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Event gives vendors affordable access to Essence Fest crowds

Almost 30 local businesses had pop-up tents at Maroon's BLK MKT.

NEW ORLEANS — With a booth at the Essence Marketplace, a small business can get its products in front of thousands of people. 

It will also pay, at a minimum, $2,600.

On the Friday and Saturday of the festival, local vendors had another option. Almost 30 of them set up at Maroon's BLK MKT on Fulton Street in the Central Business District. There, each vendor space costs $250, and tables, table covers, and tents are included.

"We knew that this would give a lot of our small businesses an easy entry point to all the other folks that are going to be here this weekend," said Jawan Brown-Alexander, CEO and President of coworking space Maroon. The company partners with Ashé Cultural Arts Center to host the marketplace every year.

WWL-TV stopped by BLK MKT on Saturday. There was a wide range of products on display, including candles, clothes, and books, and an indoor pop-up shop selling shoes. 

All of the vendors are "disadvantaged businesses," a term used by the federal government to designate "for-profit small business concerns where socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51% interest."

Those individuals may be "African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific and Subcontinent Asian Americans, and women," or belong to other categories decided on a case-by-case basis.

"These are businesses that may have struggled to go into a space that would have charged them more," Brown-Alexander said.

The event also featured panel discussions on a range of topics. Saturday, gubernatorial candidate Dr. Shawn Wilson talked about "Advocacy and Building the Next Generation of Leaders." After that, a panel discussed community wealth building. 

Maroon BLK MKT ended Saturday and will be back during Essence Fest weekend next year.

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