Northland Black Business Showcase returns Saturday

Eighteen vendors will be at the Duluth event from 1:30-4 p.m. at the Washington Center Gym.

Cheesecake & Company owner Ashley Kidd, left, in June. Cheesecake & Company is one of the vendors attending the Northland Black Business Showcase on Saturday in Duluth.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — The Northland Black Business Showcase is returning for a second year in a row this weekend at the Washington Center Gym, 310 N. First Ave. W.

The showcase, sponsored by Men As Peacemakers, will have 18 vendors, plus poetry from Quita Leach, of Duluth. The Entrepreneur Fund, the Duluth branch of the NAACP and the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce will be at the event to network with the business owners and provide resources for business startups and funding.

Kia Ronning started Keeks Kreations in January. “The pandemic hit hard, both financially and mentally. I was looking for an outlet,” she said.

Kia Ronning, who has organized the event both years and owns Keeks Kreations, said there will be something for everyone at the showcase.

"This year we have quite the variety," Ronning said. "Some people do similar things, but it’s such different styles, which is so cool.”

Ronning makes custom art, clothing and decor. There will also be vendors selling soaps, clothing, hair, beauty and hair products, and more. Food will be available from Cheesecake & Company, Howard's Q-ue and K'z Eatz & Treatz. Health Equity Northland will hand out face masks.


Jasmine Styles and her business, Blessing Royal Collection, attended last year's showcase. She said she met many new people and networked with other business owners. She looks forward to doing that again.

It was a flavor explosion on first bite, with a smokey, “hot off the grill” air.

Blessing Royal Collection includes hair extensions and other hair accessories, hairstyling, boutique clothing and eyelashes. Styles said she hopes her business, which she's been building for three years, can help her act as a role model for other young women.

“I started a journey to help people around me and I focus on empowering young girls and women who may need a friend or support system, or someone to trust while adding them with the support system to become their own boss,” Styles said.

Ronning said a great benefit of the event is to bring community awareness to Black-owned businesses in the Northland.

“If she keeps working hard at her craft, she will excel and become a staple here in the Twin Ports.”

“Setting up the event for the second year, I was still on the hunt for more Black businesses and I found so many more,” Ronning said.

Kenny Thompson, who owns FSE (Funniest Shirt Ever) Designs, said he learned a lot from attending last year's showcase, and plans to bring more Black History Month-themed apparel to this year's event. He has been making custom clothing, wall decals, bumper stickers and other products since 2005. He moved to Duluth in 2015 and operates an online-only business that ships custom products around the world.

“I think having an event like this is a good thing to do so people know that we exist in this neck of the woods, so to speak," Thompson said. "I think this lets others, outside just Black people, know that we’re here, too, and we have good products and good services for you.”

Laura Butterbrodt covers health for the Duluth News Tribune. She has a bachelor of arts in journalism from South Dakota State University and has been working as a reporter in Minnesota and South Dakota since 2014.
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