By Marielle Mohs

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the Minnesota State Fair was canceled, a group of Black business owners came up with a way to help keep each other afloat.

Starting Sunday, there is a weeklong Black Entrepreneur State Fair in Father Hennepin Bluff Park along St. Anthony Main in Minneapolis’s Marcy-Holmes neighborhood.

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This is the first chance Tiana Word has interacted with her customers since she started her business Herbs and Beauty LLC.

“We started this business in March of 2020, right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Word said.

Which is why something like this is important for her business to thrive.

“I’ve here for about an hour and half, two hours, and I’ve made $300,” Word said.

The fair is a place for Black-owned businesses to sell their products, who either typically set up at the Minnesota State Fair, or have been hit hard by the loss of business from the pandemic.

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Jamila Toussaint started her business Goddess Waist Beads right before the pandemic began.

“To have this here in Minneapolis, you know, where there’s, you know, smaller Black population, it’s just amazing, it’s very empowering,” Toussaint said.

Fifty vendors are participating over this seven-day event, which is organized by Destinee Shelby.

“The whole summer has just been chaos, it’s been trauma, it’s been a lot. So I wanted something for the Black community to say, ‘Hey, this is our space to heal, to network, to build our businesses,’” Shelby said.

She partnered with Todd Gramenz with Black Lives Matter St. Paul.

“Even though this city is the one that George Floyd had fallen victim to police brutality in, it’s still a city that can be repaired. It’s like the revitalization,” Gramenz said.

It’s a free event, but you have to register online ahead of time in order for them to control the amount of people inside the park at a time for safety reasons.

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This event is everyday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. until Saturday, Aug. 29. On Sunday, Aug. 30, the event will transform into a kids zone and there will be free school supply drive. Any student of any age can come and pick up school supplies for free.

Marielle Mohs