By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
LACOMBE – Joyce Ray has gotten nudged for years to become more involved in the business world.
Whether it started with her father’s entrepreneurial spirit as he began his own businesses after becoming disabled from a heart attack to a push from the Lord for many years to publish a Black Business Directory—Ray acknowledges the feeling to make an impact in the business world for herself and others.
Finally, a series from Bishop Robert Taylor, her pastor at Greater North Shore Full Gospel Church in Slidell, was the incentive she needed.
“Bishop Taylor preached a sermon called ‘Live Your Dreams, Pursue Your Passion’ and I immediately knew I was doing neither,” Ray said very honestly. “Since he started that series I knew I had to follow through with this.”
Ray decided several months ago to publish the Black Business Directory, something that has led to a Black Business Expo that will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5 in Lacombe at the John Davis Community Center.
She is currently seeking black business owners who want to be a part of the directory, or the Expo. Anyone who signs up to have a booth at the Expo will get in the directory for a reduced cost.
Ray said that when she began going out to talk to black business owners about the directory she realized that most of them needed more marketing work.
“I talked to black business people and they complained that more people didn’t come to their business,” she said. “Then I talked to people in general and many of them never knew much about the businesses.
“What I’ve learned in going out to many businesses is that most of them are not doing much other than Facebook to publicize their business or market themselves—so many people open a business and simply think the public will come even if they don’t do advertising,” Ray said. “That’s one reason I wanted to do the Black Business Directory—to help the black businesses become better known.”
Any black business owner who would like a booth at the Expo can do so for $125. If you are in the Expo you can be in the directory for an additional $35. Anyone who would like to only be in the Black Business Directory can do so for $50. Call Ray at 985-290-3658 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ray, 56, said that Bishop Taylor has continually encouraged his congregation to become financially independent, some through owning their own businesses. She always connected with those sermons since she felt for many years that she should have some kind of business of her own.
“I’ve always thought about having my own business,” she said. “And the idea to do a Black Business Directory was something I considered for many years.
“I admit I always allowed some roadblock to stop me from doing this. I was raising kids for a long time and that was an excuse. But now the kids are grown and I refuse to just grow old gracefully and not pursue this dream I have had,” she added.
The Expo will be the first step in her efforts to get involved in the business world and do so in a way to help other black business owners.
“I used to make a list of ideas for different businesses,” Ray said. “I have about 15 different ideas, but the directory was something that I never let go of. I was scared of doing it because I knew how many committed businesses I needed and wondered if the black businesses would support this.
“There’s never been a Black Business Directory in St. Tammany Parish, but now I hope to put together a great one that will have at least 100 businesses in it,” she said.
After the Expo is held on Nov. 5 she expects to complete the directory in the two months after that, then have it published to distribute at the start of 2017.
Ray grew up a native Slidellian who went to Salmen High and was the ninth of nine children her parents raised—four boys and five girls. Her dad worked at Southern Shipbuilding until a heart attack when she was 12 years old. He could no longer handle the physical work at the shipyard, so he started his own trash pickup business with his sons doing the heavy lifting. Ray, like other family members, helped in the business as she typed his invoices each month.
Her mother also started a business to offer caregiving in homes while she was working fulltime at the NASA Computer Center.
Ray has been married for 38 years to Steven Ray and the couple has five children. She has done secretarial, retail and clerical work for years, but is now ready to go on her own as a black businesswomen.
“Thanks to the encouragement from Bishop Taylor I’m not waiting any longer to do this,” Ray said. “I have big hopes for the black business world and I don’t see any way every black business shouldn’t get in this directory considering how affordable it is.”