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CLEVELAND (WJW) — From his office 15 floors above downtown Cleveland, LaRese Purnell never forgets where he came from. “Single mother, three children, hard worker. We experienced living in homeless shelters, standing in soup lines, serving at soup lines even when we were getting food from soup lines.”

That spirit of giving no matter the circumstances and a push for education are the lessons his mother instilled in Purnell and his siblings. “We all are college graduates, we all hold master’s degrees.

Purnell also had a “village of angels,” he calls them, that inspire much of the work he does today. “Those small business owners in the Kinsman, Mt. Pleasant area that would let me come sweep the floor at 11, 12 years old to keep me out the street and put some pocket money in my pocket.”

As an adult, LaRese started teaching financial literacy in cities across the country, noticing entrepreneurs facing certain financial challenges. It sparked a mission and when he returned home he spent every Saturday, all day, walking into Cleveland’s black-owned businesses – finding a common theme.

“One of the things people aren’t aware that we exist, and we don’t have the money to market, and then our finances, we don’t have access to resources to help us elevate as business owners.”

In 2015, The Real Black Friday was born — an initiative to bring awareness and create educational and networking opportunities for those businesses. 

“What you see is what you get. There is no different person outside of a camera…this man loves this community and I really respect that,” said his partner in business, Meltrice Sharp.

Together in 2017, they created CLE Consulting Firm, an accounting firm dedicated to growing Cleveland’s small businesses. “It’s really important that we grow and scale our own communities.” 

During NBA All-Star weekend, The Real Black Friday will host their “Black Biz Expo” in Tower City featuring 108 Black-owned businesses. 

The 7th annual expo will take place on Saturday, February 19, from 10 am to 6 pm. The family man also serves on various board and charity organizations and hosts community and charity events year-round in the greater Cleveland area. “I look for us not to just rise but to be a standard that other cities around the country will not forget,” said Purnell