Black business owners call NBA All-Star weekend ‘a win’ for Utah’s Black community

Feb 20, 2023, 8:04 PM | Updated: 8:05 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — African American business owners in Utah say this weekend was a win for the Black community, adding that having the NBA in town gave them a big boost in business.

Walking into Peace on Earth, it looks like another coffee shop. But Kandi Tesen sees something different.

“I don’t think that people actually understand what that feels like to walk outside and not see people who look like you,” Tesen said.

She sells her plant-based, vegan baked goods here.

“Being a Black business in a predominantly white state, it has its challenges,” Tesen said.

She started her company — Eats! — because she has food allergies and a major sweet tooth. It’s not the only thing that sets her apart.

“I know there’s been opportunities that people have passed on because of the color of my skin,” Tesen said.

Her brand was put on the global stage, thanks to the NBA.

“I felt seen,” Tesen said.

She participated in the NBA All-Star Pitch competition with other entrepreneurs.

“They did really, really try to highlight those businesses,” Tesen said.

She didn’t win, but she walked away with a boost beyond just dollar signs.

“It really gave us the oomph that we needed to push Eats! to the next level.”

At Miss Essie’s BBQ in Murray, the owners saw a 70% increase in sales over the last week.

“I think we did over $100,000,” said owner Marcus Jones.

Jones said the exposure for his businesses can go far.

“I feel like Black businesses have a bigger platform,” Jones said. “They’ve seen much more widely now. I feel like we’re getting the recognition we deserve.”

His business partner, Deonn Henderson, said it can be hard being a minority business owner in Salt Lake City.

“It’s tough because it’s a small population,” Henderson said.

He said this weekend was a win.

“The NBA is a majority minority-based organization, and so to be able to be a minority and participate in this week the way we did was awesome,” Henderson said.

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Black business owners call NBA All-Star weekend ‘a win’ for Utah’s Black community