Virtual Cash Mob supports Cleveland businesses owned by returning citizens

On Thursday, April 29, organizers of Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry’s Reentry Week 2021 held a virtual Cash Mob Interview Tour that aimed to raise $2,500 for formerly incarcerated small business owners.


On Thursday, April 29, organizers of Cuyahoga County Office of Reentry’s Reentry Week 2021 held a virtual Cash Mob Interview Tour that aimed to raise $2,500 for formerly incarcerated small business owners. From 12-2 pm, viewers tuned in to a live “Virtual Interview Tour” on Facebook with several of the local business owners participating in the program. In total, nine businesses owned and operated by returning citizens are being featured.

Lakewood resident Lakiesha “Stoney” Smith’s MyLoudRadio internet radio station is one of the businesses taking part in this year’s Cash Mob. Smith said the event is important because it connects formerly incarcerated business owners to each other while also serving as a sort of pat on the back, helping to illuminate their success stories for others to see.

“There were plenty of corrections officers who told me ‘you will never get a job,’” Smith said. “For the most part, I think, a lot of people, that sticks with them. Because it stuck with me when I first got out. I was like, ‘Are they for real?’ I just couldn’t accept it.”

Heavenly Delicious Heart and Soul Cuisine founder Holly Davenport said the April 26-29 awareness week shows that business owners like herself and Smith are beginning to carve out a niche in Greater Cleveland. “They’re giving you the confidence that you need to feel you’re doing something big,” she said.

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And Davenport is doing something big, along with the owners of Comma Clothing, Glambella Studios and other businesses being highlighted, according to Cleveland Neighborhood Progress Director of Economic Opportunity Sheri Dozier. Dozier’s organization has partnered with the Cuyahoga reentry office and the Economic and Community Development Institute to put on the advocacy event.

“[Our participants] are taking ownership of asset building and wealth creation and generational wealth opportunities themselves, but still know that there are barriers… [especially around] access to capital that smaller businesses and minorities in particular face,” Dozier said.

Sherry Dozier of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

Sherry Dozier of Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

Organizations like Jumpstart, the Greater Cleveland Partnership’s Business Growth Collaborative and the Hispanic Business Center have all contributed to the effort. Dozier added that having access to new resources will hopefully make this year’s event more successful than last year’s, which was diminished by COVID-19 and the lack of federal assistance.

Smith said her radio station also works as a platform for advocacy about the prison system and her experience reentering society after six months in 2013. “When I got out, I tried to go to a bunch of agencies that they directed me to to help get a job, and every agency I went to sort of put me on a waiting list,” she said. “And after being on so many waiting lists, I felt like I was going to go back to what I did to get money that got me sent to prison in the first place.”

She found her calling after appearing on a friend’s radio program, launching MyLoudRadio six months after that. From there, the station grew, and now Smith is currently on a four-month hiatus from her 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. show while she’s redoing her office space. The program will return with a MyLoudRadio app on the App Store and Google Play in June, and Smith said she hopes she’ll be able to give other returning citizens a mark to hit.

Davenport, meanwhile, is looking to turn Heavenly Delicious into a social enterprise that will employ young women exiting the prison system. She wants to help prevent others in a similar role from encountering the same hardships she experiences as a single mother.

“I’ve had so many people discourage me and tell me I’m trying to do too much,” she said. “I’m trying to do a lot but I’m trying to start it of in phases. The cash mob and working with CNP and those types of organizations, I learn how to do things in phases.”

Beyond April 29, Dozier said her organization will continue to leverage the grants, scholarships and other resources available to them to help Cleveland’s business owners who have reentered society but still struggle with the lasting ramifications of incarceration.

“We know there are barriers that they face and barriers that some have overcome,” she explained. “We want to acknowledge the success that some have been able to achieve and not just the barriers that have been isolating to many. We want to be able to show both sides of the coin.”

Collin Cunningham is a freelance writer based in Tremont.

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