This article originally appeared in the Press Enterprise, January 2022

As a former executive with the McDonald’s corporation, Reggie Webb recognized that only 20% of Black McDonalds franchisees were successful. Webb worked to ensure that the opportunities to own a franchise in prime locations were equitable and that franchisees from underrepresented communities had the support they needed for success. However, Webb believed he could do even more to support entrepreneurship in the Black community.

Founded in 2016, Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement (CEEM) was launched as Reggie Webb’s answer to helping African Americans achieve financial independence across all sectors. CEEM believes that through education, investments, and support for African American professionals and entrepreneurs, CEEM will improve economic outcomes for the community.

CEEM became a family affair and today, his son Kyle Webb, the CFO of Webb Family Enterprises, also works as CEO of CEEM. Under his leadership, CEEM is working to achieve parity, which to Webb means that business opportunities and success should mirror the diversity of the region’s population.

A membership organization, one of CEEM’s primary focuses is convening. The organization creates a space where the community can come together and agree on the issues they want to champion and craft their own solutions. Rather than leading, CEEM is built to facilitate, listen, and then help to provide resources to tackle these challenges.

The organization also provides educational opportunities for members. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, CEEM offered a webinar series. Topics included real estate investment, starting a business, and how women can be seen and heard in entrepreneurial spaces. CEEM also encourages its members to support the African American-owned businesses in its network so that all can rise together.

“We’ve created CEEM to build power and build wealth in the African American community,” Kyle Webb said. “It’s a test project. If we can create a model that creates commutable wealth, then quality of life improves across the entire community.”

CEEM has also launched a Start Up Studio to help build new Black-led, member-owned businesses. Its first company is CEEM Interactive, a cognitive training and development company specializing in education art and gaming experiences. CEEM Interactive hired a CEO from its community and has been diligently working on creating its first product.

One of the main requests of the organization’s membership has been to teach youth career pathways. LevelUp, a multi-faceted board game that highlights career exploration and financial literacy, is the first product from CEEM Interactive.

“We need more solutions like this and more people to help build them,” Webb said. “We want to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.”

Recently, CEEM received a grant from the Inland Empire Black Equity Fund through IECF to support its work in convening the community. Webb said that the organization’s most significant achievement has been creating a space where leaders can come together and align on what is needed. The organization can then connect with stakeholders and legislators who can address the needs highlighted by their membership.

CEEM welcomes new members to join as individuals or businesses for $100. While CEEM focuses on supporting, educating, and investing in Black entrepreneurs, membership is open to all interested in supporting its mission. Members have a voice and a vote in CEEM’s economic initiatives, access to funding and training opportunities, and access to CEEM’s consulting services.

“Join CEEM and join the movement,” Webb said. “As a not-for-profit, we want participation from our current and future members. We are listening and want to execute on their behalf.”

More information: https://www.ceem.coop/ or 833-OUR-CEEM

Photo: Members of CEEM and CEEM Coalition for Cultural Change nonprofit teams at the Power Leadership and Achievement training hosted by Dr. Ron Brown in November 2021. From left to right: Pastor George Lamb, Dr. Judy White, Kalleah Clerkley, Lisha Smith, Dr. Ron Brown