When Tarnisha Cliatt, an exceptional student educator for the Manatee County School District, was downsized from her job in 2011, she also lost her townhouse and car.
Undaunted, Cliatt surveyed the landscape for African-Americans in business and decided she would found a black entrepreneurs club “to network with people who look like us.”
A year later, Cliatt morphed the club into the Manasota Black Chamber of Commerce. Last year, with Cliatt as CEO, the chamber was awarded Chamber of the Year from the National Black Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has grown to 150 members, added corporate partners such as University of South Florida, Sarasota and Manatee counties and the Manatee Sheriff’s Department, and has assembled a set of educational offerings for members.
Cliatt notes that African-Americans often don’t have the same access to generational wealth and funding and networking sources as their white counterparts. She’s brought in government agencies to walk members through the process of bidding for city and county projects. A Young Black Professionals arm is grooming the up-and-coming generation. The annual Youth Chamber Initiative coaches young people in etiquette, banking and interview skills and credit maintenance. The chamber has become the one-stop shop Cliatt envisioned.
Cliatt believes that her work with the chamber was “birthed in my DNA.” Both her grandmothers were strong role models. And her great-great-grandmother, Adeline Jones, was born a slave, became a midwife and owned real estate in the 1800s in Manatee County.
“I feel her blood deep inside my bones,” says Cliatt. “I hope I’ve done her credit.”
Come celebrate present and past Unity Award winners with us at a luncheon on February 8 at Michael’s On East. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.