founder Darrin Thomas.

“The caliber of businesses in Jacksonville has changed substantially since 2003,” Thomas says. “You had a lot more mom and pop operations. We have gone through Covid and recessions. Those that were savvy and survived the lean times, it allowed them to lean on their growth levers.”

More than 140,000 Black-owned businesses are operating in the U.S., a 4.6% increase from the 2021 report, according to Census figures released last fall. Combined, they employ more than 1.3 million people, who earn more than $42 billion.

According to the Florida Chamber Foundation, the Sunshine state led the country in the number of Black-owned businesses with employees. In 2020, the most recent year statistics were available, the 15,149 Black-owned businesses in Florida employed 91,668 people.

Pollock says the Florida Black Expo will also have companies looking to hire on site.

Veronica Session-Fennell, like Pollock a native Jaxson, says events like the Florida Black Expo are needed to ensure emerging entrepreneurs and young professionals do not leave the River City for locales like Atlanta and Orlando.

Session-Fennell, a nominee for the 20 Under 40 Awards, self-published her second children’s book, “Bria The Community Builder” , in November. She expects to connect with other authors, illustrators and those who understand marketing. 

This event – during the second weekend of Black History Month – Session-Fennell says, is vital to her hometown.

“We want Jacksonville to remain a diverse city,” Session-Fennell says. “In order for us to stay diverse and welcoming we have to have events like this where we can have fun and fellowship together. If not, our younger diverse people will move somewhere else. We want those people to stay here and thrive here.”

FLORIDA BLACK EXPO SCHEDULE

Thursday: Florida Black Expo Bank of America Billion Dollar Business Hour (5 - 8 p.m., Ritz Theatre)

Friday: Taste of Jacksonville (7 - 11 p.m., TIAA Bank Field, Lot J); General Admission: $75, VIP Admission: $125

Saturday: Florida Black Expo (10 a.m. - 5 p.m., TIAA Bank Field); Admission: Adults $15, Seniors over 60 $10, Children 6-12 $7, Children under 6 receive free admission 

More info and tickets can be found at FloridaBlackExpo.com.


author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.
author image Reporter, Jacksonville Today Will Brown is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. He previously reported for the Jacksonville Business Journal. And before that, he spent more than a decade as a sports reporter at The St. Augustine Record, Victoria (Texas) Advocate and the Tallahassee Democrat. Reach him at will@jaxtoday.org.