Meet Black Illinois Makers


In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting some of Illinois’ one-of-a-kind Black-owned businesses to support around the state and the inspiring people that founded them. Each business is a maker in the Illinois Made program that spotlights hidden gems, owned and operated by local craftspeople, that make Illinois such a unique destination to visit.

D'Andre Carter - Soul & Smoke

At Soul & Smoke, Executive Chief D'Andre Carter pours his soul into his food because he believes barbecue is a craft worthy of devotion, time and care. He makes the food his customers want to eat, and the food he loves to cook. Carter's wants customers to let him tend to the comfort food so they can focus on the people sharing it.

He treats barbecue with the reverence it deserves. He is consumed with the details: the meat-to-bone ratio on ribs, the creaminess of the mac and cheese, and the combination of spices in his signature sauce. And as a classically trained chef, he’s primed with the palate and patience to pull those nourishing, heartwarming barbecue flavors from the smoke.

Tucking into a plate piled with barbecue is a messy pleasure. The experience is comforting and complex—not unlike the people sharing in it.

Aria Burnside - Aria's Cookies & Confections LLC, East Alton

Iowa native Aria Burnside is a teenage entrepreneur currently living in Edwardsville, where she's discovered a passion and begun sharing it with the world in earnest. 

After years of struggling in school with peer pressure and reckless behavior, her mother made the tough decision to homeschool her. Shortly after that transition, she discovered baking—prompting her life and career to take on a new trajectory.

Aria is now the Owner and Chief Operating Officer of Aria’s Cookies & Confections LLC in East Alton, where she crafts a unique menu that includes treats like confetti cake cupcakes and a Southern yellow butter cupcake with chocolate buttercream, plus delicious sugar, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip cookies (also offered as a vegan variation!).  

Journey Shannon - Noir d’Ébène Chocolat et Patisserie, Evanston

Journey Shannon of Noir d’Ébène loves to create, build, grow, and share. Chocolate and pastries are her art forms. She’s inspired by transforming the raw ingredients of cacao nibs, flour, eggs, vanilla beans into something so edible and wonderful.

Shannon has been importing cacao beans and making chocolate from scratch — from bean to bar — since 2012. She also believes in sharing knowledge and power, which is why she created Sugar In the Class, an educational program for grade and high school age students. By learning the history of chocolate and how to make chocolate and pastries, students enhance their team building, reading, writing, math and comprehension skills.

Alven Allison and Isis Griffin - CBPB Popcorn Shop, Champaign

When business partners Alven Allison and Isis Griffin opened CBPB Popcorn Shop more than a decade ago, they were filling a void as one of the area’s first locally-owned treat shops. It didn’t take long for them to become a popular community destination. 

Sweet and simple is their motto, and hand-dipped caramel apples are their best seller. Their Champaign location makes it an ideal spot for college sports fans to pick up supplies en route to a tailgate, and their cozy shop and outstanding customer service make regular customers feel like family. They hope to expand in the future with multiple locations in town, including their existing pop-ups at the State Farm Center and Memorial Stadium during games. 

In this Daily Illini article, Griffin reflects on how the business has evolved over the past 13 years in Champaign-Urbana.

Riley Greenwood - Riley’s Vegan Sweets & Eats, Peoria

A Black female trendsetter to watch, Riley Greenwood is making impactful contributions to Peoria's business community as a young, successful entrepreneur. 

Riley wants everyone to know that she caters to everyone – vegan, soy-free, nut-free – whatever their dietary needs. Her space at Riley's Vegan Sweet Treats offers a cupcake and coffee lounge; in the future, she would love to expand her business to provide a vegan quick pick menu to rival national fast-food offerings.

Rick Nesbitt - Vintrendi Wine Company, Park Forest

Currently the winemaker and owner of Vintrendi Wine Company, Rick leverages two decades of sales and marketing experience in the adult beverage, packaging and event industries to run Illinois' first Black-owned and operated winery. 

While working in sales for the area's major liquor distributors, Mr. Nesbitt realized that consumers are often confused when they began to explore the vast world of wine. With the help of other industry friends, he established a company with a select portfolio of great tasting, easy-to-drink and approachable wines.

Harreld Webster - Triple Dipple’s, Chillicothe

Harreld Webster was on a mission to bring mouthwatering cheesecake to the small, central Illinois town of Chillicothe. Since opening Triple Dipple's, he's not only achieved his dream, but he's also received the Business Pioneer Award from the Black Business Alliance. Harreld credits his inspiration to his grandfather who was also an entrepreneur but at a time where that wasn’t common for African Americans. His grandfather inspired him to strive for success even if no one thinks it should be possible. 

Favorite quote: “Work hard, save your money, and treat everyone with respect.” - Harreld’s grandfather

Stephanie Hart - Brown Sugar Bakery, Chicago 

Stephanie Hart has made Chicago a lot sweeter since opening the doors to Brown Sugar Bakery in 2004. Known for her mouthwatering signature caramel cakes, Stephanie created her bakery with the hope of helping resurface good memories, filled with love, for her patrons.

Now a James Beard-nominated baker, it’s important to Stephanie for her small business to be a beacon of hope and happiness in the community, where all walks of life can come enjoy the simple, delicious food from her African American history.

Favorite quote: "If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair." - Shirley Chisholm

Maya-Camille Broussard - Justice of the Pies, Chicago 

Maya-Camille Broussard established Justice of the Pies in honor of her late father, Stephen J. Broussard. Steve, who was a criminal defense attorney with a passion for baking and eating anything made with a crust. Maya created Justice of the Pies to celebrate his love for pies and to honor his belief that everyone deserves an opportunity to reform their lives.

Justice of the Pies considers itself to be a social mission in a culinary art form. Their goal is to positively impact the lives of those who work with them. 

Favorite quote: "It matters not how straight the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." - from her Dad’s favorite poem, Invictus

Jacques Shalo - Kribi Coffee Air Roasters, Forest Park 

Jacques Shalo founded Kribi Coffee Air Roasters with a goal of creating a smooth coffee without the bitter taste that’s typically associated with your average cup of joe. His patented process roasts coffee in small batches with forced hot air that separates the beans from the chaff before burning.

With this unconventional, environmentally-friendly method in mind, it’s no surprise that the African American historical figure that most inspires him is George Washington Carver - an inventor and innovator known for his forward thinking.

Favorite quote: "If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But by all means, keep moving." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Gloria Katusiime - Endiro Coffee, Aurora

Gloria Katusiime is the owner of Endiro Coffeea complete tree-to-cup operation beginning with coffee grown by women-led cooperatives in Uganda. Endiro's profits are dedicated to partnerships with local charities focused on ending child vulnerability in the communities of Uganda.

Gloria’s vision for Endiro Coffee is to be a company that advances justice, peace, liberty and dignity through coffee and its related products, profits, services and spaces.

Erick Williams - Virtue Restaurant, Chicago 

Erick Williams is the owner of Virtue Restaurant - an award-winning Southern American restaurant serving hearty farm-to-table cooking paired with wines and craft cocktails in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood. Erick often describes his passion for cooking in the simplest context: “The search for equality is found through common ground, and sharing a meal is a universal expression of respect and dignity.”

Williams pays homage to notable African American figures such as Langston Hughes, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and civil rights firebrand Ida B. Wells throughout the restaurant’s interior - a space that has been frequented by former President Barack Obama. 

Favorite quote: “If There Is No Struggle, There Is No Progress” - Frederick Douglass

Interested in discovering more Illinois Makers? 

Learn more about the one-of-a-kind creators and artisans doing big things in every region of the state.