As a young Black couple, Tawonda Burks and husband Ron experienced a big culture shock when they moved from Chicago to Rochester in the mid-1990s.
While some things have changed over the years and Rochester has become more diverse, many people of color still face the same culture shock moving to Rochester. Where can people of color get a haircut? Find familiar food? Dine in a restaurant without being stared at?
Though Burks has a master’s degree and is currently a doctoral student in educational leadership, her education has not insulated her from being negatively stereotyped. As Burks was completing her capstone project for her master’s degree at St. Mary's University, an acquaintance, unfamiliar with her background, offered her resources to get her GED.
And then there was the time Burks was approached by an elderly woman who frequently walked past the non-profit where Burks worked. The woman asked her when the non-profit started hiring housekeepers. The elderly woman was even more surprised to find out that not only was Burks not a housekeeper, she was a manager.
An entrepreneur from a young age, Tawonda Burks understands first-hand the additional barriers people of color face starting their own businesses.
Burks often sees entrepreneurs of color discouraged after spending the time and money to develop their detailed business plans only to be denied funding due to poor credit.
It’s now her mission to help prospective entrepreneurs navigate the system, develop their business plans, and identify government and other non-profit organizations with resources dedicated to helping fund BIPOC businesses.
To learn more about how Burks responds to racism and stereotyping, why she left but later returned to Rochester, and how she is addressing barriers to entrepreneurship in the BIPOC community, listen to The Other Side of the Table podcast, Season 2, episode #9 Tawonda Burks Part 1.