Despite 2020 boom, Black business growth stalled by old problems

In four years, Kaylynn Martin went from popcorn maker to business owner – all before high school graduation.

Martin, and her mother Alesha, incorporated Kakes the Great popcorn company in 2021 as a birthday present for the teenager, now 17. A year later, the business scored a storefront on Saginaw’s main stretch downtown, where Martin could sell signature flavors like Black Girl Magic and Coco Butter.

They pushed plans to open a storefront from the spring to summer as high winter utility costs counterbalanced slow-growing capital. With the help of a community kitchen, they pivoted to wholesale, regaining momentum by catering local events with 80 to 100 bags of popcorn at a time. Those profits paid the rent, water and gas bills but left little cash to accumulate.

“I want to show girls that look like me, and my age, that you can do anything,” Kaylynn said. “Even though there has been a lot of…

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