Dubuque business owner receives statewide entrepreneurship award

A Dubuque business owner was honored Thursday with a statewide award recognizing her work as an entrepreneur.

Erica Brewer, owner of Belle Allure Minkz and Boutique, received the Deb Dalziel Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award from America’s SBDC Iowa. The program is hosted by Iowa State University and is an affiliate of the national association of Small Business Development Centers.

Brewer visited the state Capitol on Thursday to accept the award. She said Gov. Kim Reynolds told her she made history with the recognition, as Brewer is the first Black woman in Iowa to win the award.

“I’m still in awe at the events that happened today, the people I met and the experience that I’ve never had in my life before,” Brewer said in a phone interview after receiving the award. “… I feel like I made history today. That alone gives me all the self-love and self-confidence that I was lacking before.”

Brewer opened her boutique in 2020, selling clothing, accessories and lashes.

“Our community complained that we didn’t have certain things that a diverse community would have, like clothing and lashes,” she said. “I wanted to bring that to the community, and I wanted to make it affordable to them.”

More than a year after opening, Brewer already is working to move the boutique’s location in order to expand and attract more clientele. This spring, the boutique will move from its current location at 1680 Central Ave. to 1060 Central Ave., Suite A.

“This new move is the really big pusher for me,” she said. “It’s a really big moment for me.”

Brewer also is the first president of Collective Small Business Alliance of Dubuque, which was founded last year. A. Alanda Gregory, founder and executive director of the alliance, said Brewer has been a pleasure to work with since the organization started.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in Erica,” Gregory said. “I have been so honored that she accepted being president for us in our first year.”

She noted that the alliance was created to help local small businesses owned by people of color.

“We want to support the people of color in the community and tell them to strive for their dreams, go for what they want and to not lose themselves in the process,” Gregory said. “There’s still work to do, and I know with Erica, she’s going to continue doing the work and continue working hard to pass this on to other young women who are watching her.”

After receiving the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, Brewer said she wants to empower other women of color to start their own businesses and follow their dreams.

“I want the next African American woman to know, ‘Hey, this woman made it all the way to the state Capitol,’” she said. “‘If she can do it, we can do it.’”