ST. LOUIS — Our 'A Way Forward' series focuses on the organizations in our area and the impact they are making.
This week, we highlight a non-profit called Habitat for Neighborhood Business.
Since 2006, the organization helps minority entrepreneurs in St. Louis, so owners can start and operate a business in an economically challenged neighborhood. It currently serves 46 minority entrepreneurs. Not one has had to shut their doors due to the pandemic.
It pairs them with funding sources, networking events, education opportunities and continuous outreach. All of its services are free.
Nestled in the Ville neighborhood, Joe Jo's Fish and Chicken cooks up a storm. The restaurant's recipe for success is due to the organization.
"I always knew I wanted to get into the business, it was just a matter of time and opportunity," Owner Byron Hayes said. "They were right there for us with help, we couldn’t have made it through without the assistance."
Habitat for Neighborhood Business also has another important ingredient: Mentorship.
DeMarco Howard with Gobble Stop Smokehouse mentors Joe-Jo's owner Byron Hayes.
"Mentorship is showing love for not just the person you're working with, but love for the community," Howard says. "Sometimes, you can get depressed or you want to quit, but when someone says you keep running, you keep moving that gives you encouragement to thrive on."
Hayes adds, "It's invaluable the amount of information he's given, the advice he's given."
This non-profit aims to drop some inspiration, so more dreams spark, asking for more business owners to apply.
The organization's executive director Linda Jones says, "They are aunts, uncles, parents at home telling their children, minority children, you can be whatever you want to be. These business owners are the example of what they can be. You can do something with your life, you can have a good end, and there is hope and it’s right here in your own community."
The organization is also in need of more mentors.
As far as business owners trying to be apart of the program, there's an application and interview process to qualify.
You can find Habitat for Neighborhood Business online at