FULTON, Md. (WJZ) — August is National Black Business Month, a time to celebrate Black-owned businesses and Black entrepreneurs.

According to state data, Maryland is the most supportive state for Black-owned businesses. It’s home to Black-owned establishments like restaurants, gyms and boutiques. And some, like Gerrard Sheppard’s Sunset Raw Juice Bar in Fulton.

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“We are the first juice bar in Howard County, so it feels good to make our mark here,” Sheppard said. “Health doesn’t have a gender or a color, health is for everyone. So here we are to show you that you can heal from the inside out. ”

Sheppard, a former Towson University football player who played on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad before stints in the Canadian Football League and Alliance of American Football, said he wants to lead the way for future entrepreneurs.

He said he wants “to also show kids that look like us, that resemble us to know there’s hope and you can actually, if you chase your dreams, if you work hard enough, you can achieve exactly what you want to achieve.”

The Maryland Office of Tourism is encouraging people to take the time to celebrate the impact of Black-owned businesses, who could use the help coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“A lot of them are family-owned, mom-and-pop shops,” said Ana Hall-DeFoor, a tourism office spokeswoman. “They’re a part of our local economy — they support jobs and help support families in your area.”

Raina Smallwood was forced to close her previous store during the pandemic but, with the support of the community, opened up Adorn Vintage Furniture in Baltimore City.

“I think a lot of Black-owned businesses for a long time didn’t get the funding and recognition that they probably should have, so it’s great that we take this time to introduce most of these businesses”

The hope is that by promoting these establishments, Marylanders can create connections with new stores and support local businesses for the long term.

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“Because you know that goes back into the community,” Smallwood said. “You go to one black business and the dollar circulates, and that’s really really important.”