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Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation (VSEDC) Honors Black Businesses at Black History Awards Celebration  

By Gloria Zuurveen

Editor-in-Chief

LOS ANGELES-It was an honor on Tuesday, February 12 at 8:30 am  to be among greatness at the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation Black History Awards Celebration at the Foundation Center LA located at 11633 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles CA 90047.

I was among the best in their field of businesses from Mr. Leo, President/CEO of Leo Sullivan Multimedia, Inc., a producer and director of  educational films, training films, and public service films for various educational film companies with national distribution. Mr. Sullivan has managed animation studios across the globe overseeing all phases of production on animated television shows and theatricals for studios in Thailand, Spain, France, Canada, and the United States, to name a few. Having worked in multiple studios such as Warner Brothers, Filmation, New World, Hanna Barbera, Walt Disney Studios, Richard Williams, and more, Mr. Sullivan decided to give back to the community by forming a 501c3 tax exempt organization called Leon Sullivan Multimedia Foundation that offer a hands-on introductory workshop in animation and game development to disadvantaged youth between the ages of 10 and 15.  I was so impressed with his history, Black History, which  also include him being one of the animators of the  original Soul Train, Scooby Doo and Fat Albert Team. Before all of us were introduced to the audience who  were feasting on the fresh made on-the-spot omelets from Watts Coffee House, Owner, Desiree E. Edwards, caterer for the special ceremony. The Foundation Center LA banquet halls allow for independent catering service as well as free parking accommodation for all guests. The parking lot was full. It was full because VSEDC corporation with sponsorship from Boston Private, Watts Coffee House and a passionate, gentle giant of a woman who is the smiling face of   Simply Wholesome on Overhill and Slauson. Ms. Apryl Sims spoke from the heart about her legacy of Black history in Los Angeles as a fourth generation entrepreneur with 42 years of Marketing, sales, and management expertise. Ms. Sims followed in her father’s footsteps as she had the opportunity to have worked with him and for him the last nine years of his life. Her history is the construction of the former Which Stand to the Simply Wholesome we see today. I do recall eating at the Wich Stand with the 20 Grand Club next door where La Louisiana restaurant is today.

It was Ms. Sims family company 333 Construction that physically transformed the Wich  Stand into what is now Simply Wholesome. Entrepreneurship runs in Ms. Sims’ DNA as she is now the proud owner of Specialty Raw Unpasteurized Cold Pressed Juice line called “April’s Life In A Bottle.”

Her creative juices were flowing during the ceremony as she moderated with such truth to power words of encouragement and with great compassion as she made everyone feel right at home with her warmth.

Mr. Ron Turner, with more than 25 years of exceptional experience at both large conglomerated stations and independently owned outlets,  were dressed impeccable as one can see in the picture with this article. The way he handles business at the famous 102.3 KJLH Radio (Taxi Productions) station where he serves as General Sales Manager and leads a team of 13 talented individuals who surpass budget by creating sound solutions that uniquely connect businesses to the station’s listening audiences. It has worked so well that he is a major force on the team that created Southern California’s Largest African American targeted event, The Taste of Soul. Mr. Turner has not come so far in business that he fails to look back. No. Mr. Turner, as an advisory board member of the Mervyn M. Dymally African American Political & Economic Institute, “Black Men Reaching Back”. He is also a active member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

As I mentioned, I was so honored to be in the company of greatness and this Black History Celebration presented by VSEDC is one to mark your calendar for because it’s leader Mr. Joseph Rouzan III, President/CEO has brought a spirit of entrepreneurship to uplift not just Black businesses but all who are in need of help with their decision to become an entrepreneurs and who otherwise would have no voice of economic empowerment.

He has reached out and collaborated with those who will continue the legacy to make its founder, Marva Smith Battle-Bey very proud of his leadership. The audience was also a testament to the great work he is doing at VSEDC along with his committed staff of professionals.

It is the professionalism in helping entrepreneurs rise above the fear stage of going on their own to be independent contractors, getting the necessary licenses, permits, collaboration with the City of Los Angeles and other municipalities to streamline the process to success.

Success is what the intent of VSEDC is all about since it was established in 1979 as Citizen Advisory committee by Mayor Tom Bradley in response to the South LA community’s concern regarding the closing of a Sears Department Store, the organization began operation in 1981.

Success breeds success and that is why in the past four years, VSEDC has served over 1100 clients, launched 126 new businesses, provided 82 small business loans totaling 15.8 million dollars and equally as important, created and retained 677 jobs. That is a history of success and that is why Jeanette Bolden, the owner of the historical 27th street Bakery in Los Angeles, a Family-Owned bakery serving the community since 1956, did not hesitate to accept the award as an honor during the VSEDC Black History Awards Celebration. She has a long history of Black business ownership.

It is deep in her family. I know the 27th Street Bakery sweet potato pie because it is one of my favorites and my daughter feels let down if I don’t get her one when she is in town during the holidays. I pick them up at Ralphs. Ms. Bolden said because of changes in how people shop they have had to change their distribution channels to expand and now they are in many supermarkets and restaurants. Bolden, who was born with asthma, has been the Executive Director and Coordinator of the Jeanette Bolden Asthma and Allergy Track Clinic as well as a former Board Member of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation. A baker and a coach who jumped over obstacles that comes with one being asthmatic and she has made them tools of success. What Ms. Bolden has done with her many years of diligence, hard work and excellence has proven to be award worthy as she has earned elite status as both a coach at her alma mater, UCLA, where from 2014—2017, she served as Women’s Track and Field Head Coach at the University of Central Florida State.

She is a U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association Hall of Famer, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and U.S. Olympic Women’s Head Coach. With a 24-year Collegiate Women’s Track & Field Head Coaching tenure, she has earned three NCAA Team Championships .

It was an awesome occasion and as a recipient, I am truly honored by the works of VSEDC who have been instrumental in the many years of PACE NEWS. We’ve benefited collaboratively as an award-winning newspaper of nearly 25 years. As a native Mississippian and a crusade for justice in the spirit of Ms. Ida B. Wells who then fought against the lynching of Black people, so too I today, continue to fight against injustices and especially, when it comes to Black people in all area and especially Black businesses. So, it in that vain that I received the Black Business Award from VSEDC.

VSEDC’s mission has remained the same which is to continue to make an impact in the small business community in South Los Angeles by providing free entrepreneurial training, technical assistance and access to capital through the VSEDC Business Source Center. Serving the South Region of Los Angeles and providing a suite of no-cost business services that help business start, operate and expand in Los Angeles.

For more information, please call:(323) 789-4515.or email:BEC@VSEDC.org.