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South Salt Lake Journal

Representing the underrepresented: Unity Block Party helps fund business incubator for startups

Oct 12, 2023 02:23PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

With many people quitting the 9-5 routine to start their own business, the idea of a business incubator to help them survive and thrive is what Michelda George, the founder of Versatile Image, is here to do.

George has been in Utah for three years and she has already amassed a major following in the local area, and on Sept. 16 at Library Square in Salt Lake City, she organized an event, Unity Block Party, to help fund a business incubator to represent those underrepresented. 

“An incubator space is something that is supposed to create something, create something from scratch, whatever you want to call an incubator,” George said. “Kind of like the womb of a woman. Certain components need to come together in order for you to have something come out at the end.” 

“Our incubator space is a little unique, because a lot of small businesses—startups—especially in underserved and underrepresented communities, don’t really understand the power of marketing, being able to get their branding together, their messaging, how people are interacting with their product or service, or whatever it is that they’re presenting to the community in which they serve,” George said. 

George and her team have put together a program to help small businesses grow, from helping them with marketing to pitching ideas to investors. “Some businesses are only on Instagram, and they don’t even have an EIN. A digital presence is extremely important, not only because they got to see you, but when they find you, it needs to be consistent,” George said. 

“If you have an idea for a business, or you already have an idea and kind of have a strategy and what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working, we’ll kind of do a brand audit and take a look at what you are doing,” George said. “This is probably a three- to four-week process where we have people secret shop. We’re looking at your website, to see what’s going on when someone’s trying to find you. We wanted to create an incubator space for dreamers, for people who have an idea, but don’t know how to do it.”

 Originally from South Florida, and a first-generation Haitian-American, George started her journey managing her family’s grocery store in Fort Lauderdale, and after some financial challenges caused by the 2008 recession, and still surviving, she had to sell the store in 2012 and look for other opportunities.  

“I had to work, I had to take care of my family. So, I was working at 7-Eleven, I was working at McDonald’s, and at the time, I had a lot of creative friends that did a lot of visual art, video production,” George said.  

Her friends knew of her passionate interest in business and eventually asked George to help negotiate their contracts. “How much should I charge something like that?” George recalled.  “I sure didn’t! I mean, those were my friends; I love them. I didn’t want them to get taken advantage of. And so, I started doing that. I know what this is like. I know profit margins.” 

It was then that she had incubated the idea for her business, and she eventually founded Versatile Image—a multidisciplinary, creative agency—all while making ends meet at her 9-5 job. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get there when you’re trying to fund your life, but also pour into your business. You want to give your services for free, but that doesn’t always work out for the bottom line,” George said.

After McDonald’s, George started a job in banking, working at Wells Fargo for four years where she learned more about financial planning, investments, life insurance, annuities and small business specialization. “I love the entrepreneur community, so it was great being able to service them.”

However, George was also met with some tough challenges along the way. “On the other side of that, as a professional being referred to as the Negro banker, or, you know, coworkers coming up to touch your hair, having really insensitive conversations about the racial uproar that was happening during that time, George Floyd, you know—that environment wasn’t really healthy. So I had to kind of start figuring out what my transition plan was,” George said.

Moving to Utah gave George a fresh start, but it wasn’t without its speed bumps, such as the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There were a lot of small businesses that ended up closing six months, nine months after COVID—they weren’t able to sustain themselves. Once COVID happened, I didn’t know what to do,” George said.  

After diligence and persistence, George found her way into the Utah Black Chamber of Commerce and eventually working as the Strategic Program Manager for the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity where she continued to learn the tricks of the trade.

“But I will say the transition to Utah, as a person, definitely challenged me to know who I was, and to figure out what my values were, and what my purpose was going to be in life moving forward. And I’m super grateful for Utah and its environment that helped me to be able to determine what that was gonna be as a person.”

Versatile Image is continuing its growth and George is happy to look forward to further progress. “We’re three years in, and I’m just now getting to the point where I’m bringing on a CPA; I’m bringing on a CEO, I’m having an assistant,” George said.

“I just really want to be able to serve the community here in Utah. Utah is one of the leading economic states in the country. Economically, it’s very strong. They’re leading in a lot of areas from real estate to technology to manufacturing. And so, I want to be a part of that where we can influence the rest of the country. Just because we work with small businesses here in Utah, we have clients all across the country, even in Europe. We can reach all types of places where we have underserved and underrepresented communities.” 

George plans on facilitating the Unity Block Party every year to act as a fundraiser for the business incubator space. “We want to be able to get our brand out there, get more visibility so companies can see that we’re here in Utah, and we want to be able to become a part of the small business community here. This party is more than a party; it has a lot of purpose to it.”

The event was lined with beverage companies, food trucks, vendors from the Utah Black History Museum and music and arts and crafts booths  “They’re all small businesses, and so it acts like a group economics opportunity for us to be able to help each other,” said George. “It’s supposed to bring the communities together to be able to show visibility to the diversity that’s happening here.”

One such small business owner, standing behind her table carrying crystals, soaps, jewelry, and essential oils, is excited for the opportunity to be part of the Unity Block Party.  “They heard about my business and they liked my items and wanted me to come and set up,” said Kimberly Newton, the owner of Esensually Yourz, a metaphysical supply store located in Salt Lake City.

Originally from Ohio, and similar to George, she moved to Utah to start anew. “I came here about two years ago, during COVID; I was ready to start something different with my life, and upon arriving, I found out that Utah was very inclusive when it came to small businesses and help boosting them and letting their names flourish. I’m very excited to be here because my business has done very well upon arriving,” Newton said.

Having started her business five years ago, making jewelry until she progressed in her journey to eventually begin selling the rest of her current products.

“It’s always a great way to meet other people, other businesses, the networking that comes with it. You get a lot of new clients and customers. They get to learn about you and your business and where to find you, so I love that the community can come together for an event like this and learn about each other,” Newton said.

Small businesses building up other small businesses is the goal and the vision for entrepreneurs like George and Newton, who continue to strive to see that idea grow. 

Further information regarding Versatile Image can be found on their website:, or on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. λ