Decide DeKalb’s ‘Generations of Success’ Panel Kicks Off Black Business Month
Decide DeKalb Development Authority proudly kicked off Black Business Month by bringing together a panel of dynamic DeKalb entrepreneurs on August 2, at Hippin’ Hops Brewery. The event, Generations of Success, was centered around bringing together different generations to share their ideas, stories, and advice with one another as well as with those in attendance who may be thinking about starting their own business.
Generations of Success panelists included David Moody, owner of C.D. Moody Construction, Trish Miller, owner of SwemKids/SwemSchool, and Mason Wright, owner of Mason’s Super Dogs.
The impact of Black entrepreneurship in DeKalb County cannot be overstated. Historically, African Americans have struggled to gain financial backing and funding when starting a business. A 2019 study by the Federal Reserve Bank reported the median net worth of white families was $188,200 —7.8 times that of their Black peers which was $24,100. This wealth gap translates to other disparities, including business ownership, which is heavily influenced by individual and family wealth. Black-owned businesses in DeKalb directly contribute to the overall economic prosperity of our region. These businesses, and many more, foster a sense of pride and unity within our diverse population while stimulating innovation, progress, and legacy wealth building.
David Moody discussed how he started out under-capitalized and didn’t know what it took to run a business, but he also felt he couldn’t fail in front of his family. The Morehouse College graduate stressed that patience is important when starting a business and what gets him up in the morning is knowing that he’s making a difference. The panelist with the most business experience under his belt, Moody also spoke about the importance of continuing to move — not just your physical well-being but also for your emotional health. He spoke about his recent hiking trek up Mount Kilimanjaro and how it helped heal a past trauma. C.D. Moody Construction has safely built and delivered more than 200 commercial projects over the last 30 years, including The Atlanta History Center, Maynard Jackson International Terminal, and the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse.
Trish Miller is the Founder and CEO of SwemKids, a non-profit that seeks to give youth the lifesaving skills to be safe in and around the water. With a background in Public Health, Trish wants to remove the barriers that have kept Black people out of the water for generations which has been a factor in unnecessary drownings. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning death rates for Black people are 1.5 times higher than the death rates for White people. The spelling of SwemKids with Swim spelled as S-W-E-M is an ode to Afrikaans, the dialect to change that dynamic. Drowning prevention is personal to Trish as she almost drowned as a teenager and that experience was the catalyst to her current work. Trish said that every time she sees children facing their fears, it confirms the scary decision to leave the CDC and open her own business. She also mentioned that the difference between an entrepreneur who dreams and one who succeeds is action. SwemKids has three locations in DeKalb County.
The youngest entrepreneur, Mason Wright, at 16 years old owns Masons Super Dogs in Lithonia. Mason’s goal is to expand his business (while Mason’s mom’s goal seems to be to reign in all of Mason’s entrepreneurial ideas and keep him focused). Mason discussed the importance of keeping the money circulating within black communities and that he’d like for his business to be a tourist attraction. Mason said he’s excited to see what’s next for youth entrepreneurs and his advice was, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Generations of Success was held at Hippin’ Hops brewery, owned by Clarence Boston, and is Georgia’s first Black-owned brewery. According to the National Black Brewers Association, less than 1% of craft breweries in the U.S. are owned by African Americans. At the close of the evening, Mr. Boston, who clearly wants to ensure he’s leaving a ladder behind him for younger generations to scale up, told Mason Wright that he’d like to collaborate on an initiative that will give Mason control of Hippin’ Hops menu for a day.
What’s unclear for Mason (and for Mason’s mom), is if he will ever get an arm tattoo with an inspirational saying, like David Moody and Trish shared that they have. David’s tattoo reads Turn Trauma Into Triumph and Trish’s tattoo simply states Emancipate Yourself.