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  1. Tampa

Black Business Tour readies to roll on Saturday

Candy Lowe, a former tea shop business owner, formed nonprofit organization: the Black Business Bus Tour in 2006 to raise awareness for black business owners, and spur economic development and continued business for black owners within the Tampa Bay area. The bus tour takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (Sept 22) and departs from the NFL Yet Center. Special to the Times | Black Business Bus Tour

The Black Business Bus Tour (BBBT), a non-profit organization that focuses on showcasing and supporting various black-owned businesses throughout Tampa, returns from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (Sept 22), departing from the NFL Yet Center, 3310 E Lake Ave.

Candy Lowe, a former tea shop business owner, formed BBBT in 2006 and has since hosted multiple bus tours a year throughout Tampa to raise awareness of the black business in various communities, and to spur economic development and continued business for current and future black owners.

She says when she first started, she had to seek businesses to participate in the bus tour and had only two buses. Now businesses ask them how to join and become involved, and they have five buses that each visit four different businesses for a total of 20 participating businesses such as African Extravaganza in the Tampa Park Plaza, Belmont Clothier store on Gandy Boulevard, B&O Beauty Supply store, a Wingstop location and more.

"The awareness has grown tremendously," Lowe said. "Social media is bringing any and everything alive. It has been our strong point."

Lowe uses Facebook to share live posts and customers often shout out their findings from the Black Business Tour on social media such as African fashion they bought from African Extravaganza, or Karen Skyers, a State House representative candidate who flaunted her necklace she bought on the tour.

The tour gives small black businesses an inexpensive way to promote their business and those businesses that have participated on that day have reported an increase in sales by 100 percent, and some of those businesses have since expanded in larger locations.

Lowe states that although the tour supports black businesses, it is not only for black people and has brought people together. She noticed a growth in the diversity on the last tour in April.

"Everyone is having a great time, the camaraderie is unbelievable and it bridges the gap," she said. "On that day we're just one."

Seats for the bus tour cost $5 and BBBT T-shirts and tanks are available. Staging for the tour starts at 8 a.m. and afterwards there will be a bus rivalry, food trucks, entertainment, all the participating businesses and vendors.

Organizers suggest guests wear comfortable shoes and clothing. For more information call (813) 394-6363 or visit tinyurl.com/y9uyd6uz.

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