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In the Victory neighborhood of Minneapolis, Kester Wubben saw an opportunity. Not only did he envision providing a one-stop-shop for residents' printing, packaging and mailing needs, but he also wanted to provide opportunities for his family through entrepreneurship.
The road wasn't easy. Wubben had to pay down debt to secure funding and withdraw money from his 401(k) retirement account to open a Mailbox Solutions Plus location in the neighborhood where he lived. His store quickly became the go-to print shop for the community. Wubben printed flyers for nearby businesses and neighborhood events and Mailbox Solutions Plus also offered school and office supplies for students and teachers at the elementary school and high school a block away.
"You could come to us and get great customer service," Wubben said. "We were easier to access and friendlier than the post office."
Wubben was also proud to provide employment for his 18-year-old son, Kester Jr., in the store. When schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kester Jr. often ran the shop on his own for four hours at a time.
June 8 would have marked the one-year anniversary of Wubben's Mailbox Solutions Plus store's opening. But on June 1, arsonists set fire to the store during the protests that followed the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police. The store received significant fire and water damage and was deemed a total loss. When Wubben visited the building later in the summer, a tree had started growing through a hole in the roof.
"There was nothing to salvage," Wubben said. "It just hurts. You no longer have your business, there's no money coming in and you still owe money to pay off your original loan."
Wubben is thankful to have received a BeyGOOD grant, a fund created by singer Beyonce's BeyGOOD foundation in partnership with the NAACP to support Black-owned small business owners impacted by the pandemic and civil unrest in 2020. Wubben said he will use the grant to pay off some outstanding debt and start a new business. He wants to offer the same services in a larger facility that would include a coffee shop and office space that neighborhood residents could rent for meetings.
"My son and I would like to thank Beyonce for doing this for Black businesses," Wubben said. "We're really appreciative that she's giving back to the community."