Black-owned businesses are a minority in the Mississippi Delta, even with a population in some areas that is more than 70% African American. Tim Lampkin wanted to fill this gap and help business owners.
“The majority of the companies I saw were white owned and the math just didn’t add up for me,” Lampkin, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit organization Higher Purpose, told CBS News. “So I thought there was a resource gap.”
Lampkin saw the region’s growing distress and wealth gap widen as he quit a big-city job to return to his home in the Delta. The state has the country’s highest poverty rate at nearly 20%, but in parts of the delta the rate ranges from 30% to 43%.
“The first thing I thought was, ‘How am I going to be part of the solution?’ I never think of things from a deficient mindset. It’s always optimistic,” he said.
Lampkin founded Higher Purpose to provide mentors and connect lenders with black entrepreneurs like Kenesha Lewis who were struggling to get credit.
She used to sell smoothies from her apartment, but now owns Kay’s Kute Fruit in Greenville, Mississippi.
Nursing practitioner Mary Williams saw a need for an emergency room in Clarksdale as the nearest was 45 minutes away. But she said the banks turned her down even though she had seed capital.
“My proposal may be exactly the same as my white colleagues’ proposal, but it doesn’t carry the same weight for the lender,” Williams told CBS News.
Higher Purpose introduced her to a lender who granted her a loan. The clinic has become a lifeline beyond the healthcare system.
“It’s really important for people to see themselves in their community, and that’s a lot bigger than me or Dr. Williams, it’s more about creating a new legacy and a new generation,” Lampkin said.
Lewis is now mentoring young black women.
“I’m mentoring young ladies and knowing they’re watching me … it makes my heart whole because I’m fulfilling my purpose,” she said.