DECATUR — Andrea Ewing turned a dream into reality over a year ago.
In May 2019, the 49-year-old started her own business called Clowt Accessories and started selling various designs and styles of sunglasses. The process was slow at first, only selling a handful of products every now and again, but the business slowly turned into what it is today, Ewing said.
"I wanted to do something I enjoyed, that I was passionate about," the Decatur resident said. "I like to just get out hands-on, helping people select sunglasses and finding what looks good on them."
Clowt Accessories has gone on to sell more than just sunglasses, with inventory now including purses, handbags and optical frames. A wide selection of the merchandise was on display Saturday in Central Park, one of around two dozen other businesses participating in the first Metro Decatur Black Business Expo.
"I feel like everybody has something to offer, all these businesses have something to offer," Ewing said Saturday.
The Black Business Expo Saturday was organized by the Metro Decatur Black Chamber of Commerce and ran from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event was intended to help black-owned businesses gain more exposure by showing the products and services they offer to the community.
Melverta Wilkins, public relations and events coordinator, said the expo also aimed to give exposure to the Black Chamber of Commerce in recognition of August being National Black Business Month.
Businesses paid $25 to participate if they were Chamber members and $50 if not, which would go toward their future membership payments, Wilkins said. Over 20 were featured Saturday.
"We don't know a lot about the businesses that go on in the African American community, mainly because they don't have the exposure and funds to help build them," Wilkins said. "This allows them to come out and network."
The Chamber was started in 2015 and focuses on promoting entrepreneurship and expanding black-owned businesses. According to Ewing, who tries to attend as many business expos as she can, the exposure brings about opportunities for collaboration with other businesses.
Members of the public could attend the expo free of charge and browse the booths and perhaps learn about new local products and services. Several community and state leaders made appearances in support of the first-time event.
State Sen. Andy Manar even took to Twitter shouting out TKG's Wing Heaven, another business in Central Park on Saturday, as one of his favorite lunch-time stops.
Mikayla Lehman, 26, came to Central Park in the afternoon to support a few business owners she knows personally, one being D-Boe's Chicken & Waffles, and to learn more about other small businesses in the community. As an employee for a small business in the community, Trump Direct, Lehman said she understands the need to support as many locally businesses as possible.
"Especially with the pandemic, small businesses took a big hit and it takes a community like this to build them back up and to keep going," Lehman said.
PHOTOS: First Black Businesses Expo allows exposure for Black-owned businesses in Decatur
Contact Garrett Karsten at (217) 421-6949. Follow him on Twitter: @GarrettKarsten