By Vanessa Willis, Staff Writer—
The Black Excellence of Chattanooga Awards honor black individuals and black-owned businesses in the Chattanooga area for excelling in community enrichment, and the 2021 nominations are in.
The BEC Awards are held by Chattanooga Business Elite, an organization composed of businesses, creatives, entrepreneurs, and community leaders. The vision of the Chattanooga Business Elite is to insure that marginalized groups and their accomplishments are recognized for their contributions to their community.
The BEC’s present a variety of small businesses, ranging from lawn care service providers, to comedians, to makeup artists. Since the awards are dedicated to honoring influential members of the Chattanooga community, nominations are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to submit. Although nominations for 2021 are now closed, the public is encouraged to vote to select a winner in each of the categories. The February event will be held virtually due to COVID-19 safety regulations.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration of Advocacy, only 15% of American small businesses are minority-owned despite roughly 24% of the U.S. population being composed of minorities. However, that number grows each year, and by supporting minority entrepreneurs you are helping them pave the way for the entrepreneurs that will come after them. This is what makes an event like the BEC Awards so important to the culture and inclusion of Chattanooga.
Devante Williams is the artistic director of D. Williams Dance Academy, the 2020 winner of the Best Dance Studio category. According to Williams, the best part of winning a BEC award was the support he received from the community.
“Winning the BEC Awards in 2020 was significant for us because it proved that the community is behind us and supports the work we are doing through dance education and performing arts,” Williams said.
Additionally, Williams said attending the awards ceremony presented an opportunity to network with several other small businesses. He recalls the moment that the winner for his category was about to be announced, and he could hear the other attendees rooting for him.
“As the nominees for Best Dance Studio were being called, several people around me, some I knew and many I didn’t, were saying ‘D. Williams Dance Company’ as if we were going to win,” Williams said. “It was then that I knew, whether we win or not, people knew who we were and I was thankful for that.
Demtria Jordan is a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga alumni and the owner of Dee’sign Nail Salon, the winner of last year’s BEC award for Best Nail Tech. Similarly to Williams, Jordan recognizes the significance of the BEC Awards.
“Winning the BEC Award was significant for me because this award recognizes businesses and communities of color who sometimes are not recognized among certain sectors in the world of business,” Jordan said.
Jordan opened her nail salon 14 years ago and has since added a product line of various health and beauty items, completed post-graduate education in Business Leadership, and served as a facilitator and keynote speaker for LAUNCH Chattanooga. Winning a BEC award acknowledges these accomplishments.
“The BEC Awards is a great event to showcase and recognize businesses,” Jordan said. “I am both grateful and thankful to the outpouring of support from my community and fellow business owners.”
You can have a say in 2021’s Black Excellence of Chattanooga Awards by voting beginning November 1st. For more information about D. Williams Dance Academy and Dee’sign Nail Salon, you can visit @dwilliamsdanceacademy and @djordannails or @deesignnailsalon on Instagram.