Black History Month Spotlight:  Titonian Wallace, Sr

A photo of Titonian Wallace, with a colorful pattern and title which reads Black History Month Spotlight: Titonian Wallace, Sr

 

WCD: You are a founding member and the first Chair of the Black Advisory Council for the Washington Chamber of Commerce, and are now the Chair-elect of the Washington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Congratulations!  What are the priorities you are currently most focused on in your work with the Chamber of Commerce?

TW: As the Chair-elect for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the current Chair of the Diversity Councils, I’m focused on nurturing the growth, outreach, and visibility of our diversity councils. These councils, including the Black Advisory Business Council, Latino Business Advisory Council, Veterans Business Advisory Council, LGBTQ+ Business Advisory Council, and Asian Pacific Islander Business Advisory Council, are the heart of our efforts to embody and promote diversity within the business community. The hope is to elevate all councils, enhancing their impact and influence within the larger community. This effort is a testament to our chamber’s unique position in Oregon as the only one with five diversity councils, underscoring our commitment to the message that “You Belong Here.”

My role also involves preparing for my tenure as Chair of the Board. It’s crucial for me to fully understand the responsibilities that come with this position to represent not just myself but the entire chamber, our diversity councils, and our board of directors effectively. The significance of potentially becoming the first Black Chair in the chamber’s history, spanning over 125 years, is not lost on me. It’s an honor that speaks volumes about our progress and commitment to diversity. As I look forward to this role, my priority remains clear: to serve the Washington County community at large and its business sector with dedication, fostering an environment where diversity is not just celebrated but seen as a key pillar of our success.

WCD: What accomplishments are you proudest of during the time you’ve been involved with the Chamber of Commerce?

 

TW: Among my achievements with the Chamber of Commerce, the creation of the Washington County Chamber Juneteenth Celebration is the one I’m most proud of. This event, born from a mere two months of intensive planning and hard work in year 1 of the event, was a testament to our collective commitment to celebrating diversity and inclusion. The challenge of orchestrating such a significant event on a tight timeline taught us invaluable lessons in collaboration and perseverance. It was immensely gratifying to see our efforts culminate in a celebration that not only honored the spirit of Juneteenth but also paved the way for it to become a Signature Event, symbolizing the Chamber’s deep commitment to diversity and to this newly created event.

The inaugural Juneteenth Celebration’s elevation to a Signature Event by Chamber President Deanna Palm was a pivotal moment, affirming the value of our work and the importance of diversity in our leadership’s vision. Witnessing the event’s growth, with a 3.5-times increase in vendor participation by the second year, has been incredibly rewarding. This success not only showcases the community’s support for the event but also reinforces our dedication to making the Juneteenth Celebration a cornerstone of our annual activities, further enriching Washington County’s cultural landscape.
 
WCD: What are the biggest challenges for Black- and minority-owned businesses in Washington County?

 

TW: The most significant hurdles facing Black- and minority-owned businesses in Washington County primarily revolve around financial constraints. Access to capital, both for starting a business and for expansion, emerges as a critical challenge. Many entrepreneurs within these communities find it difficult to secure loans with favorable rates, which is essential for the sustainable growth of small businesses. This financial barrier is not just about obtaining initial funding but also about finding the resources needed for scaling operations and navigating the competitive business landscape.


Moreover, there’s a pressing need for more grant opportunities. The preference for grants over loans among these business owners is understandable, as grants offer financial support without the burden of repayment, allowing businesses to grow without accruing additional debt. However, the availability of such grants is limited, making it a significant obstacle for minority entrepreneurs seeking to establish and expand their ventures.

Aside from financial challenges, finding a supportive community within Washington County, as opposed to Portland, remains a hurdle. This is where the Black Advisory Business Council plays a pivotal role. By fostering a network of support and connections to resources, the Council aims to bridge the gap between minority-owned businesses and the broader community, ensuring that these entrepreneurs have the backing they need to thrive. The Council’s efforts are vital in creating an ecosystem where minority-owned businesses are not only welcomed but also nurtured, enabling them to overcome the barriers to success and contribute meaningfully to the local economy.

 
WCD: Tell us more about the Black Advisory Business Council Scholarship Fund, and how that got started.

 

TW: The Black Advisory Business Council Scholarship Fund is a project very close to my heart, one that I had the honor of founding to support Black seniors in the Hillsboro School District pursuing their educational  or vocational dreams. This initiative was inspired by my own journey and the realization that the path to success is not one-size-fits-all. I wanted to create a scholarship that would provide financial assistance to students who not only show academic dedication but also face financial challenges.

For the inaugural year of 2024, we’re excited to award two scholarships of $2,000 each. However, our vision doesn’t stop there. We aim to grow the fund to $25,000 to achieve full endowment status, with a long-term goal of reaching $250,000. This would allow us to offer two $5,000 scholarships annually, significantly impacting the lives of the recipients.

My passion for education and lifelong learning drove me to create a legacy that extends beyond my immediate reach. I began conversations with the Hillsboro Community Foundation two years ago and, by the fourth quarter of 2023, decided to contribute initial funding through my business, Nesace Media. Naming it the Black Advisory Business Council Scholarship Fund was a deliberate choice, intending to highlight the connection not only to the council but also to the wider community through the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. This scholarship is more than just financial aid; it’s a testament to the power of community, education, and the belief that we can make a difference in the lives of our young people.  Please donate – https://tinyurl.com/BABCFUND
 
WCD: You also run Nesace Media, a marketing company.  What inspired you to work in marketing?

 

TW: My journey into marketing, particularly with Nesace Media, comes from a combination of personal and professional growth. Returning to college as an older adult to earn my Bachelors Degree was a pivotal moment for me. At the same time, I was running an entertainment company, which meant I was up to my neck in social media, trying to get the word out. I began thinking about pursuing a Masters, but the thought of spending another four years for more credentials behind my name wasn’t appealing.  So, I opted for a marketing certificate.  It was during this certificate coursework, particularly a course on Social Media Marketing, that stood out, changing my understanding of social media from a communication tool to a viable business idea.  The realization that social media could be used as a marketing tool pretty much was the birth of Nesace Media in my mind.
 
WCD: Any thoughts about digital marketing trends you’re seeing on the horizon that we should all be paying attention to?

 

TW: Right now, one of the most significant trends shaping our future is the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) into marketing strategies. AI is revolutionizing the way we understand consumer behavior, personalize content, and optimize marketing campaigns. It’s not just about automating repetitive tasks anymore; AI is enabling us to predict consumer trends, enhance customer experiences, and make data-driven decisions.  I’d say continue to watch the rise of AI in marketing because I think those who don’t will not be able to stay competitive in the digital age.
 
WCD: How do you celebrate or commemorate Black History Month?

 

TW: One of the key ways I commemorate this important month is through organizing and participating in the Black Excellence Panel Discussion. This event is not just a celebration; it’s an educational platform where we can share stories of resilience, achievement, and the unique challenges we face as Black individuals in our professional and personal journeys.

The Black Excellence Panel Discussion is a cornerstone event that allows us to showcase to the wider community the depth and diversity of Black excellence. It’s an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue, offer insights, and inspire both current and future generations by highlighting the successes and contributions of Black professionals across various fields.

 

WCD: Also, I just have to ask:  What was it like meeting Rosa Parks in person???

 

TW: Back then, I couldn’t fully grasp the significance of being in the same room as a giant of American history. It’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve understood the weight of that moment. Rosa Parks wasn’t just a name in a history book; she was a real person who made a stand that changed the world. Looking back, that experience has a special place in my heart and mind. It’s one of those moments that, over time, you realize was a huge deal.  Having experienced this myself, it troubles me to hear how historical moments and figures related to Black History, which is American History, is trying to be rewritten or completely eliminated in parts around the country.
 
WCD: Do you have any thoughts about the way we, as the larger community, can be better about celebrating/presenting Black History Month?

 

TW: Encourage active participation from the broader community in Black History Month events and initiatives. This can include collaborations between schools, businesses, government agencies, and community organizations to organize inclusive and impactful activities.
 
WCD: How do you envision the future of the Black community in Washington County?

 

 TW: I envision the future of the Black community in Washington County as one marked by greater unity and economic self-sufficiency. My hope is for a more interconnected Black business ecosystem, where there’s a stronger emphasis on supporting and utilizing services within our own county, rather than looking outward to Multnomah County or beyond. This shift towards internal support is not just about keeping dollars within the community but also about fostering a sense of pride, collaboration, and mutual growth among Black entrepreneurs and business owners in Washington County.

By cultivating a network where Black businesses thrive through local support, we not only enhance the economic stability of our community but also create a model of empowerment that can inspire other communities. It’s about building a foundation where the success of one business contributes to the success of all, creating a cycle of prosperity that benefits everyone involved. This vision for the future is built on the principles of unity, collaboration, and local empowerment, aiming to forge a path where the Black community in Washington County can flourish, setting a precedent for generations to come.