How a Portland nonprofit is helping minority owned businesses grow

PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) – The Soul District Business Association is lending a hand to entrepreneurs across the city, with the goal of increasing the number of local black-owned business.

The nonprofit is based in Northeast Portland and is primarily focused on expanding local business in this part of the city.

On Monday, the Soul District Business Association held a town hall with Senator Ron Wyden, where he took questions and heard concerns from local business owners.

The Soul District Businesses Assn. received $750,000 in 2022 as part of federal funding both senators Wyden and Jeff Merkley helped secure economic development in Oregon. John Washington, the association’s executive director, says this federal funding has made a world of difference.

“Over the last several years we’ve put out over 200 small black businesses in our district,” said Washington. “And we’ve been fortunate to push out some of our agendas in the last year in our fundraising efforts to get the ears of some significant people in politics.”

The Soul District Business Assn. has been in the community since the 1970s and provides guidance and financial assistance to local entrepreneurs who want to start and grow their businesses.

“Technical assistance, things such as helping them file their taxes, being able to go out and show them how to establish a business structure, all the foundational stuff,” said Washington.

Santaj Jacque opened her own salon in Northeast Portland, All Things Beauty, about a year ago, after working as a stylist for nearly 2 decades. She also has her own hair product line. Jacque says the Soul District Business Association is a major part of her, and others’ success stories.

“It’s so needed as a black woman entrepreneur, let alone just as a black entrepreneur,” said Jacque. “We need all the help that we can get, so I really love being a part of it.”

Other future business owners receiving assistance from the Soul District Business Association say they plan to pay it forward once they open their doors.

“Our space, as Soul District has done for us, we can then help a lot of other people become successful in their business,” said Roderick Edwards, co-founder, and owner of Café United. “Our café can be somewhat of a networking place for people.”