Preston Sain, 35
Blackwallstreet Grand Rapids
Preston Sain’s mission is to rectify the economic crisis for Black residents of Grand Rapids through the creation of opportunity zones for entrepreneurship.
He co-founded Blackwallstreet Grand Rapids in June as a Facebook group that grew into a plan for change. The group takes its name from the former thriving business district, Greenwood — aka “Black Wall Street” — in Tulsa, Oklahoma, which was destroyed in the 1921 Tulsa massacre by white rioters. There’s an effort underway to rebuild that district that is spurring similar movements across the U.S. Sain’s group is motivated by a 2015 Forbes report that ranked Grand Rapids the second-worst city in the country economically for Black Americans.
Blackwallstreet GR has identified seven districts on the city’s southeast side that contain Black-owned businesses with room for more. Sain and his collaborators are working to bring a plan to investors and city leaders for supporting the acquisition and development of real estate in the seven districts that would foster the creation of additional Black-owned businesses.
Sain is no stranger to startups. He is co-founder with his brother, Chris Sain Jr., of Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports, a 12-year-old nonprofit that helps restore and refocus at-risk youths through sports and education; creator and producer of Grand C.I.T.Y. Sports Radio on Magic 104.9 FM; and partner and vice president of marketing for the Junk King Grand Rapids franchise.
He also is a longtime mentor of youths in West Michigan, project director/chair of GR Summer Project and Projects for Purpose MI, and an adviser and sponsor for America Youth Football League.
Sain received the Community Service Vanguard Award from the NAACP in 2016.