Every year in Washington, D.C. there is an amazing event called the Black Love Experience created and organized by Nubian Hueman that not only promotes Black Love, Black Self-Love, and Black Culture but also Black Business and Black Entrepreneurs. This year I had the pleasure of attending the event and was blown away by the quality of products offered and the variety of amazing vendors working at the event. I decided to highlight five exceptional entrepreneurs and black businesses that are serving the black community and seek important lessons and tips from them to share with aspiring entrepreneurs.
1.) Stoop and Stank
Stoop and Stank was founded in 2016, in the wake of the elections that saw the departure of Barack and Michelle Obama from the White House and the rise of racial tension and white nationalism. This inspired Stoop and Stank Founder Brianna Downing to use her creative talents to process her own feelings and those of her peers about current events and to creative visual representations of positive images of blackness, pop culture, and black pride. Stoop and Stank draws inspiration for their designs from black culture and current events. As things happen, like Issa Rae saying she’s “Rooting For Everybody Black” to popular phrases like “Doing it for the culture” and when “Black Panther” dropped and we all lost our minds and embraced our blackness, Stoop and Stank was there ready with a tee shirt, hoodie, and other products to capture the moment. In the past three years, Stoop and Stank has grown organically and been featured in Essence and Blavity. Stoop and Stank in the future hopes to take advantage of more vending opportunities, to expand to include more product lines, and to place products in more boutiques and shops that cater to the Black Community.
Her advice for new entrepreneurs is to do it on your terms. Don’t try to create products that don’t come from a place of authenticity for you. There is a target market out there for every product and every entrepreneur. You will find yours if create products that are true to you and that you are truly passionate about.
2.) Essential Tees
Essential Tees was founded in 2016 and sells shirts that feature messages of encouragement, empowerment and creative takes on pop culture. They also offer trendy, runway-inspired jewelry and accessories at prices you can afford. I can attest that their sunglasses game is on and popping as a new owner of a dope pair! Essential Tees’ Owner and Creative Visionary is Yolanda Arrington. In 2016, Yolanda felt that she wanted to start something with shirts and accessories, that featured quotes or sayings of the moment and that would be of interest to people. She took some time and came up with a few designs and launched. As her business took off, Yolanda expanded Essential Tees to include other trendy items including but not limited to phone cases, accessories, jewelry mugs, pillows and more. For Yolanda, Essential Tees is a business and an opportunity that allows her to be creative. In the future, Yolanda hopes to extend her newly created swimwear line, to vend more, and to expand as the business grows.
Her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is: Just start! Just start somewhere and don’t worry about it being perfect because business is always evolving, it’s never perfect, you have work at it. You may have to change your site, your product or suppliers, but just keep working at it. Your customers will see you are growing and changing, and your clients will understand that you are building your infrastructure and they will still support you.
In 2016 Yoni, suffered a tragic miscarriage and started making waistbeads as part of her healing journey and to help support a friend’s fertility. Yoni shared a picture of her first strand of waistbeads with her sister circle. After seeing the picture, one of the ladies in her sister circle immediately placed an order, and the rest as they say, is history. Yoni didn’t get into making waistbeads as a business but rather to help other women whose struggles mirrored her own and where she could serve as a support to other women. For Yoni, word of mouth is how her business has grown legs. Women reach out to Yoni to share their stories and she makes custom orders for each client based on the intentions they share with her to support them energetically and spiritually. Yoni continues to make waistbeads for clients and going forward hopes to expand into a space where she can see clients regularly who want to be fitted for waistbeads and whereas a certified Reiki practitioner she provides Reiki services to clients.
Her advice for newbies is: Let your business come together organically don’t force it. If you are making sacrifices and spending time away from friends and loved ones make sure it is for something that has meaning behind it and that you enjoy. Otherwise you must ask if it worth it.
Inspired by African fashion, Diggin In Her Roots will be four years old in June 2019. Diggin In Her Roots seeks to find a medium where traditional African prints and patterns can be embedded into Western culture and worn with pride. In the form of vibrant and unique skirts, ties, jewelry and much more, Diggin In Her Roots specializes in unique designs for men, women and children and does custom orders. Leeand Diggs, Diggin In Her Roots founder, says her company came about from people loving the African designs she wore to church and asking her where they could buy similar outfits. She began by selling fabric to people who admired the clothes she wore. Since then, Leeand has expanded to selling clothes of all types from formal gowns to everyday wear to dashikis and more. She draws inspiration from her African roots, knowledge, experience, her own sense of style, and her mother’s experience. She has also conducted surveys and held focus groups to make sure she consistently brings her clients and target audience the products they want to see from her. Going forward, she wants to continue expanding her online building, do more vending and participating in pop up events, and bringing on a team to take her business to the next level.
Her advice for newbies is: Being an entrepreneur is not easy. Don’t be fooled by people who make it look easy and are out here highlighting that they make 10-15K/mth but don’t share the work that is required behind the scenes to generate the revenue. Go into business realizing that it is not easy but if you wrap your business around a cause or a particular purpose, it will center your entrepreneurial journey and keep your endeavors bigger than you.
5.) Halls of Art
Born and raised in Buffalo, NY, Leah T. Hall has lived life on the outside of the box. Where others saw blocks of wood, Leah saw her chance to leave a mark on the jewelry boxes of the masses. With a certain savoir faire for taking ordinary objects and transforming them into ornate ornaments (wearable art, if you will), Leah founded Halls of Art. HOA Accessory Bar is where those who are not afraid to stand out come to accessorize their ootd. Leah’s made-to-order wooden accessories add that oh so needed “je ne sais quoi” to complete your outfit. Where one sees snow to shovel, Leah sees the perfect snow angel. Where one sees thrifted clothes, Leah sees a vintage vision. Where one dreams of the perfect pair of statement shouting earrings, HOA Accessory Bar makes it a reality. Halls of Art (HOA) started in 2013 and has been growing ever since. Leah draws her inspiration from her fashion background and wanting to find creative ways to keep women looking fly while making a statement with her signature earrings. Going forward, Leah hopes to start catering to a Hollywood audience by getting her earrings featured on our favorite stars of the big and small screens. She also hopes to place her earring lines into more boutiques, to create specialty designs to fit unique audiences, and to collaborate more.
Her advice for new entrepreneurs is: Take your time, don’t rush. Do as much research as possible because if you’re not ready it can backfire on you. For example, your items can fall apart, and you always want your products and inventory to be top quality, so take the time you need to make sure they are.
To learn more about these vendors and their amazing products click on their names above and find your next purchase today!
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.