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2022 Awards

$1,000 Special Recognition was Awarded to Four Oklahoma City-based Minority Business Enterprises, or MBEs

2022 OKC Minority Enterprise Development Champion presented to:
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Erica Lucas | Founder, StitchCrew and VEST Her Ventures

 

After reaching partner level at a prominent private equity firm, Erika left her career to launch StitchCrew, an organization connecting women and BIPOC entrepreneurs with the capital, resources and networks they need to launch and scale companies. Since its launch, StitchCrew has partnered with brands like the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Google, BASF, and others to create programming for traditionally overlooked founders. 
 
In 2020, Erika Founded VEST, an organization investing in women-led companies and connecting women professionals to expedite the pipeline of more women in positions of power. She is the Managing Partner of VEST Her Ventures, an early stage Venture Capital Firm investing in women-led companies in the Future of Work and Care Economy. Erika is also the host of the VEST Her Podcast, a show about the barriers women face in the workplace and stories of women building power collectively.

2022 OKC Minority Enterprise Development Distinguished Leader Award presented to:

Florence Jones Kemp and Victoria Kemp | Past and Current CEOs of Florence's Restaurant

Florence Jones-Kemp was born on a rural farm in Boley, Oklahoma. Like most children in those days, she was born at home. Other than the year being 1931 the exact date of her birth is unknown. Her mother recalls it as being March 4th, her father is sure it is March 5th. Her delayed birth certificate list both days. She is the 4th of 5 children born to Elizabeth and Robert H. Jones.


She moved to Oklahoma City in the summer of 1943.


She attended Douglas High School and was a majorette in the school band. She is a proud member of the 1950 graduating class and is Douglas’ oldest living majorette.


She excelled in home economics and appeared to be headed for a career as a tailor and patternmaker. She was such a talented tailor that Florence was regularly recruited to make clothes for her teacher’s children and grandchildren.


Florence earned a reputation early for having a stellar work ethic after her first job for Mr. Gordon who was the owner of the neighborhood hotdog stand. She was 14 years old. Her second job was working at the newsstand on 2nd street next to the Aldridge Theater at age 16. She went on to work for the Butlers at Butlers’ grocery store on Kelly and at age 18 for
Cartwright's drugstore.


In the summer of 1950 after high school graduation Florence made a bold decision. She decided to move to California with her aunt, Carrie Johnson and cousin Mildred Reval, who had returned to Oklahoma City form California for a visit. She had no idea that that decision would set her on a course that she is still following more than 70 years later. Her cousin Mildred and her husband were business owners in Merced, California. The restaurant they owned was a local hot spot. Florence lived with them and learned every aspect of the business still not knowing how it would affect her future.


She returned to Oklahoma City in late fall of 1950 and began a job as an elevator operator at the Black Hotel. She was always a very devoted daughter and in her spare time she would help her mother who had a part time job at Bob's Restaurant on NE 4th Street.


Just a few days after her 20th birthday she opened Florence’s restaurant at 916 NE 4th Street. It had one table. She moved in a larger space next door to the original location and later down the block in a space next door to the Jewel Theater. As the business grew and she needed more space she moved to 905 NE 4th Street in a building owned by Dr. Moon. She would stay there for more than 5 years and establish her business.


During this time in the late 1940s, 50’s and 60’s Deep Duce, NE 2nd Street, 3rd and 4th Street was the heartbeat of the African American community. The almost totally African American community had everything it needed to support itself with services provided by black business owners. There were grocery stores, drug stores, beauty salons, snow cone shops, auto repair services, upholstery services, drive Inns, beauty colleges, gas stations, photography studios, funeral homes, even two movie theaters before Magic Johnson was even a twinkle in his great grandparents’ eye and much more.


But all of that was about to change. In 1953 Oklahoma created an agency called Urban Renewal. Many of the changes we see happening today in Northeast Oklahoma City was planned in the 1950’s including the OU Medical Center Complex and Brick Town. She, like every other business and many residences were forced to relocate.


By this time Florence was not only a hard worker but a shrewd businesswoman. In 1969 she would purchase a plot of land and build a home for her business from the ground up. She went on to give birth to 3 more business’s, a barber shop, a self-serve car wash, and a residential rental property business. While other teenagers received cars for high school graduation, her daughter received a piece of property which gave her control of ¾ of a city block.


As a young girl Florence provided free childcare for children in her neighborhood whose parents could not afford daycare. She has been a March of Dines volunteer, donated food to worthy charities and feed countless strangers and others.


At age 91 she’s still going. The life span of a one location independently owned restaurant is about 10 years. Florence’s Restaurant will celebrate its 70th year in business in April of this year. She has gained not only local but national attention and accolades. Her signature dish has been named one of the top 3 chicken dishes from Diners, Drive In’s and Dives. A retail product line of her Fried Chicken Seasoning, Cornbread Mix, Pancake and Waffle Mix and Barbeque Sauce has been developed. In February of 2022 she became the first person in Oklahoma to be award the national prestigious James Beard Award.

In 2009 Victoria Kemp unexpectedly returned to Oklahoma and equally as unexpectedly went to work for Florence’s. She worked on perfecting and creating recipes. Victoria brought structure to the business and developed a retail product line. She was responsible for revamping the building and the new outdoor patio. In 2013 she took over the leadership of Florence’s and drew the attention of Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. She is currently the CEO of Florence’s Restaurant, writing a book with Bob Burke, serves as a board member for the East End commercial District, active in the Ross Heights Neighborhood Association, served on the Community Safe Grant Committee, and a recipient of the 2022 James Beard Award.

2022 OKC Minority Enterprise Development Innovative Leader Award presented to:

Ana Perla Nuñez | Founder, Vida Bars

An immigrant from Mexico, Ana Nuñez launched Vida Bars, a sustainable haircare brand, from the kitchen of her Oklahoma City home in April 2020. She's on a mission to positively impact women, her community and the environment. Since founding Vida Bars she has
helped thousands of customers across the US, Canada, Mexico and Australia embrace and care for their textured hair. That has led to over 100K plastic bottles from going to landfills. And she's provided hundreds of in kind donations to undeserved c
ommunities like the
unsheltered population and dv survivors of OKC. Ana has also provided economic opportunity to the indigenous artisans who handcraft the packaging for her products and has committed a portion of business profits to an educational fund for DV survivors. Through Vida Bars, Ana is proving that inclusivity, sustainability and community can all come together in a profitable business model.

2022 OKC Minority Enterprise Development Selfless Leader Award presented to:

Suzette Griollot: | Owner and Head Brewer, Equity Brewing Company

Dr. Suzette Grillot is the owner of and head brewer for Equity Brewing Company in Norman, Oklahoma – the first and, so far, only all-women owned and operated craft brewery in the state. She is also the Founder and Executive Director of The Third Space Foundation – a
nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting small community projects as their 501c3 fiscal sponsor. And, she is a professor of international studies at the University of Oklahoma, where she has served in various capacities for 23 years. Suzette’s work as a professor, entrepreneur and advocate demonstrates her love for community, education, activism and craft beer. After decades of traveling the globe to conduct academic research and guide numerous study abroad programs, Suzette now focuses her work on the local community. Whether at the brewery or in the college classroom, she is passionate about creating safe, inclusive and welcoming spaces for people to gather, build community, and develop a sense of belonging, while also exchanging ideas, learning, unlearning and enjoying a great beverage. When not brewing beer, engaging with students on campus, or advocating for much needed social change, Suzette loves to spend time with the most important people and animals in her life, read books and journals of all kinds, play the ukulele, bake anything involving chocolate, and occasionally practice yoga.

2022 OKC Minority Enterprise Development  Charismatic Leader Award presented to:

Thuan “Toon” Nguyen | Owner and CEO of THN Insurance Solutions

Thuan “Toon” Nguyen is the Chief Executive Officer and Owner of THN Insurance Solutions that primarily focuses on taking care of the Asian cultural market for their insurance needs. He is passionate and dedicated to working within that community to direct them with their financial objectives. Professionally he is a member of NAIFA, NAHU, and IIAO. He is a member of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and past member of Oklahoma State Chamber. Thuan has worked in the insurance industry since 2009 but prior to that, you could find him doing research for Oklahoma Medical Research or at Penn State College of Medicine. He has a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Oklahoma and a Masters in Biostatistics and Epidemiology from OU Health Science Center, College of Public Health. Throughout his scientific career he has been published as a co-authored in different scientific journals including Nature. His scientific background includes genome, genetics, gene expression studies, cancer, and autoimmune disease research. However, during the 2008 Economic Challenges, he went on a whim and started in the insurance business.

In 2011, Thuan started his own independent insurance agency and has been growing in his insurance business with focuses on the multicultural market. Thuan served as the President of the Asian District Cultural Association and has a passion for promoting and preserving OKC’s diverse Asian cultures. Nguyen loves to service his community and is actively involved in multiple non-profit organizations around Oklahoma City. He is a recent graduate of Leadership Oklahoma City’s Class XXXVIII (Best class ever!!!) and Oklahoma Arts Council Leadership Arts Class VI. He was appointed by Mayor Holt as an Urban Design Commissioner December of 2018 and actively serving this role, also currently serves on the Human Rights Task Force, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister’s Equity Advisory TaskForce, and the Oklahoma County Health Department Steering Committee on Health Equity, current on board of directors for the Asian Health Coalition, and Treasurer for the Oklahoma Health Equity Network. He was one of the founders of the Asian Chamber of Oklahoma and the Asian District Cultural Association. He has been an instrumental player in bringing the Asian Night Market Festival to OKC and revitalization efforts that has happened with the Asian District of OKC. He was a graduate of the Neighborhood Leaders for Today 2018 program sponsored through Neighborhood Alliance. He was also appointed by Mayor Holt to the MAPS 4 Citizen’s Advisory subcommittee on Connectivity. He serves on EMBARK’s BRT Stakeholder’s Advisory Committee. A new board member of Sister Cities Oklahoma. A panelist on at the Bridge Conference 2021 talking on how to be Stronger Together. Current member of the minority leadership subcommittee for Urban League and Department of Commerce, and Oklahoma County Health Department Diversity, Minority and Equity Advisory Board. In his spare time, he volunteers with the Oklahoma Medical Reserve Corps and has been engaged since beginning of COVID19 testing to the vaccination POD. Thuan has a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and competed in the Junior World Competition ranking third in the world in his weight division in the early 1990s. One of his current hobbies include his love of saltwater aquariums. He loves spending time with family and friends experiencing food of different cultures. His favorite sidekick is his puppy named Tayley Nguyen.

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