In the Capital District we have many individuals who are looking to improve our larger community in terms of mental and physical health, wealth, and connectivity. Here at CapNY we call those champions of advancement changemakers.
One champion of change we’d like to highlight is returning Upstate NY native Deshanna Wiggins, CEO of the Albany Black Chamber of Commerce (ABCC).
Deshanna is accomplished and driven, having secured her undergraduate degree and professional development certificate at Clark Atlanta University and Emory University respectively, and working in various Black-led mayoral offices and judicial offices in the years thereafter. Deshanna is currently based in Troy and returned to the area after her phenomenal work in Atlanta to bring a fresh new perspective on Black and Brown entrepreneurship. “I think upstate is great, and people seem to think New York is just New York City. I’ve long wanted to pop that myth to let everyone know, including people here, that there are a lot of resources here. There’s a lot of opportunity here, it’s just about connecting the dots. Connecting the right people to the right companies and organizations.” With Deshanna at the helm of the ABCC the dots of preparation and opportunity will surely connect. The Capital Region is ready for entrepreneurship and ownership to reflect the community it engages in. We’re ready for a revitalized and renewed Albany, NY.
How She Services Our Local Community
“Our whole idea with the ABCC is to pay close attention to Black and minority businesses. Contrary to popular belief, although there’s a huge wage gap when it comes to people of color in this country at large, and Black and minority businesses are often overlooked, we do have some Federal legislation, we do have a lot more support coming in. However there is a cultural difference in terms of how we go about starting our businesses. We have to start from scratch in all figures of speech– in finances, resources and in mentorship. So the whole idea behind the BCC is to provide these business owners with resources and the connections they need to take care of business further.”
How Her Work Impacts the Cap Region
The ABCC offers space for the community to congregate, learn about economic sustainability, and provide advocacy for Black and brown business owners. In this coming year the ABCC will provide programming open to all to engage and empower the local ecosystem. In addition to that, Deshanna doesn’t limit herself nor the ABCC to working with millennials and older generations of business, they recognize the importance of getting youth involved to make a sustaining impact. “We’re really getting into the student body here. We have a huge collegiate population here and in some ways they’re overlooked in terms of being able to take those students right out of school and match them with companies and organizations, or sell and pitch to them about keeping the businesses they do start here and keeping them local.” It’s no one person’s or organization’s responsibility but it’s all of ours to make sure this community and the larger Black and minority businesses are at the table and they are part of the conversation.”
Why She’s Passionate About Her Work
“I’m a native of here, my parents both worked in the school district, so educations always been very important to me in my household. I felt I got the best support and access to education here, but I did not have direct examples of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to be professionally. When I went on those field trips or I started working part-time in high school those people in those positions did not look like me, nor was I called in. I was supported because I was smart and it afforded me a lot of opportunity but I wasn’t necessarily welcomed. So I knew emphatically that I needed to leave here to find out who I was going to be, but the goal was always to bring what I learned back to this area. I’m very happy to say that’s exactly what I did.” Her experience in Black owned or Black-led entertainment, politics, and legal offices speaks to this. She has learned what it takes to build, strengthen and sustain a community such as this. As Deshanna says it has afforded her a new lens on what’s possible.
Hopes for The Future & How to Get Involved
Deshanna understands that true progress “It’s no one person’s or organization’s responsibility but it’s all of ours to make sure this community and the larger Black and minority businesses are at the table and they are part of the conversation.” With this mentality we’re sure to see rapid success and growth in this area in both culture and community.
If Deshanna’s mission aligns with you, click to stay connected with the Albany Black Chamber of Commerce. There will be ample opportunity to both serve and be a part of this tour de force.
Written by: Arielle Steele
Arielle is a local writer who has a passion for community, film, dance, and Beyoncé. When she is not working at Ayco, she can be found working on her next film project or trying out a new hairstyle.