The San Francisco Housing Development Corporation is providing a huge lift for local Black entrepreneurs after transforming a former check-cashing center into a vibrant storefront. The Bay Area store, located in the Filmore District of San Francisco, is known as In The Black. Since it opened a year ago, In The Black has been featuring products from dozens of entrepreneurs. Some of the items sold at the store include African-themed clothing and beauty supplies, the San Francisco Examiner reported.

Cianni Jackson, the owner of an apparel business, is one of the entrepreneurs who is selling her products at In The Black. Some of Jackson’s products include her “Black Girl Magic” sweatshirts and other apparel with slogans of social justice. The San Francisco businesswoman said she is glad to see how the former check-cash center has been transformed.

“We would always walk past there on the way to school,” Jackson told the Examiner as she recalled what the neighborhood used to look like. “To see it transformed from a check-cashing place that was pulling money from the community in such a horrible way is just a really remarkable experience.”

Jackson, a single mother of three children, started her business after getting laid off from her job at a software company.

“I think me getting laid off was the push I needed to focus on my business completely,” Jackson said.

The Bay Area entrepreneur is one of 22 vendors who is featured at In The Black. According to The San Francisco Housing Development Corporation, which is a nonprofit organization, the vendors have made at least $200,000 in sales at the store. Pia Harris, interim chief operating officer at the nonprofit group, worked with her staff to launch In The Black. Harris and her colleagues first came up with the idea when they were leading a three-month course known as Minding My Black-Owned Business.

The program provided business education for aspiring entrepreneurs and helped many of them take the first step in their careers. While Harris’ organization gave grants of $7,500 to the graduates, the city added grants of up to $15,000.

Black entrepreneurs who sell their products at In The Black’s physical store pay a $650 monthly rent. They are also charged 3% of sales for transaction fees. Additionally, they can sell online at In The Black’s website and pay reduced fees.

“Having a place in San Francisco where rent is affordable is not an opportunity that comes along often,” Jackson said.

In The Black is funded by the Dream Keeper Initiative, a program that launched in 2021 intending to invest $60 million annually in Black communities. The San Francisco Housing Development Corporation invested $970,000 to transform the check-cashing venue into a business hub. The nonprofit group also received a contribution of $220,000 to help with the remodeling process.

San Francisco mayor London Breed raves about In The Black.

“In the Black is an example of the great things we can accomplish when our small business owners are given support and resources to succeed,” Breed said, per The Examiner. “This kind of effort is exactly what we need to do to provide economic opportunities and to build community pride in the Fillmore.”