Kayla Hirschfield, 11th Grader
Written by Alicia (Warner) DeMont
Last year, current KWS junior Kayla Hirschfield (class of 2023) was nominated by her rabbi to participate in an anti-racist program through The Chester County Religious Action Center. The focus of the program is on racial equality and social justice issues. Upon the completion of the course, participants are asked to undertake a capstone project. As her capstone experience, Kayla decided to build a website that features a list of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) owned businesses in Chester County. She built “the website to encourage the community to support BIPOC owned businesses as well as for people who already want to support such businesses, but don’t know where to start.”
Through a KWS class on business entrepreneurship and her own experiences, Kayla came to realize just how foundational locally owned businesses are to the overall health of a community. She also knows that BIPOC owned businesses face unique challenges. “Dealing with obstacles like racial discrimination and systemic racism, it has always been harder for BIPOC to move forward with their businesses. BIPOC owned businesses face injustice socially, economically, and systemically whether it be from banks, customers, social problems, etc. While white owned businesses face some of the same hardships that BIPOC businesses face, they never have to deal with the struggle of race. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it’s gotten more difficult for all businesses to stay afloat. We see more BIPOC owned businesses shutting down significantly more than their white owned counterparts as they are the most affected group in business.”
In thinking of ways to connect to and give voice to BIPOC owned businesses in Chester County, Kayla contacted BIPOC business owners and invited them to be listed on her website. Seven businesses are listed on her website – ranging from restaurants, a toy collection store to an organization called Diaspora Community, which is a web-based community aimed at guiding African businesses in Diaspora seeking to do business in Africa.
On August 29, 2021, Kayla launched her website on zoom. She invited the KWS and wider communities to attend. It was a successful launch with more than 20 people in attendance. During the launch party, not only were the business owners recognized and celebrated for their entrepreneurship, but they also had the chance to discuss issues of systemic racism, especially in light of business ownership.
“I care about racial injustice because this issue still greatly affects people of color, and I feel that if I can do something about it, even in a small way, it can make a difference. Systemic racism affects businesses owned by people of color, and if we can support those businesses, we could be a step closer to making that difference. I know that KWS is committed to being an anti-racist community and I’m hoping that students, faculty, [alumni] and parents will see the importance of such initiative.”
KWS/KFS alumni are encouraged to support Kayla in her work to promote BIPOC businesses. She “would appreciate any referrals of eligible businesses in Chester County that might be interested in being included in the website. This would be a great way to participate and potentially make a difference for a local entrepreneur.”