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Berkshire Black Economic Council holds Speed Networking Expo to increase the visibility of Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in the Berkshires

PITTSFIELD — About 15 years ago, Hayford Osafo started Integrity Tax and Accounting Services from his basement after he noticed that people around him needed bookkeeping help.

Now his office on Tyler Street offers accounting and financial services and help for those starting businesses, he told a group of about half a dozen people representing other Berkshire businesses potentially interested in his services.

Osafo was one of many Black business owners at the Berkshire Black Economic Council’s Speed Networking Expo on Saturday at Bousquet Mountain.

group meets in event space for networking

The Berkshire Black Economic Council hosts a Speed Networking Expo at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield on Saturday, aimed to make connections between Black entrepreneurs and local business leaders and nonprofits.

The event aimed to increase the visibility of Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses in the Berkshires, said A.J. Enchill, president and executive director of the Berkshire Black Economic Council.

About 15 Black-owned businesses came on Saturday to present and 89 people registered to network with them, including representatives from colleges, nonprofits, banks and other private-sector industries around the county, Enchill said.

aj enchill holds up finger at podium

AJ Enchill, the president and executive director of the Berkshire Black Economic Council, kicks off the council’s annual Speed Networking Expo on Saturday, held at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield.

Businesses that attended to listen and talk with Black-owned businesses are interested in increasing diversity in their suppliers of products and services, Enchill said.

That’s important for Black entrepreneurs, as it can “stimulate growth for entrepreneurs and expand their network,” he said.

Growing up in Pittsfield, he saw his father Alfred Enchill run Elegant Stitches, which has been open for more than two decades.

Enchill founded the council last year. “I saw the need for Black businesses to advocate for themselves in order to advance local and state policy initiatives,” he said.

man points as woman leans out of food truck window pointing to food samples

D’s Island Food Truck owners Dolvin and Karen Maynard hand out samples of their Caribbean food as groups of attendees travel to different stations of Black-owned businesses during the Berkshire Black Economic Council’s Speed Networking Expo at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield on Saturday.

The council now has an office in Pittsfield and is planning to do technical assistance workshops. “We are a chamber for Black businesses,” he said.

Among other goals, the council aims to increase the number of Black-owned businesses and support them. That effort was on display at the networking event.

Ranisha Grice spoke from behind a table of body oils and spa products for her Pittsfield-based business, Grice Beauty. “Black-owned and proud,” a sign on Grice’s table reads. BRIDGE, Berkshire Resources for Integration of Diverse Groups through Education, spoke to another group nearby.

man talks to group of people in front of expo table

Auric Enchill of Elegant Stitches, introduces his family business to groups of attendees as they travel to different stations of Black-owned businesses during the Berkshire Black Economic Council’s Speed Networking Expo at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield on Saturday.

Damari Taylor, 18, runs Frosted by Marii, a bakery and sweets business based at her home in Great Barrington. She stood behind a table filled with different cupcakes, including strawberry crunch, cookies and cream, and red velvet.

People peppered her with questions about her business.

man talks about business at table outside to group of people

Ludwig Jean-Louis, owner of Cravins Soft Serve & Frozen Yogurt, introduces his business to groups of attendees as they travel to different stations of Black-owned businesses during the Berkshire Black Economic Council’s Speed Networking Expo at Bousquet Mountain in Pittsfield on Saturday.

“You’re a true artist,” a participant complimented her while eyeing the desserts.

“What’s next for your business?” another person asked. “I want to see it put more smiles on people’s faces,” Taylor said.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6272.

Reporter

Greta Jochem, a Report for America Corps member, joined the Eagle in 2021. Previously, she was a reporter at the Daily Hampshire Gazette. She is also a member of the investigations team.

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