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West Michigan woman creates virtual map of minority-owned businesses

Software engineer Jessa Challa created the guide, which breaks down places by location and category. She wants people to consider their options before they shop.

For the past few weeks, GIS Jess has been live online. The interactive map highlights minority-owned businesses in the Grand Rapids area. 

Software engineer Jessa Challa created the virtual business guide, which breaks down places by location and category. She wants people to consider their options before they shop and eat.

"Equity for me is about being intentional about decisions and choices we make," she says.

As co-CEO of her company Mallowfields, this is a personal mission.

"For me, it's important because of my experience as a Black woman in the tech industry but also as a business owner. On top of that, being a woman, there's been obstacles with loans, VC, investment. I have empathy for other minority-owned businesses, especially during this time," Challa says.

Karisa Sprite is one of the owners on the list at Bitter End Coffee House.

"Obviously, this whole year has been one enormous challenge," she says. "I'm sure that I'm not alone in that."

She says this can help both new and experienced business owners get their faces and brands out there.

"I'm grateful for what the sister is doing," Sprite says. "We all know the history of our country and all of the missed opportunities for Black people to have wealth handed down generationally. The intention of spending money and dollars in Black-owned businesses helps lift us up in an important way."

There's just under 200 businesses on her map, and Challa wants to see that continue to grow.

"If we're intentional, we can support local business and minority-owned businesses with our money and our community," she says. 

Challa is partnering with multiple organizations in our community to grow her map, and you can submit a form here for your business to get added to her virtual guide. 

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