By Ryan Velez
Losing a job unexpectedly is one of the roughest patches you may go through in a career. Losing a job unexpectedly that you love is even more difficult to work through, but it’s not impossible to move on and reinvent yourself. Black Enterprise tells the story of one woman who managed to avoid the trap of bitterness and carve out a new niche for herself—with food.
Cynthia Daniels lost her job in 2008, which was not only a source of money but a passion of hers— recruiting talented mentors to serve at-risk youth. Despite having a bachelor’s and master’s degree, she had no luck after a year of searching. Finally, she left her Atlanta home for Memphis, and began anew, becoming the president of the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals, helping small businesses gain visibility as a social media manager. Perhaps one of her greatest accomplishments in this new chapter, though, was launching Memphis Black Restaurant Week—an initiative that generated over $80,000 of profits for local businesses in one week.
When asked by Black Enterprise why she chose to start Memphis Black Restaurant Week, Daniels explained, “Memphis is a big food town! It’s the one thing the city rallies around. I met with some of the owners of Black restaurants to get feedback as to how they were doing and what they thought would help them to prosper and grow. The consensus was a lack of support from the Black community and the lack of money to market their restaurants to all of Memphis.” Daniels used her contacts through her career and skills in her new job to put together the idea for the week.
This process included becoming familiar with the neighborhoods in the city, business owners, community leaders, and political influencers, as well as putting together a marketing plan and bringing on volunteers. Part of what she noticed is that Memphis didn’t have the infrastructure to support Black businesses like Atlanta did, and her company is now working to produce several other events, including Top 40 Under 40 Urban Elite Professionals, Level UP Conference, Art & Soul, The Party Life: A New Year’s Eve Celebration and Soulful Food Truck Sunday. Of course, Daniels says there are plenty of things black people can do on an individual basis to improve the community’s business standing.
“We should pursue higher education degrees, obtain vocational educational diplomas (especially in science and technology), increase homeownership, tap into the benefits of entrepreneurship, advocate for financial resources, support black-owned businesses, and improve family stability,” she says.