Personality: Darrick Hanks-Harris
Spotlight on founder of The Black Village of RVA
7/22/2021, 6 p.m.
In early December, Darrick Hanks-Harris began a new initiative to aid Black-owned businesses struggling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Seven months later, what started with eight local vendors has expanded into helping more than 200 businesses—and Mr. Hanks-Harris says it will only get bigger from here.
The Richmond native and Lynchburg resident is the founder of The Black Village of RVA, an organization centering on Black businesses and establishing connections with the wider Richmond community by organizing and hosting pop-up events where business owners can feature their wares.
The goal: To ensure not just the sustainability of these businesses, but their growth and the uplifting of Richmond’s African-American community as a whole.
“Small businesses require in-person customer reach, and this was a way to help with ensuring business growth in our community,” Mr. Hanks-Harris says. “We want business owners to know what it takes to turn their hobbies, interests and passions into companies with equitable resources for them and their families.”
The BVRVA got its start after Mr. Hanks-Harris took a trip to the RVA Black Farmers Market last October. Inspired by the sights of networking and solidarity, he hosted his first pop-up event a few months later at The Well Art Gallery in South Side and officially launched The BVRVA in January.
As founder, Mr. Hanks-Harris organizes and oversees the various pop-up events The BVRVA hosts. The scores of vendors participating offer a range of wares, from cosmetics, soaps, apparel and teas to stained glass, art and jewelry. Food trucks run by Black vendors also are present.
The BVRVA’s recent Juneteenth event brought together 125 vendors, with the lowest earner generating $600 in revenue from the pop-up. Additional events are in the planning stage, including a Black Girl Magic Festival for women entrepreneurs in August, followed by a two-day conference in September.
While the kind of aid The BVRVA provides is a great help for any small business, it’s especially important for Black-owned businesses that face documented difficulty in getting the loans, grants and related resources necessary to weather turbulent times like these, Mr. Hanks-Harris says.
“Systemic problems impact the Black community the most,” says Mr. Hanks-Harris. “Having a Black market helps create our own resources. The opportunity for networking within itself is one of the big- gest assets of having a Black market.”
In addition, the organization has been sourcing donations for college scholarships, which will be awarded later this year. And while The BVRVA doesn’t yet have a physical location, Mr. Hanks-Harris is looking to purchase a property that would allow them to establish a new place for African-Americans to purchase goods and a means to better the community’s financial security.
Mr. Hanks-Harris is excited to see where this new venture takes him.
“Stay tuned with The Black Village of RVA,” Mr. Hanks-Harris says. “We are coming to display Black excellence in every form possible.”
Meet an advocate for Black businesses and this week’s Personality, Darrick Hanks-Harris:
No. 1 volunteer position: Founder, The Black Village of RVA.
Date and place of birth: Feb. 26 in Richmond.
Where I live now: Lynchburg.
Education: High school diploma and some college.
Occupation: Entrepreneur and owner of It’s Mr. Baker, a Hull Street bakery.
Family: I am the youngest of five children. I have one sister and three brothers. I am an uncle to three nieces and one nephew.
The Black Village of RVA’s mission: To be the center for growth within our local Black community. We hope to provide equitable resources that help others to stay connected with Black-owned businesses, organizations, projects and platforms. Most importantly, we aspire to assist in circulating our money within our community to provide new opportunities for people who look like us and to beat all odds.
When and why founded: Dec. 5, 2020. The BVRVA was founded to help other businesses increase exposure to local customers who may have been struggling through the pandemic. Small businesses require in-person customer reach, and this was a way to help with ensuring business growth in our community.
The Black Village of RVA’s goals for Black businesses: To help Black entrepreneurs access resources that ensure the growth of their business. We want business owners to know what it takes to turn their hobbies, interests and passions into companies with equitable resources for them and their families.
How The BVRVA is making a difference: Not only do we provide a space for business to increase sales, customer reach and marketing skills, we also are in the community providing resources to those in need. So far, we have helped individuals receive jobs and we hosted a fundraiser for a local recovery home. We have many more plans for the future. One social impact project we are working on currently is our three scholarship funds that will go to local incoming college freshmen during the 2022 school year who aspire to be an entrepreneur.
Why it’s important to have a market of local Black vendors: Systemic problems impact the Black community the most. Studies have shown that it is more difficult for Black business owners to receive loans, grants and other resources that help with the expansion of their businesses. Having a Black market helps create our own resources. The opportunity for networking within itself is one of the biggest assets of having a Black market.
Where The Black Village of RVA is located: We do not have a physical location yet. However we service businesses all over Virginia including the DMV and 757 areas.
Dates and time for upcoming events:
• Sunday, July 25, Summer Fest Pop Up Shop, noon to 5 p.m., at Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave.
• Saturday, Aug. 7, The Black Village Market Square, Night Edi- tion, 4 to 8 p.m., 1308 Hull St.
• Sunday, Aug. 15, Black Girl Magic Festival, noon to 6 p.m., at Diversity Richmond, 1407 Sherwood Ave.
• Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 17-18, Black Girl Magic Business Conference, at the Richmond Marriott in Downtown, featuring a day of female entrepreneurs teaching what you need to know to start and grow your business.
• Friday, Dec. 10, The Black Village of RVA Inaugural Gala, at the Richmond Marriott in Downtown.
How to become a vendor: Visit theblackvillageofrva.com to purchase your spot and register to be a vendor.
How many vendors initially and now: In December, we started with eight vendors and we now have more than 200 vendors that have participated in our events.
Is the pandemic still requiring vendors and patrons to follow any guidelines: Yes, we require all non-vaccinated vendors and guests to wear a mask.
It is important to be intentional about spending in the Black community because: It allows the Black community to have higher money circulation, and for businesses to stay open. We have high economic power, but it is often not circulated in our community. We are helping other people become richer, while our tax brackets remain the same and or increase at a significantly lower rate.
The Black Village of RVA is more than an event: It is a community resource.
How I start the day: Giving thanks to God for waking me up in my right mind. It’s easy to forget that being able to be here and present is a blessing that we should not take for granted.
Three words that best describe me: Funny, charismatic and visionary.
Best late-night snack: It’s Mr. Baker cheesecake.
How I unwind: Listening to gospel music
What I have learned about myself during the pandemic: I have a lot of great ideas and care/love for the Black community that I want to and can bring to life.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: Going to the gym.
Quote that I am most inspired by: “You have not, cause you ask not, and I am asking in this season.”
At the top of my “to-do” list: Finish the work I started yesterday and think of a way to make it better.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Living a balanced life and remaining authentic in everything I do.
Person who influenced me the most: My aunt was 55 when she passed and I learned how to bake watching her as a child. When she passed, I wanted to do everything she did in her short lifetime and more.
Book that influenced me the most: “The E Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It” by Michael E. Gerber.
What I’m reading now: “The Five Levels of Leadership” by John C. Maxwell.
Next goal: Stay tuned with The Black Village of RVA. We are coming to display Black excellence in every form possible.