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accessories

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From Living in a Shelter after Hurricane Katrina to Launching a Successful Bow Tie Company

Oakland, CA based designer, Rashima Sonson is the owner of SONSON®, a bow tie brand that offers unique bow ties made of African wax print fabric, lamb leather, pearls, and Swarovski stones.

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Rashima Sonson

In 2005, her life drastically changed from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. After being displaced to Philadelphia and living in a shelter, Rashima had to start her life from the bottom. She continued to push forward with her goal of creating her fashion brand.

Now, she is shifting the gears on the traditional bow tie by adding a bit of lagniappe to its style and showing customers that women can wear bow ties too!

We caught up with her to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.

What inspired you to start SONSON?

SONSON® was inspired by a big sister of 7 brothers—which happens to be me! In 2013, I had a difficult time finding a father to be a gift for one of my brothers who was expecting his first son.

I wanted to give him a meaningful classic and useful gift. Something commemorative, something he could teach his son, something they can bond/build a relationship with, and something his son could pass down.

Sadly, I could not find the perfect gift online or via brick& mortar, so I decided to put my fashion design degree to work—I created a men’s accessory brand to positively support the psychological and sociological experiences in a male’s life.

SONSON® embodies everything that is important to me—family, fashion and building lasting relationships. The fact that SONSON® is my last name was a divine sign! And I have not looked back!

What has been the most fulfilling and the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?

The most fulfilling thing about being an entrepreneur is getting up every day to grow a business with a mission that I am passionate about. When that passion is fused and embedded in a product that you are familiar, it makes the entrepreneurial journey worthwhile!

The most challenging part about being an entrepreneur is the risks and uncertainties! For example, I might invest in marketing (financial risk), but the uncertainty of the ROI from a marketing ad/campaign is a challenge.

I may or may not get the ROI that I forecasted. However, this is all part of being an entrepreneur—you have to take the good with the bad and keep pushing!!!

How do you select your unique designs and materials?

The designs and materials are selected by a mix of art and science. The art is based on my own personal attraction to beautiful fabrics, prints, as well as cultural inspirations.

You may see a collection celebrating Black History Month with items adorned in cowrie shells, black onyx, to vibrant African wax fabric. Or designs celebrating Chinese New Year with gold foil on the fabric!

The science is based on the internal voice of customer research. From conducting customer intention surveys from over 100 pop-up/vendor events (i.e. Wedding Fairs, Holiday Pop-Ups, etc.)  throughout the Bay Area as well as automated post purchase surveys.

The selection of my designs and materials were based on research conducted over a span of 4 years.

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Where do you see the business in 5 years?

In the next 5 years, I see SONSON® thriving, opening a showroom, partnering with major e-commerce, corporate brands, and private organizations! In 5 years, I see the business as the go-to brand for commemorative dapper gifts.

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From new dads being gifted one of our classic items in celebration of his first son, young men wearing our ties during their draft pick to the NFL, NBA or MLB,  to an artist wearing one of our pieces when accepting their first Grammy! This is where I see the business in 5 years.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

The best and most relevant advice I can provide to aspiring entrepreneurs are:

  1. Know yourself and your craft—be authentic
  2. Know (research) and cater to your target audience/industry—be their advocate
  3. If you don’t quit, you will win—never give up on yourself or your dream
  4. The best and most valuable investment you will make in your life is investing in yourself, but make sure you have a clear plan on how /when you will get an ROI on your investment—remember you are building a brand/business (YOU)
  5. Surround yourself with people who help build you up and support your goals. Life is too short to be surrounded by negative people or people that are not interested in seeing you grow mentally, professionally and spiritually.
  6. Always pay it forward! (i.e. time, resources, etc..)
  7. Last but not least, the answer is out there you just have to be mentally present to listen for it.  How many times have we missed out on an opportunity or blessing because we weren’t present to listen and then take action? The most successful entrepreneurs that I have watched and read about, listened and took action (strategically)! Seize the moment!

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Luxury Brands To Support Instead of GUCCI and Prada

Gucci issued an apology for the offense caused by their “blackface sweater”. I don’t accept. In fact, at this point, I’m convinced that these “mistakes” are part of these folks’ marketing strategy. They can’t be that clueless.

That being said, here is a list of Black owned luxury brands that you can use to replace brands like Gucci and Prada that refuse to act right.

#NEVERFORGET

Black Owned Luxury Brands

Wear Brims

black owned luxury

Frances Grey

Tori Soudan

House of Takura

MIITRA

SWAV Eyewear

Linell Ellis

Undra Celeste

4th & Avery

 

Lemlem

COLD LAUNDRY

Fe Noel

Armando Cabral

Wales Bonner

ZAAF

Mifland

Andrea Iyamah

Tsemaye Binite

Ozwald Boateng

Made Leather Co.

Hanifa

Monrowe NYC

Christie Brown

Tony O. Lawson

If you would like to add a business to this list (or another) SUBMIT HERE.


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Black Owned Jewelry Businesses That Should Be on Your Radar

Historically, jewelry was meant to indicate social status, familial roots, and significance. Today, people wear jewelry to jazz up an outfit, express individuality, or to profess their love and passion.

Whatever your reason for rocking some fly accessories, there’s a Black owned jewelry business that can provide what you need.

Here are just a few.

black owned jewelry

Black Owned Jewelry Businesses

Lorraine West Jewelry

Sewit Sium Jewelry

black owned jewelry

Egbo Collections

Black Owned Jewelry

Johnny Nelson

black owned jewelry

Yenae

Afrohemien Jewelry

Whim Byaree

Billie Hilliard

Adele Dejak

Black Owned Jewelry

Sheryl Jones Diamond and Gemstone Jewelry

Lunaversoul

Anita Quansah London

Valerie Madison

Tracey Beale

ADORN 42.20

Sandy Baker Art Collection

 

Moijey Fine Diamonds

Nirvana Wild

Black Owned Jewelry

Mock & Co 

 

Saint Jewels

Lingua Nigra

Black Owned Jewelry

Limba Gal

Jam + Rico

Black Owned Jewelry

Omi Woods

black owned jewelry

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned New Jersey Businesses You Should Know

Here’s our list of Black Owned New Jersey Businesses. Check them out, support, and let us know and let us know which ones missed!

Black Owned New Jersey

Mo’Pweeze Bakery offers delectable treats like cupcakes, cakes, breads, cookies and pies that are just as indulgent as regular bakery items.

Bailey Li interiors is an interior designer with the ability to transform spaces into stunning environments.

Bella Nail Lounge and Beauty Bar is a stylish salon for manicures & pedicures, plus facials, waxing & eyelash extensions.

8 to 8 Barber Shop is a rapidly growing, forward thinking, hair therapy salon offering personalized hair & massage services to men, women, and children.

Blending pure Americana staples with the strong cultural cues of Indian cuisine, BURGER WALLA is a new twist on the BURGER joint.

Sugar Fetish Cakery is a custom cake design studio specializing in wedding cakes, specialty cakes, cupcakes, cookies, dessert tables and more.

Mac’n! by Mari specializes in making traditional french macarons with flavor & style.

Soul Xpressiion is a non-profit organization designed to educate students in the areas of fine and performing arts, stage management, stage production development, and how to utilize their gifts to inspire others.

DNT Dynamite Design describes the work of Daveia Odoi who offers professional illustration and graphic design services to various businesses, organizations, and individuals in need of high quality visuals.

 

Gideon’s Needle is a Bespoke Lifestyle brand. We custom design clothing based on your body shape and type.

Ikuzi Dolls are beautiful black dolls that come in different shades of brown, hair textures and hairstyles.

The Newark Times is the premier online multimedia and news site dedicated to sharing the narratives and perspectives of the great city of Newark NJ.

Butter + Nectar premium satin pillowcases that protect your curls and promote healthy hair and skin. Prevent the loss of natural hair oils, reduce breakage, split ends and tangles, and minimize frizz.

NoiaBrittany is a homemade, raw, organic, cruelty-free skin care line. Noia, for short, celebrates all skin types and improves skin care naturally.

Mr. Tod’s is a niche bakery specializing in pies and other baked goods made from scratch using all-natural ingredients.

Prime Surgicare specializes in minimally-invasive bariatric surgery for rapid, sustainable weight loss.

Tara Dowdell Group is a marketing and strategic consulting firm driven by a passion for helping socially conscious businesses, brands, and organizations grow.

Bro-Ritos Food Truck is a food truck that specializes in…burritos.

But-A-Cake specializes in making Butter Cakes, a delicious treat made with simple ingredients that result in a fusion of pound cake and vanilla angel food cake.

Black Swan Espresso is Newark’s first Specialty Coffee and Tea Shop. They specialize in using the highest quality international coffee beans in all their roasts.

Blueberry Cafe’ Juice Bar & Grille prepares Organic Cold Pressed Juices and Smoothies  along with Vegan Wraps and Soups that help people on their quest for good food and a good life.

Yamean Studios Films is a full service cinematography studio specializing in cinematic style wedding films.

She Imagined Sweets creates Mini Cheesecakes for birthday parties, baby showers, weddings, anniversaries, networking events.

Stellar Smile Center offers in office and take home whitening. They also have options for whitening for those with sensitive teeth.

Built in 1903, Akwaaba Buttonwood Manor is a colonial-style inn with modern amenities located in America’s oldest seaside resort, Cape May.

 

-Tony O. Lawson

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Expedition Subsahara: Empowering Girls To Rise From Poverty

Expedition Subsahara is on a mission to translate beautiful home décor and jewelry into education for girls in poverty. They are doing this by working with artisans in Senegal and Uganda to produce amazing handcrafted goods. We spoke with Rosebell Komugisha, one of the two founders. This is what she had to say:

SB: What inspired the creation of your Expedition Subsahara?

ES: We know some of the obstacles to development in the rural areas in Sub-saharan Africa, having always been action oriented, we wanted to take responsibility by doing something for the women in the underdeveloped communities back home.

Expedition Subsahara
Founders: Safietou Seck and Rosebell Komugisha

We focused on women specifically because United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) studies have shown that women will invest their income in the development of their families and communities, but men tend to use their income to indulge in selfish vices. Literally, when you educate a girl, you educate a village.

On the U.S. side, we were sensing a need for people to connect, embrace, and understand cultures beyond their own. By introducing African goods into the American market, we would be able to share our rich Sub-Saharan culture with people in the United States while elevating women back home.


SB: What makes Expedition Subsahara a “conscious” business?

ES: Our goal is to add value to our societies and not to exploit the environment or consumers and producers for the sake of profit. The intention is to foster social change through education, to provide economic emancipation to women with few opportunities in the case of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the U.S., our purpose is to expose Americans to unique forms of home decor and link African and American cultures.

All of our goods are handmade by local Sub-saharan artisans. We have noticed that handmade African baskets and clothing are now being mass-produced in China and have been solicited by those wholesalers.

Our response is always no, we are not here to maximize profit, but to elevate each stakeholder, the producer, consumer, environment, and the communities where we intend to build the trade schools.

SB: Why is conscious economics or conscious consumerism important to you?

ES: It is important that we move away from the market model that pushes profit for the sake of profit without trying to build people or the environment. It dehumanizes producers and consumers, keeps people trapped in cycles of poverty and encourages the over consumption.

But it doesn’t just end there for us, we are very much aware that African markets are saturated with western goods that are mass-produced in China.

Through conscious consumerism, we have an avenue to hand some selling power back to African artisans by creating a space in the western market.


SB: What have been the most interesting and challenging parts of running your business?

ES: The most interesting part about running our business is witnessing African products being wholeheartedly embraced in the western world.

The challenge is remembering to keep the vision of our company woven in all of work even with the demand of the smaller daily task.

SB: What are some pros and some cons of using artisans to produce your products?

ES: Sub-sahran artisans are very dedicated, patient, and take great pride in their work. They also want to maintain business partnership, so they make sure to always deliver well made products. The only disadvantage is the very high cost of shipping from Africa to the united States.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

ES: We’ll be running or first trade school in Senegal and equipping women with the skills necessary for them to be economically independent and build their communities.

We will also have systems in place to track the impact of our graduates on their local communities. Lastly, in addition to our online store, we have a brick and mortar location.

SB: What advice do you have for those who want to work with artisans that reside abroad?

ES: Be fair to the artists that you are purchasing your products from and keep in mind that for many of them, this is their main source of income.

Find a great shipping company, international shipping costs can be obnoxious. Partner with local organizations whose goal is to develop the community. Any time they are already working with local artisans, this give you a reliable and fair source for your goods.

Find out more about Expedition Subsahara by visiting their website here.

-Tony O. Lawson


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The Politics Behind the Black Beauty Store Industry Dominated by Koreans – MPR

Karen Coffey opened Bella Beauty and Hair in January with lots of optimism and a stylist’s eye for hair extensions and other products tailored to Black women. She thought that would be enough to succeed.

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Karen Coffey speaks with a customer inside Bella Beauty and Hair, which she opened earlier this year. Evan Frost | MPR News

She didn’t realize the game would be stacked against her before she even opened her door.

Like Black entrepreneurs before her, Coffey quickly discovered that behind the beauty supply storefronts that dot the nation’s urban neighborhoods and suburban shopping plazas sits a multibillion-dollar industry for black hair products that’s run largely by South Koreans and does not cede its power or market share without a fight.

beauty
Wigs on display at Bella Beauty and Hair

Korean-Americans cornered the market decades ago by controlling the manufacturing, distribution and retail sale of hair extensions — the moneymaker of the industry. Black owners believe Korean wholesalers shut them out and only supply Korean retailers.

Korean American beauty supply industry leaders at a meeting in the Northeast U.S. – The Korean Times

Coffey says she’s seen that firsthand. Some Korean wholesalers, she said, have denied or ignored her requests for products. Meanwhile, a new Korean-owned store that opened across the street a month before her has some brands she can’t get.

“All of it is run by Koreans,” said Coffey, 32. “A lot of them don’t make it easy for Blacks to get in. I didn’t know it would be this challenging.”

National Federation of Beauty Suppliers (NFBS) Board Members – The Korean Times

Korean wholesalers deny any preferential treatment. Shake-N-Go, which supplies Coffey’s nearby competitors, said it works with retailers based on local competition and other exclusively economic factors, and the choices are “far from being discriminatory.”

Coffey, though, says those statements run contrary to what she and other Black beauty supply owners experience daily.

Coffey’s part of a growing number of Black women here and around the country determined to persevere even if it means bypassing the Korean supply chain. They’re going to extreme lengths, employing innovation and grit, to do so.

NFBS BOARD MEMBERS – THE KOREAN TIMES

“There’s been a really concerted effort to get Black people to enter the retail side of this business,” said Lori Tharps, Temple University journalism professor and co-author of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America.”

“There are success stories,” she added. “Somehow black people are finding alternative suppliers and moving past this idea that Koreans are keeping them out of this very lucrative space.”

 

Read full article by Emma Sapong at MPR News


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Black Owned Businesses in Canada

Canada is known for many things. Currently, it’s best known as the place that everyone wants to move to if you know who wins you know what. Our North American neighbors should also be known for the many awesome Black owned businesses that exist there. Here are a few:

Black Owned Businesses in Canada

Bôhten (Quebec, Ontario & online) is an eco-luxury eyewear line handmade from reclaimed material, sourced from Africa.

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Locsuria Natural Haircare Systems (Ontario) is a “pure and natural hair maintenance line of products.”

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Curl Bar Beauty Salon (Ontario) aims to provide the highest quality service and experience for your hair and beauty services.

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Nannis Natural Hair Studio (Ontario) provides “a unique holistic approach to healthy natural hair with locks, braids, twists, and customized styles for a wide range of special occasions.”

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Le Nil Bleu (Montreal) is an Ethiopian restaurant that offers flavourful meals.

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Club Balattou (Montréal ) is “one of the first venues to bring African bands to North America in the 1980s.

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Black Theatre Workshop (Montréal) is “Canada’s oldest Black theatre company and is committed to reflecting Black culture and community by developing and providing visibility for Black Canadian artists.”

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The Montreal Community Contact is a publication that has been serving Montréal’s Black and Caribbean Community for over 20 years.

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Grillade Lafirenzé Plus (Montréal)”offers a family friendly environment with a warm welcome and good (African) food.”

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Tassot Creole (Quebec)is a Hatian restaurant that offers delicious meals made from scratch.

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Le Virunga (Montréal)provides traditional African recipes that have been reinvented. “When African fine cuisine meets Québec.”

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Ritz Caribbean Foods is a franchise that offers “the best Caribbean food in Ontario.”

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Divas Hair Design Studio (Ontario) offers “a variety of services including hair services: Virgin Hair Extensions –Weaves, Braids, Custom wigs, Dread locking, Up-dos, Color, Relaxers, Hair products, accessories and many more.”

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Earthtones Naturals (Ontario) was “developed out of necessity for Canadian-made premium and effective natural hair and body products.”

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Shakara Naturals (Ontario) offers “natural products that help strengthen hair and improve skin.”

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London Ivy Products (Ontario) is “a hair, bath & beauty line that heals, nourishes & serves multiple purposes.”

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 -Tony O. Lawson

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Black Owned Businesses in Brooklyn You Should Know

Over the past decade, countless Black owned businesses in Brooklyn (and nationwide) have fallen victim to gentrification.

Rising rents and leases are forcing businesses to close. However, there are still many Black owned businesses and institutions that have weathered the storm and continue to provide great goods and service.

Black Owned Businesses in Brooklyn

The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) aims to serve as a conduit for African Diaspora forms of expression ranging from the visual and performing arts to film and television.

Black Owned Businesses Brooklyn

Calabar Imports is a trendy, specialty retail and gift store that offers home furnishings, unique crafted jewelry, fashion, and gifts sold at moderate prices.

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Khamit Kinks is a natural hair care salon that specializes in natural hairstyles and maintaining healthy hair.

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Akwaaba Mansion is a meticulously restored Italianate villa that features exquisite architectural details, including 14-foot ceilings and ornate fireplaces.

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Richol Bakery combines French tradition with an American Flair, including a light menu of quiche & panini, plus pastries & elegant French-style desserts.

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Adrian Fanus Grooming is a highly rated barbershop that tailors to each client’s grooming experience to maximize his/her own personal and unique sense of style.

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From old school haircuts styles to the most current popular hairstyles , Brooklyn Master Barbershop focuses on providing high-quality service and customer satisfaction. 

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Levels’ is a multifaceted barbershop that specializes in styling, grooming, and overall hair care for men, women, and children. Founders: Kamal Nuru, Larry Wilson and Denorval Parks
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BCakeNY is a custom cake studio dedicated to creating specialty cakes for every occasion. Owner & Cake Designer: Miriam Milord
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Ms.Dahlias Cafe specializes in baked eats, including biscuits & muffins, plus light fare in cozy digs.

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A remarkably preserved slice of the prohibition era, Bedford Hall is the perfect combination of a Bar, Lounge, and Events Space.

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La Caye offers authentic Haitian cuisine & inventive sangrias in an intimate, art-hung space with outdoor dining. 

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The Crabby Shack is your destination for all things crabs! They dish up crab in full plates with sides, as well as in rolls, tacos & sliders. 10525846_868818223139365_263334174250857375_n

Bed-Vyne Brew Bar is a pub with a reclaimed wood decor serves draft microbrews & hosts DJs from Wednesday to Saturday. 

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Blew Smoke is a sophisticated cigar lounge with Wi-Fi, TVs, private humidors & a BYOB drink policy.

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Brooklyn Bell is an ice cream shop that sells classic & seasonal flavors & other housemade sweets. 

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Brooklyn Swirl is the first independently-owned frozen yogurt shop to serve the Brooklyn Community. They serve crepes & smoothies in bright modern digs with a patio & free WiFi. 

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Brooklyn Wine Yard is an intimate lounge, serving up an upscale atmosphere with great wines, spirits, beers, and tasty food. brooklyn-wine-yard-slide-3-992x546

Bati is a traditional Ethiopian restaurant, located in the heart of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, dedicated to serving authentic delicacies that possess homemade quality flavors.

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Jollof Restaurant is a West African eatery with colorful art-filled walls serving a variety of Senegalese and other West African dishes. 6_1440061230_joloff_restaurant
Joire’s Spa Studio is a beauty salon that offers different types of hair extensions, full body waxing, teeth whitening, and Henna tattooing.

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Joshua Dwain Photography is an international wedding photography husband and wife team. 

Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy is a community-based arts and cultural organization dedicated to supporting the creative, educational, and vocational development of disadvantaged youth and families. 

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Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center uses dance to encourage, inspire, and facilitate the aspirations of New York’s inner-city youth.

Big Apple Urgent Care is an urgent care and community wellness center located in the heart of East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

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Greedi Vegan is a vegan restaurant that offers fast-casual vegan soul food.

Harlem Hops is a bar that offers craft local & world beers & international pub grub.

Cafe Rue Dix is a French and Senegalese cafe, restaurant, and bar located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.

Marche Ru Dix is a trendy concept store featuring a curated selection of vintage clothing, jewelry & home goods.

 


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Black Owned Businesses in Paris You Should Know

We’re back at it with another guide to shopping Black in the Diaspora. This time, we’re highlighting Black owned businesses in Paris.  Let’s show some love to our brothers and sisters in the “City of Light”.

Black Owned Businesses in Paris

Café Dapper by Chef Loïc Dablé  is located a stone’s throw from Champs Elysées. The restaurant Café Dapper Loïc Dablé is set in Dapper Museum, a place dedicated to Sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean, and its diasporas. black owned businesses in paris

FASHION

Natasha Baco

black owned businesses in paris

Sakina M’sa

black owned businesses in paris

Adama Paris

black owned businesses in paris

BaZara’pagne

black owned businesses in paris

Nefer 

black owned businesses in parisHOME DECOR

Myriam Maxo tells a story through fabrics with abstract patterns and wax that provide a touch of fantasy with contemporary design.

black owned businesses in paris

TRAVEL

Visiter L’Afrique or “Visiting Africa” ​​is an interactive digital platform dedicated to tourism and culture on the African continent.

BOOKSTORE

Présence Africaine is a pan-African quarterly cultural, political, and literary magazine, founded by Seneglese-born Alioune Diop in 1947.

black owned businesses in paris

 

 ART

Alexis Peskine is a Parisian resident who is renowned for his work on race and identity issues in France.

black owned businesses in paris

 


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20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

By now you must have seen our first list of Black Owned Businesses in the Diaspora. On that list, we mentioned several Black owned businesses based in the UK. This time, we are showing even MORE love to our brothers and sisters across the pond with a new list of dope businesses you should most definitely check out and support from your country or when you visit the United Kingdom.

20 Black Owned Businesses in the UK

Home Decor

Eva Sonaike is a lifestyle company that produces luxurious home décor, fashion accessories and textiles.

Black Owned Businesses

 

Fashion

Uptown Yardie is a British company inspi