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5 mins read

Black Owned Abroad: Shaneka runs an E-Boutique in Japan

Shaneka Willingham is the owner of Little Mavericks, an e-boutique based in Tokyo, Japan. When she’s not creating bodysuit collections, she teaches military-connected students at Yokota Air Base.

We caught up with her to learn more about her business and life abroad.

Black owned japan
Photo credit: Maryella Photography

When and why did you move to Japan? 

I moved to Japan in October 2015 while grieving the loss of my mother and accepting a teaching position serving military-connected students. Best move ever!

What inspired you to start your business?

Beyond a passion for teaching, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit since attending an Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in 6th grade. Back then, I sold body creams and soap. Years later, after collaborating with and photographing events for a dear friend with a successful Black-owned cotton candy business, Sugar Shack Tokyo, I was motivated to start my own.

So, I planned for nine months and with the support of friends and other black entrepreneurs in the heart of Tokyo, including owners of Soul Food House and Abundant Hearts Speak, I launched my e-boutique on my late mother’s birthday, January 28, 2020. My business is dedicated to my mother’s memory, how she dressed me in tailored-made garments, swooped my bangs, and called me her Little Lady.

Photo credit: Maryella Photography

What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?

The most challenging part of being an entrepreneur is having BIG million-dollar ideas and not enough funding to make them happen just YET (Growth Mindset!). Currently, my business is self-funded as I continue to learn other means to gain capital.

What is the most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur?

The most fulfilling part of being an entrepreneur is the creative outlet and the love I’ve received from the community I continue to build through Little Mavericks. I am detail-oriented and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE creating and curating various products that are stylish, fun, and affordable.

My bestseller is my Express Yo’self Bodysuits which feature expressions of black culture and self-love. I do a little jig when customers express how much they love not only the bodysuits and their expressions, but the quality and aesthetic of my brand.

Black owned japan
Photo credit: Maryella Photography

Describe your experience living and working in Japan.

Living and working in Japan has been a rewarding and culturally rich experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d live in a foreign country doing what I love. I’ve been able to explore and see different parts of the world, meet incredible people, and I’ve even gained a Japanese mama-san who loves me like her own.

But, most importantly, I get to serve those who serve us. Impacted by extraordinary sacrifices, sudden changes, and deployments, our military-connected students are beautiful and resilient. I enjoy creating memorable learning experiences for them, and though I’m the teacher, they’ve taught me so much; no matter what, keep going and pressing forward. They do it daily.

Black owned japan
Photo credit: Maryella Photography

What are your future plans for the business?

I want Little Mavericks to make a profound impact somehow, and I continue to build and refine while figuring that part out. My short-term goal is to establish brand partnerships with black-owned brick-and-mortar boutiques so that Little Mavericks can be featured and readily available in major cities.

My long-term goal is to expand my apparel line and eventually walk into major retailers to see Little Mavericks on the racks. My ultimate goal is growth, success, and wealth for my family and I.

Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

Couples, Inc. : Keewa and Doug own Kidswear Brand, Kido Chicago

Kido Chicago is a Chicago based clothing line for babies and toddlers. The brand features a number of colorful, positive images and messages on onesies, t-shirts and more.

We spoke to husband and wife founders, Keewa Nurullah and Doug Freitag to find out how they balance business and family.

kido chicago
Kido Chicago founders, Keewa Nurullah and Doug Freitag

How did you both meet?

Keewa: A mutual friend invited me to a barbecue Doug was hosting at his house.

What inspired you to start Kido Chicago?

Keewa: When my son was about 7 months old, I simply got tired of all the trucks, dinosaurs, and lil’ slugger styles for boys.

I had a few ideas for some onesies, and Doug encouraged me to develop them and see about getting them printed.


I really wanted to see children of color reflected on apparel the way we’ve started to see change in children’s books.

What decision was made or action taken that was a “game changer” for your business?

Doug: Hosting events for families. It’s one thing to sell a product on the internet, but if you can connect your product to a lifestyle and create a community, that’s success.

Keewa: Getting our storefront. We’ve met so many new families just strolling into the shop that may have never found us in the vast online marketplace.

It lets us connect to our customers in a personal way, and it keeps them invested in our success.

kido chicago

Describe your individual personalities and how you fuse them to make the business work?

Doug: I’m a visual artist, so I focus on the design and creation of the garments. Keewa is very connected to the families and what they are into.

We have to listen to each other and prioritize one or the other, depending on the design.

What advice do you have for other couples who are in business together or thinking about it?

Doug: Give each other the space to make mistakes. Every person has a different process, so let your mate have room to succeed or fail in individual decisions before you insert your advice sometimes.

kido chicago

Keewa: Go for it! Do all the research and preparation you can. Then, ask the experts in your life for even more advice and help.

kido chicago

Also, be sure that you have a viable business model before you put the strain and stress onto your relationship.

If you’re working together towards something great, it can breathe new life into your relationship!


-Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Mother Creates Swimming Cap for Black Hairstyles

Nomvuyo Treffers is the creator of Swimma, a brand of swimming caps designed specifically for hairstyles like dreadlocks, braids, Afros as well as weaves.

The best business ideas solve a problem. Nomvuyo’s problem was that whenever she got in the pool with her two daughters that love to swim, it took forever for her dreadlocks to dry.

She couldn’t find any locally made products and the ones she did find were overseas and expensive.

She decided to create her own. “I started thinking how can it be that in a country like South Africa, with the demographics that we have, that we don’t have a product like this for Black people,” she says.

As with many businesses, finding the right manufacturer is not always easy. Nomvuyo went through ten manufacturers before finding the right one.

She now plans to expand into several other African countries, including Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.

Her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Do not be afraid of taking calculated risks.

“When you think of an idea, don’t wait and think – act on it,” she says.

“Whatever gap you see, you should take it and take a chance because that’s what entrepreneurship is about.  Sometimes you have to go with your gut, but obviously market research is critical.”


-Tony O. Lawson

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