When Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor got the call from his dad that their family business, Bintimani, was under threat of eviction from its Boston home, ideas of community development, social impact, and the power structures in place allowing some businesses to succeed and others not to were already simmering. Nearing completion of his MBA from MIT and with a background in nonprofit work, Josiah-Faeduwor is not only looking at reopening the West African restaurant here in Providence this year but also paving the way for other BIPOC-owned businesses to do the same.
“Getting engaged with my family’s situation is really what kind of started to point me in the direction of thinking about how to do this long term, and how to think bigger picture,” says Josiah-Faeduwor. He began asking questions like “How do I help my family?” but also, “How can businesses help each other?”
Along with inviting guest chefs and pop-up vendors to use Bintimani’s kitchen and sell their food from the space, Josiah-Faeduwor’s nonprofit, dismantl, will be a holistic program that begins with helping businesses get the certifications and licenses they need and put together a business model, as well as providing access to resources and capital to establish themselves. “Our goal is not to be the space that they’re dependent on throughout their journey, but really as a launching point,” Josiah-Faeduwor explains. “We want to help them get from essentially ground zero to an established place that allows them to move on from Bintimani.”
Through the nonprofit, which will launch this year, Josiah-Faeduwor isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel or overlap the numerous existing services – organizations like commerce associations, RI Black Business Association, and RI Small Business Development Center, just to name a few – but rather bring them all together. Dismantl will be the place to start the process. In the future, he hopes to see the nonprofit grow and be sustainable separate from Bintimani, too.
Josiah-Faeduwor’s mission stems from his community development work with the late Michael Van Leesten shortly after graduating from Brown. Through the OIC of Rhode Island, Josiah-Faeduwor saw how Van Leesten channelled the power of community to prop up BIPOC-owned businesses and workers. “He is very much the reason why I’m on the journey that I’m on,” says Josiah-Faeduwor.
Backdropping his vision for dismantl is also a wealth of knowledge surrounding pre-capitalist and pre-colonial Indigenous systems, including a West African community banking practice known as Osusu, that promote more collective approaches to economic development. Josiah-Faeduwor explores these ecosystems in the thesis he’ll be defending this winter.
As all of these pieces come together, Josiah-Faeduwor notes that the trajectory of his career, in a way, feels destined. He can’t ignore the culmination of life experiences and perspectives that brought him to this point, and he’s grateful to community partners that have helped make it happen, from Buff Chase and Cornish Associates for offering the space to small businesses like PVDonuts, Frog & Toad, ISCO, and others for support along the way.
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