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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.

A woman holding a hotdog in front of the Lexington Betty Smokehouse.

Dominique Leach - Lexington Betty Smokehouse


Inspired by fond childhood memories of her grandmother, Betty King of Lexington, Mississippi, who filled the house with flavorful aromas of home-cooked meals, Dominique then took those aromas and applied techniques to launch a successful food truck, Lexington Betty Smoke House. Her expertise and soulful food would earn her a spot on The Food Network’s show CHOPPED and as a judge/contestant on Food Network Canada FIRE MASTERS, recognition as the “Best Barbecue in Chicago” by Good Morning America, as well as a full brick-and-mortar home for Lexington Betty on the South Side of Chicago.

Lexington Betty Smokehouse

Jana Farmer - Ms. Jana's Candy


I started making candy as a dare. My Mom loved peanut brittle. Whenever I'd ask her what she wanted for a special gift she'd say peanut brittle. So one day over 12 years ago I decided I'd make her some. The recipe took some time to perfect... then I got really good at it.

In January of 2018, with three pots and three thermometers, I launched Ms Jana's Candy. Today you can enjoy the exact recipe I used for the Buttery Peanut Brittle I made for my beloved mom—along with many new additions.

Ms. Jana's Candy

D'Andre Carter - Soul & Smoke

Evanston & Avondale

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.

Joseph and LaShanda Lewis - The Irie Cup


The Irie Cup is a family-owned whole leaf teahouse in Huntley, IL. Steeped in the Caribbean traditions, they've curated a collection of premium loose leaf teas and tea accessories to create your own tea oasis. 

The term Irie is a traditional saying that many Jamaicans use in greetings and responses. Irie simply means “everything’s good” or something "good and pleasant" so when you’re drinking from the Irie Cup you’re drinking from The “Good” cup. We are big believers in whole foods and balanced nutrition. We don’t believe that wellness should be complicated and tea is no different. Our Mission is to share high-quality, responsibly sourced teas with our ever-expanding community of tea lovers as well as promote wellness through the use of natural ingredients.

The Irie Cup

Elita Selmon - Einnim Candle Bar + Apothecary

Oak Park

Einnim specialize in beautifully customized soy wax candles, goat milk soap bars, body + hair products, and much, much more. They are dedicated to providing customers with a lasting experience that will keep them coming back for more.

Einnim launched in May of 2020 as a means to help our fellow immunocompromised friends find a way to cope with the uncontrollables of society. Einnim (Minnie spelled backward) was named after a woman who knew what she wanted and knew that she deserved no less-- my Bigma. What better way to celebrate her strength and resilience than by curating products with natural elements for a genuinely organic experience?

Einnim Candle Bar + Apothecary

Aria Burnside - Aria's Cookies & Confections LLC

East Alton

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


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.

Noir d’Ébène Chocolat et Patisserie

Alven Allison and Isis Griffin - CBPB Popcorn Shop


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.

CBPB Popcorn Shop

Riley Greenwood - Riley’s Vegan Sweets & Eats


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.

Vintrendi Wine Company

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.

Kribi Coffee Air Roasters

Harreld Webster - Triple Dipple’s


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.

Gloria Katusiime - Endiro Coffee


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.

Endiro Coffee

A woman smiling holding a cake

Stephanie Hart - Brown Sugar Bakery


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

Brown Sugar Bakery

Maya-Camille Broussard - Justice of the Pies


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. 

Erick Williams - Virtue Restaurant


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

Virtue Restaurant

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.


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