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'Rock It! Lab' aims to help minority entrepreneurs in Little Rock

The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and Advancing Black Entrepreneurship cut the ribbon on their new space, the Rock It! Lab that's located downtown.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark — The Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and Advancing Black Entrepreneurship cut the ribbon on their new space, the Rock It! Lab that's located in the Cox Building in Downtown Little Rock.

It's a learning and start-up hub designed to promote entrepreneurship, particularly in under-resourced communities. The space offers mentorship programs, consultations, and low cost assistance to minority business owners. 

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. was in attendance and encouraged people to find entrepreneurs to bring to the new space. 

"We're so grateful to have this Rock It! Lab academy that's focusing on 'how do we bring dollars to our local entrepreneurs that are both Black and brown,'" Scott said. 

Program leaders said the 3-story, 14,000-square-foot space hopes to inspire ideas into reality, giving potential minority business owners collective economic power rooted in fair opportunity. 

Plenty of Little Rock business owners said they wish they had something like Rock It! Lab when they were starting out. 

Devin Marcel is the franchise owner of The Original Hotdog Factory, an Atlanta based business that's having a grand opening of a new shop in Little Rock next month. 

"The construction part of the process has been difficult," Marcel said.

Darian Banks is the CEO of The Lab, a clothing boutique. Her business has been open for three years, but she said she's still learning how to be an entrepreneur. No one showed her the ropes of owning her own business. 

"I literally be like I don't want to do this no more, and it's only because I have so many things I want to do in my business and I know it can't just be me," Banks said.

Mariano Reed is the owner of Upper Cuts Lawn Care. He's been in business for a year and said the learning curve of cultivating his business gave him trouble. 

"Do I need an LLC or can I be a sole proprietorship? Do I need a business bank account? What's an EIN number? So those were some of the tougher things I ran into as I started," Reed said.

Germaine and Letisha Gines are opening up their own food business next month. Germaine was a general manager chef at a local establishment but the pandemic affected worker retention for food businesses. 

After seeing him work essentially by himself for someone else, Letisha encouraged him to continue his passion through his own business. 

They'll be opening up Phonzie's 1 Stop Hog Shop in August. They encourage people to utilize resources like Rock It! Lab.

"What we don't want to do is go into the business not really knowing financially if this will hit us hard. Instead of just going in it head first and not really knowing where you going to land," the couple said.

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