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Tonda Thompson has dreams to create a better world, and she’s making it happen. The community advocate and entrepreneur recently purchased a vacant, dilapidated building in the Harambee neighborhood—where she was raised—to house her new business, Valor Creative Collective. With the help of LRC financing and other community support, Tonda is making the significant investment to restore the building, which she purchased from the City of Milwaukee for $3,000 in June, 2021.

Located on the corner of E. Burleigh St. and N. Achilles St., the building was constructed in 1886 and acquired by the City of Milwaukee through foreclosure in 2012. Tonda used her savings to purchase the structure and looked to LRC for help with funding for restoration.

“Legacy was one of the first conversations I had when I began pursuing the building,” Tonda recalled. “As a community leader, I knew that they were the lender of choice for many small businesses in the city, particularly those who might have trouble finding funding at a traditional bank.” She added, “Legacy was the first and only bank that I wanted to work with, and we connected from the start.”

Tonda noted that Terese Caro, LRC president and CEO, has consistently been one of her biggest supporters. “Terese was one of the first people to really believe in this project, and she’s been there for me ever since,” Tonda noted. “And Shawntell (Taylor, LRC business consultant) is my coach, helping me achieve the technical skills I need to succeed.”

Shawntell worked with Tonda to help her create Valor Creative Collective, a holding company for the three businesses she founded and runs. All three businesses will have space in the restored Harambee building.

The first, Vogue Dreams Productions, teaches Opportunity Youth and K-12 students modeling, videography, and photography skills. This business was a recipient of a ThriveOn Small Business Loan from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation in September, 2021.

Click to watch Tonda on The Kelly Clarkson Show and learn how She Slangs Wood began.

A second business, She Slangs Wood, was created to encourage people to be self-sufficient and find confidence through woodworking. A recent feature on The Kelly Clarkson show has helped to put Tonda into the national spotlight.

Tonda’s third business, The National Coalition for Healthy Black Families (NCHBF), Inc., is a nonprofit that provides community outreach and multimedia resources to community-based organizations focused on improving birth outcomes in communities of color across the nation. The NCHBF, Inc. is also the leading organization for the HaRUNBee 5K.

Currently, Valor Creative Collective has 10 employees, including several Bradley Tech students working in apprenticeships for She Slangs Wood. In addition, area contractors are helping with renovations of the building. Tonda became licensed and insurable to take on many of the building tasks herself. To learn more and get involved, contact Tonda now.

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