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During Black History Month, we specifically worked to help amplify Black-owned businesses in Marion. We had the privilege of talking to three wonderful and accomplished business owners in town. Read on to hear their stories.

Donna Bennett, Owner of Bennett Inn and Suites 

Donna moved to Marion from Michigan in 2012 and is an entrepreneur at heart. She owned a retail business in Detroit and wanted to do the same in Marion while being a part of the community. As soon as she saw the house on Early street, she right away saw a bed & breakfast in her future, as this was something her father envisioned as a family business before he passed away. We are honored that we got to connect with Donna and learn more about her and her business. Check out some highlights from our conversation and advice Donna has for other entrepreneurs:

Q: What do you attribute to your success?

A: The economic climate of people wanting to experience alternatives to lodging, and the desire to stay in vacation houses as an alternative to hotels. The Airbnb industry has given people the opportunity to utilize additional, inherited property for added income.

Q: What is your favorite memory?

A: My favorite memory is when I welcomed our first guest, and they wrote a five-star review. My favorite thing about Marion is the history of its people, and the tourists that come to exalt it.

Q: What is your advice for other Black entrepreneurs and business owners?

A: Have faith and passion in what you do, this will push you in positive directions. Also, brand your business with professional logos, advertise, promote, and put in sweat equity to beautify your brick and mortar.

Check out the Bennet Suites on their Facebook page, Bennett Suites, and website:

Donna Bennett Main Street Marion Bennett

Victoria England Bates, Owner of Simply Unique Beauty Salon

Meet Victoria England Bates. She is not only a professional cosmetologist, but she is THE "Hair Queen". At a very young age, she developed a passion for hair and began to enhance and master her craft. She has successfully owned and operated Simply Unique Beauty Salon for over 25 years and attributes her success to hard work, discipline, compassion for others and the gift God gave her. We loved getting to know her and we know you will too! Read on to see some highlights from our conversation with Victoria, and learn what Black History Month means to her:

Q. What made you decide to open your own business in Marion? What inspired you?

A: I always had a passion for hair and makeup. I would do family and friends’ hair for fun, but never thought of it as a career. My mother recognized my gift and convinced me to enroll in cosmetology school. I had an aunt that was a cosmetologist, so she inspired me to open my salon. She had a very nice salon in Tennessee and I thought to myself, that’s going to be me one day!

Q. What is your advice for other Black entrepreneurs and business owners?

A: Find someone in the field you are interested in working for before starting your own business. If you are already a business owner, find a mentor. Also, treat your clients/customers the way you want to be treated, and most of all remain prayerful in every situation!

Q. What does Black History Month mean to you?

A: Black history has always been a very important part of my life. So many past African Americans paved the way for equality so that I can vote and have the same opportunities as everyone else. There are many inventions we use every day that were created by Blacks who never got recognition for them. I think Black history should be incorporated in the schools so everyone can learn our true history.

Follow Simply Unique Beauty Salon on Facebook & check out their site:

Victoria England Bates Main Street Mario

Yanna Brown, Owner of Yanna's Flowers & Gifts

Meet Yanna Brown, owner of Yanna's Flowers & Gifts at 407 Washington Street.

As a young girl, Yanna was inspired by her people: business owners, storekeepers and entrepreneurs in her town of Marion. During the time of segregation, her family moved to New York City for a better life.


Years later, she wanted to leave New York and decided to return to Marion, the home of her family and her ancestors. While in NYC, her favorite memories were of the happiness of the people, the gratitude and the many hardy and sincere thanks. There, she owned a flower shop for 21 years.

She has now been in business for 43 years and loves being in Marion. She says it is different doing business here than in New York and that starting over she faced many challenges, but believed in herself and overcame. Check out some highlights from our conversation with Yanna, advice she has for other entrepreneurs, and what Black History Month means to her:

Q: What are some of the challenges you've faced and how did you overcome them?

A: As I realized that facing challenges is a part of being a business owner, I faced the challenges with an ongoing belief in myself. I realized that I must be a “go getter,” so I continued to learn and through perseverance I eventually overcame the challenges.

Q: What is your advice for other Black entrepreneurs and business owners?

A: Be consistent. Do what you do more for love rather than money. It will balance itself out. 43 years in business and counting. I have no regrets.

Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?

A: I love history. Black history means a lot to me. This month gives the world an opportunity to look at Black people in a different light and to get to know our contribution to humanity, including the uncountable inventions - patented, not patented and some patented by others. I am a life-long student of history. Learning black history will never end. It is too vast and too great.

Yanna Brown Main Street Marion Yanna's F
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