Nonprofit aims to fill resource gap for black entrepreneurs in Mississippi

Black-owned businesses are a minority in the Mississippi Delta, even with a population in some areas that is more than 70% African American. Tim Lampkin wanted to close that gap and help business owners.

“The majority of businesses I saw were white-owned and the math just didn’t fit me,” Lampkin, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit Higher Purpose, told CBS News. “So I thought there was a lack of resources.”

Lampkin saw the region increasingly distressed and the wealth gap widen when he left a big-city job to return to his Delta home. The state has the highest poverty rate in the country at almost 20%, but in parts of the delta the rate is 30% to 43%.

“The first thing I thought was, ‘How am I going to be part of the solution?’ I never think about things with a deficit mindset. It’s always optimistic,” he said.

Lampkin started Higher Purpose to provide mentors and connect lenders with black entrepreneurs like Kenesha Lewis, who was struggling to get a loan.

She used to sell smoothies from her apartment, but now owns Kay’s Kute Fruit in Greenville, Mississippi.

Nurse practitioner Mary Williams saw the need for an urgent care center in Clarksdale since the closest was 45 minutes away. But she said banks turned her down even though she had seed money.

“My proposal may be exactly the same as my white counterparts, but it doesn’t carry the same weight to the lender,” Williams told CBS News.

Higher Purpose introduced her to a lender who gave her a loan. The clinic has become a lifeline beyond health care.

“It’s really important for people to see themselves in their community and so it’s much bigger than me or Dr. Williams, it’s more about creating a new legacy and a new generation,” Lampkin said.

Lewis now mentors young black women.

“I mentor young girls and knowing they’re watching me…it makes my heart healthy because I’m walking towards my goal,” she said.

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