Let me start by saying that it is an honor and a privilege to be able to correspond with you. I know that the Austin community is a neighborhood rich with history, pride and beauty. However, many of its residents and businesses are faced with many challenges.

I believe that many of those challenges can be overcome with economic education and relationship-building.

You may ask, “Who is this guy?” Well, my name is Malcolm Crawford, Sr. I am currently director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association.

AAABNA, as it is called, is an association of African-American business owners who felt a need to pool our resources with the understanding that 94 percent of African-American consumers shop with others. We decided that, as business owners, we would use the simple concept of doing business with each other first.

I am also the co-proprietor of African Accents Cultural Store, located at 5847 W. Chicago Ave. As a husband and the father of three young boys, I hope to use the values and education which I have developed through my business experience to help my family as well as my community as a whole.

In the coming months I will highlight the different businesses in the Austin community, including well-established businesses such as Active Auto Parts (5912 W. Chicago Ave.). Active Auto has has been serving Austin for more than 40 years. Its current manager is Chris Prayer. Simply put, Mr. Prayer is one of the most knowledgeable people around on automotives and an all-around nice guy.

When you enter Active Auto Parts, you will find a team of knowledgeable professionals waiting not just to sell auto parts, but because they have a combined automotive experience of 80 years, they can usually diagnose any problem you may be having with your car.

Mr. Prayer brags that anyone of his team members could run the chain-type auto stores. I asked the question, “Why Austin?” and got a resounding answer from everyone. “We’re family. We have all lived in Austin for most of our lives and to be able to serve the people you know and have grown up with, you can’t beat that.”

I will also be introducing new up-and-coming businesses like Cream and Sugar, a Mom-and-Pop coffee house and cafe. But when you meet the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Powell, you will see that this young dynamic duo is not what you would have expected from a small family business.

When you enter the doors of Cream and Sugar Cafe on Madison Street, the aroma of fresh brewed coffee greets you. The decor reflects their pride in the African-American culture, and you will feel right at home.

Both of the Powells stated to me that they were born and raised in Austin, and for them, this is not just a business venture but an investment in their community.

These are some of the hidden gems that I plan to introduce to some and present to others. I will also share advice on some of the do’s and don’ts of starting a small business, and I will research and answer any business related questions you may have.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve my community. And remember, it’s all about dollars and cents. If it don’t make dollars, it don’t make sense.