July 12, 2024

Bullsden BBQ & Catering receives $10,000 pitch competition check from Remix Ideas CEO Benito Lubazibwa (left).

By De’Stani Clark, Arkansas Delta Informer

PINE Bluff, Ark. — June 16, 2024 — A new campaign is underway that envisions a transformed Pine Bluff harkening back to its former glory as the economic powerhouse of the Arkansas Delta and South.

ReMix Ideas, led by Little Rock entrepreneur Benito Lubazibwa, held its second “1899 Project” networking event and pitch competition on Friday, June 14, at The Artspace on Main in downtown Pine Bluff. The event also featured the soft opening of the Pine Bluff Black Chamber of Commerce (PBBCC). The PBBCC’s mission is to serve as an advocate for the creation and growth of competitive, profitable, scalable and sustainable Black-owned entities in Pine Bluff.

ReMix Ideas sponsored the festive event with US Bank and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

The 1899 Project draws inspiration from the nation’s case study of Black wealth in the US, completed by sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois in 1899. This landmark research revealed that Pine Bluff had the fourth-highest rate of Black wealth in the US at the turn of the 20th century.

Pine Bluff celebrated the “soft opening” of the new Pine Bluff Black Chamber of Commerce on June 14. Joni Alexander-Robinson will serve as the president and CEO of the Chamber.

“The strategic intent of the 1899 Project is to build a supportive entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black-owned businesses in Pine Bluff and shift the narrative from ‘what’s wrong with Pine Bluff’ to ‘what’s strong about Pine Bluff,’” said Lubazibwa, founder and CEO of ReMix Ideas.

Lubazibwa is also the brainchild of numerous ongoing entrepreneurial projects to boost Black economic participation and power in Arkansas. Those ventures include key partnerships with the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) and two of Arkansas’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Arkansas Baptist and University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Earlier this year, Lubazibwa and ReMix launched a partnership with Arkansas Baptist, which held three restaurant grand openings at the downtown HBCU’s campus. HOME-Vegan Restaurant, The Grind Coffee Bistro, and Chicago Flamin’ Grill are now housed at the Arkansas Baptist Community Union on MLK Drive.

ReMix is also the visionary behind the Rock It! Lab and the annual Black Founders Summit. Rock It! Lab, housed at the former Cox Building at CALS Library Square in downtown Little Rock, is a hub where under-resourced entrepreneurs are given the tools, guidance, and training necessary to start, grow, and scale their businesses.

The Black Founders Summit, founded by ReMix and the Advancing Black Entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic, brings together business owners, public policymakers, senior corporate executives, industry experts, entrepreneurs and other key stakeholders annually to recommend actionable insights and forward-thinking solutions to advance Black entrepreneurship in Arkansas.

In the Arkansas Delta, ReMix Ideas has partnered with Delta Circles in Helana-West Helena to equip Black Farmers in the Delta region with practical tools to grow their businesses and increase access to fresh healthy food in Arkansas.

ReMix also backs one of the few venture funds for Black-owned startups and entrepreneurs. The Imani Fund, developed by ReMix in collaboration with Huntsville, Ark.-based Forge Inc., a local Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), provides a business model-based lending program designed to expand access to capital for Black entrepreneurs.

The fund’s unique underwriting process values the business model’s strength and the founder’s ability to execute over collateral or credit score. The strategic intent of this fund is to disrupt the traditional underwriting approach and increase access to affordable, flexible, patient capital for communities that have been historically excluded from traditional business lending. The fund provides microloans between $5,000 and $25,000.

The winners of the 1899 Project 10K Pitch Competition and People’s Choice Award were:

Smith Barber Institution – $1899

Bullsden BBQ & Catering – $10,000

Pine Bluff 1899 Project Photo Gallery

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