GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Along a stretch of businesses on Pass Road, one vacant building is nothing but empty halls and unfurnished rooms, but to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black-Owned Business Network, it brings possibilities.
“I see conferences,” CEO Alexis Williams said. “I see our awards gala. I see a little high glamour fashion show.”
For the past three months, the leaders of the business network have been transforming the building into a co-working space.
“Black entrepreneurship is on the rise and we want to continue that trend,” COO Deidra Parish-Doyle said.
The facility will be called the Mississippi Gulf Coast Village and it will soon open its doors to start-ups, vendors and other professionals who pay a membership fee.
“They’ll be able to utilize this space as it fits their business needs,” Williams said.
While organizers are eager to soon open the unique facility, it will remain closed until key projects can be fixed, such as the water riser. The group hopes crowd-funding through GoFundMe and other websites will raise the $50,000 for the Coast’s first and only Black-owned co-working space.
Right now, funds stand around $7,000 but organizers remain positive about bringing something to South Mississippi that bigger cities already have.
“We get so tired of going to these bigger cities and coming back and talking among ourselves saying ‘Oh my gosh, in Atlanta they have, in New Orleans we do,’ Why cant we?” said Williams.
Members said the village would also bring neighborhood pride to Gulfport.
“If you’re in your community, if you work in your community and you got a business in your community, you’re not going to allow someone else to come in and take over or cause trouble in your area.” Tony McCraven said.
While the goal of the facility is to support local Black owned businesses, it also aims at bringing in more stores and business leaders to the Coast.
“For me when I think about it, I think about giving business owners exposure and a bigger platform,” COO Yolanda Jerry.
The business leaders hope the facility changes South Mississippi, both from an economic and intersectional standpoint.
“You always had the women supporting the men. Now you’re starting to see a lot more men supporting the women in the community,” Jerry said. “They want to see them in the forefront. They don’t want to see the women behind them, they want to see the women beside them.”
Overall, the group hopes to create a better reputation for the region and the state as a whole.
“We have the people here,” Williams said. “We have the resources. We want Mississippi to be what it can be. I’m tired of Mississippi being last.”