What do you want other Black business owners to know about starting or running a business here in the Tri-Cities?

If you build it, the support will come!

[When] The Tri-City Herald interviewed me in 2008, the article highlighted that I was the first African American to open a business in downtown Richland. This really opened my eyes to Tri-Cities business inequality. African Americans have been in Tri-Cities since 1943. Thousands of Black people were recruited here to work for Du Pont to build the Plutonium works, now known as the Hanford site. Black businesses were not in existence nor were Black people allowed to live in Kennewick or Richland. After the work ended, many Blacks left the area. When I opened my business, I didn’t know many African Americans in the community. I did not think that people would find me. I decided that regardless of the demographics or support, I would keep my salon open to provide a safe space for my daughter to receive services.

What I want all People of Color to know is that “Your Business Belongs here.” Your business matters and you will impact the community. Do not hesitate to start and seek help to successfully run your business in Tri-Cities. WOW Tri-Cities is here to help you get started.

How do you deal with adversity in business?

I try to embrace adversity as a chance for opportunity. Adversity is typically caused by unexpected events such as the pandemic. Unfortunately, there is a systemic challenge that faces many entrepreneurs of Color in urban and rural areas of Washington.

Black-owned businesses are twice as likely to be rejected for loans, often receive higher interest rates, and are less likely to receive federal relief aid and technical assistance.

This is an opportunity for us to bridge the gap of the internal adversity that will bring positivity and prosperity to the Black-owned business ecosystems in Tri-Cities and throughout our state.

What does it mean for you to be one of few Black women successfully running a business here in the Tri-Cities?

It's time to increase the percentage of African American and Black-owned businesses in Tri-Cities. Personally, I feel the responsibility to change the narrative. It's time for a shift in the Black-owned business economy.

How did Salon Remedi and WOW Tri-Cities come to be?

In 2008, I closed my business in Georgia and moved to Tri-Cities. Like many African Americans, my husband was recruited here to work as a nuclear engineer at the Hanford site. I was in culture shock. I remember a desire to have a safe space, [a] professional environment for my daughter to get her hair pampered without being watched or questioned about the texture of her hair. I did not want to shampoo her hair in the kitchen sink, or settle for at-home remedies for her.

That’s where the name Salon Remedi was born. I opened Salon Remedi for Women of Color to have a safe place to receive hair services. To date, I’m proud to say that I have a very diverse clientele.

Women of Wisdom (aka WOW Tri-Cities) is a nonprofit organization that educates, engages, and empowers women. We provide resources for the whole family. WOW Tri-Cities is an extension of my community service. [It is] my philanthropy — my way of giving back.

What do you want the world to know about the Washington African American Chamber of Commerce (WAACOC)?

WE EXIST! I want the world to know that small Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in the rural and urban cities of Washington are here and we have a voice. WAACOC has a goal to give entrepreneurs the tools to succeed, the confidence to sustain, advocacy for their voice, and most importantly access to capital funding. Studies have shown how the racial wealth gap and implicit bias have limited access to capital for Black entrepreneurs. WAACOC is committed to building and supporting ecosystems to mitigate institutional barriers and shine a light on up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

In your opinion, do racial tensions affect Black business owners here in the Tri-Cities?

Racial tension is bad for the economy overall. Recent events have highlighted its profound effect. It is an issue across the globe that can feel intensified when you’re less than two percent of the population. I try to keep a positive outlook and embrace people of all ethnicities and unique differences.

What do you want aspiring Black business owners to know about getting started here? What advice would you give them about sustainability and longevity?

Don’t wait for tomorrow, start now! Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities is in collaboration with Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA) and WAACOC, [and] is a trusted ally for you to receive the tools and financial support for your business. The 6-week Own Your Business virtual learning series will begin January 17 and March 14. Contact admin@waacoc.com to enroll. We understand that first generation business owners don’t have the resources; speak the language of business, banking, [and] contracts; or [have the] grant writing skills that it takes to be successful. Our mission is to equip these individuals for business longevity.

You are an extremely loved and admired leader in our community. What do younger Black women need to know about you that could help them in their own purpose?

Thank you for the kind words. We must establish a growth mindset. I’m a firm believer in education. When you have the right information, you can make an educated decision. I graduated with my MBA debt-free from a business that I started in my 20s. I was the first generation to graduate college with a Master’s degree in my family. At that time, I was running off set goals, determined not to be a single mom statistic. It was not until I went through a few hardships that I found myself and my true purpose in life. From those life experiences, I started mentoring young women how to prevent and overcome life obstacles. Your purpose may not show itself immediately. A sense of purpose comes when you look beyond yourself and uplift others.

What’s Next for Chaune’ Fitzgerald?

In 2023, I’m committed to helping move the needle for the underserved and underrepresented in our community. Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities will launch the first zero-emissions electric car-share program in June 2023. We are looking forward to serving communities with limited access to public transportation. I’m looking forward to learning and building stronger relationships with stakeholders. I plan to stay focused and surround myself with diverse, talented, and motivated people.

Chauné Fitzgerald is the owner of Salon Remedi and OYB Consulting, LLC. She is the CEO and Founder of Women of Wisdom Tri-Cities: Family health and wealth resources, and of the Washington African American Chamber of Commerce: Economic development and advocacy.