Black Capitol of Iowa Empowers Small Businesses

Iowa communities continue to find new ways to unite and persevere despite the challenges thrown their way. In November 2020, one Iowa community discovered an innovative solution to help empower and amplify local Black-owned businesses around the city of Waterloo through a passport program called the Black Capitol of Iowa.

Black Capitol logo

Spearheaded by Experience Waterloo, the Black Capitol of Iowa Passport is a free mobile coupon book that was created as a way to celebrate Black-owned businesses and spur economic development in Waterloo and across Iowa. 

“The passport is an opportunity for us to let our community know that they’re not alone,” said Tavis Hall, Director of Experience Waterloo. “Our mission with this passport is to empower Black-owned businesses, continue to educate our community and help our small business owners be successful.”

It’s easy to sign up. Shoppers can enroll for free at to have the passport delivered to a mobile device. Shoppers instantly unlock discounts and earn points as they explore and purchase items from Black-owned businesses across Iowa for the chance to win prizes.

What began in Waterloo and surrounding cities as a way to show pride and support for their diverse communities has since grown into something larger. The passport now has more than 42 participating businesses across eight Iowa cities, including Ames, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque, Greater Des Moines, Iowa City, Quad Cities, Sioux City and Waterloo, and more joining each week.

Amber Collins posing for a photo in her shop Soul Book Nook.
Amber Collins, Owner of Soul Book Nook in Waterloo, Iowa joined the Black Capitol in December 2020.

“Joining this program has really helped increase awareness of my business not only within the Waterloo community, but statewide,” said Amber Collins, owner of Soul Book Nook. “Black Capitol is an outlet for Black-owned businesses like Soul Book Nook to network and build positive relationships in our communities during this time.”

While the program launched last winter, they’re only just getting started. Iowa businesses that are interested in participating can submit requests for free online today.

Published February 23, 2021

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