Blair Durham, president of Black BRAND, the Hampton Roads Black chamber of commerce, interviews guests while broadcasting the radio show “Black Wall Street Today” at the WHOV studio on the campus of Hampton University Wednesday afternoon January 9, 2019. Black BRAND recently launched its B-Force Accelerator business program. (Jonathon Gruenke / Daily Press)

A new accelerator program from Hampton Roads’ Black chamber of commerce aims to help entrepreneurs of color access capital and surmount other hurdles.

Black BRAND started the first iteration of its B-Force Accelerator program on Feb. 25. Through mid-May, 17 Hampton Roads startups will learn strategic and financial planning, accounting, banking, marketing and other business skills from program mentors.

“The biggest challenge that all (small) business owners face is access to capital,” said Blair Durham, Black BRAND co-founder and president. “You can imagine that that challenge is especially heightened for Black entrepreneurs.”

The program will take participants through most aspects of the startup process, Durham said, including planning, marketing and finance, gaining access to capital and learning to pitch to investors.

The 17 businesses include a bakery, a restaurant, a health-focused artificial intelligence platform and a custom hair-piece business for those suffering from hair loss due to cancer treatment.

Durham said Black BRAND tried to make the program as accessible as possible. Beyond being free, the program did not place any limits on the number of entrepreneurs who could join. The program is also making its workshops available in the mornings, evenings and weekends to meet with entrepreneurs on their own time.

The program is a collaboration between Black BRAND and the Norfolk State University Innovation Lab, which is supporting the effort through consultants and other resources. The program is being funded through the GO Virginia economic development initiative and Truist bank.

Durham said Black BRAND plans to hold another iteration of the program this fall. For more information about B-Force, visit

Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345,