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‘For Us, by Us’: Inside the New Social Spaces for People of Color

Members access the space, located in Central Brooklyn, by having their fingers scanned and giving a passcode. Upon entering, they find a lounge, complete with couches, a barber chair and books on finance. The spiral staircase leads to an area with workstations.

Inside on a recent day, a man who works as a consultant helped five others get businesses certified. Another launched a campaign to run for City Council, engaging members to assist in outreach. An author presented research in a forum. The Gentlemen’s Factory brought them all together.

As one of the very few spaces in New York City exclusively for men of color, The Gentlemen’s Factory began as a middle ground between work and home for men who need a venue for networking and socializing.

From left, Tim Jack, Prince James and Jeff Lindor at The Gentleman’s Factory in Brooklyn.CreditCreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times

“They’re going through a divorce, or they have mental health challenges, or they’re going on an interview but they don’t know how to ask for a salary increase,” said Jeff Lindor, the club’s founder. “There wasn’t an outlet for them to be.”

Mr. Lindor, clad in a custom-made Prince James suit (the designer is a Gentlemen’s Factory member) noted that members contribute to making the space their own, whether it’s the Malcolm X art above the leather sofa or the magazines near the coffee table.

Born in Petit-Goâve, Haiti, Mr. Lindor was raised in a Coney Island housing project. The son of non-English speaking immigrants, Mr. Lindor and his family were wedged between a wealthy, white community on one end of the neighborhood and an impoverished and predominantly black population on the other. He asked himself: Why does my community look like this? Why does blackness look like this?

The socioeconomic disparities between white and black people inspired Mr. Lindor to study Urban Policy at the New School, where the seed of what would become The Gentlemen’s Factory started to germinate.

While earning his master’s degree, he organized gatherings with other black men to discuss their experiences.

Their first event was a Saturday gentlemen’s brunch in Brooklyn, with a $50 entry fee. When 40 black men showed up, Lindor realized that the group might need a dedicated physical space.

The mixers that followed led to hundreds of black male New Yorkers gathering. “I had to ask myself,” Mr. Lindor said, “Is this an enterprise or a hobby?”

At the time, Mr. Lindor was working as the strategic adviser to the executive staff at the Department of Correction, in the DeBlasio Administration. He resigned, spent two months developing a business model, then secured a lease with money he had saved. Mr. Lindor asked friends who made more than six figures a year if they would support him; in the end, they invested $100,000 into The Gentleman’s Factory.

“There are very few spaces where men of color can come together and engage in meaningful dialogue, said Rubain Dorancy, a member who is also an attorney and an educational consultant. “At the Gentlemen’s Factory, you will find men of all ages and with varied backgrounds, engaging, supporting and uplifting each other.”

Spaces made by and for people of color are not new.

In 1826, young African-Americans gathered at 161 Duane Street to socialize and discuss the arts in a group known as the Philomathean Literary Society.

In 1892, Victoria Earle Matthews, an author and activist, created the first black women’s club in New York City, the Women’s Loyal Union. Five years later, in 1897, she created the White Rose Mission, in uptown Manhattan, where young black girls who migrated from the South could get acclimated to city life.

Yet social spaces for people of color such as The Gentlemen’s Factory — with its 100+ member strong base and a range of event programming, from finance workshops to wellness seminars — remain extremely rare in New York.

In the 1950s and ’60s, there were many social clubs in different communities of color, but as the decades passed, their numbers dwindled. Some clubs closed because they were being operated illegally; others could not afford the expensive licenses required.

Today, Toñita’s is often called the last Puerto Rican social club in Brooklyn. The last remaining black LGBTQIA+ club in New York City, Langston’s, needs $73,000 to stay open.

The Gentlemen’s Factory charges $150 a month for membership. Prospective members must fill out an application and be interviewed and screened by a committee. If a white man wanted to join, Mr. Lindor says, “We don’t discriminate. He’ll just have to know that all of the content is still going to speak about the black and brown male experience.”

In New York, the law states that any public establishment must allow full and equal access to people irrespective of race, as well as “color, religion, or national origin.” Alicia McCauley, Deputy Press Secretary of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, says, “NYC Human Rights Law protects against racial discrimination in any form, including in public accommodations such as social clubs. However, social clubs can be centered around certain experiences as long as the membership policy is not discriminatory based on race, religion, national origin, or any one of the other 22 protected categories in NYC.”

Mr. Lindor’s dream is to expand into Harlem, DC, and London, and to learn how to navigate venture capital funding. “I was privileged enough to get family and friends to donate, but when I look at my counterparts, they’re getting millions. There need to be more spaces like this — but how are we going to fund it?”

Najla Austin, the 27-year-old founder of the forthcoming Ethel’s Club.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Najla Austin, the 27-year-old founder of the forthcoming Ethel’s Club, has no interest in venture capital funding.

While working at tech start-ups, Ms. Austin kept her eyes on the women’s co-working space The Wing, which opened in 2016. She considers it to be one of the “coolest, innovative” spaces around — and wondered if there might be a possibility for black and brown people to replicate that success.

For two years, she kept her ear to the ground to see if more spaces for people of color would pop up. When they didn’t, she said, “I’ll do it.”

Last October, Austin created an Instagram page for Ethel’s Club — a name honoring her grandmother. The following day, 600 people had signed up for the wait list on the accompanying site.

“I got tons of emails — people wanting to have an event or buy a membership. Most companies struggle with demand, and for me, it was the opposite.”

While Ms. Austin will not disclose the amount of money she’s received in fund-raising, it is enough for her to be looking at 10,000-square feet locations in Brooklyn for a proposed August 2019 opening.

There will be a boutique featuring products made by people of color in the front of the club, and a members-only quarter in the back.

Membership is application-based; interested parties must support the brand mission of empowering and advancing people of color.

With regards to fees, Ms. Austin said, “There is tiered access with the hope of allowing everyone the ability to use the space as needed with a financial commitment they’re comfortable with.”

A one-year membership is required, and events will range from matchmaking to wellness to tech workshops. Her credo is “for us by us.” Ms. Austin is not looking for investors whose interests might conflict with those of people of color.

Ladin Awad was a student at the New School where she met and befriended Sienna Fekete. A few years later, the duo linked up with June Canedo at a brunch; they then planned conversations about identities, privilege, and the spectrum of experiences for women of color.

Each woman is from a different place in the diaspora — Ladin from Sudan, June from Brazil and South Carolina, and Sienna, a Caribbean-Canadian, from Los Angeles.

When they researched lexicons, “chroma” stood out for its meaning as an intensification of color.

“That makes sense because that’s what we’re amplifying, women of color,” Ms. Fekete said. Although there is no strict ban on white people attending their events, like Mr. Lindor and The Gentlemen’s Factory, the trio emphasizes that people of color are going to be centered and prioritized.

From left, June Canedo, Ladin Awad and Sienna Fekete, the founders of Chroma.CreditDemetrius Freeman for The New York Times

Chroma has organized events with names like “Working Women of Color” and “Continuity: A Conference on Self-Preservation for Women of Color.” Its members recently celebrated the grand opening of their studio in the Lower East Side, a goal financially realized through their networks.

At the Chroma studio, they partner with other collectives and document the conversations, which have themes such as digital archives, social media and mental health, and alcohol and drug addiction.

“We were having a candid transparent conversation of the struggles that we go through as a collective,” Ms. Fekete said. “There is a need for a physical space.”

What these spaces share, in addition to catering to people of color, is the privilege of connections.

While they exist outside of traditional venture capital and corporate structures, pre-existing networks of families, friends, and friends of friends were responsible for carrying the financial backing.

Tim Jack, the general manager of The Gentlemen’s Factory said, “I’ve never been a fraternity kind of person. I actually shunned them because of the elitist part of it. But this space is different. [Mr. Lindor] is giving black men the opportunity to unleash in a positive way and also deal with the things that have been traumatic to us. He gives us a space to be able to talk about it and not feel rejected.”

 

Source: The New York Times

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This Family Owned Business Closed over $500 Million in Real Estate Deals In One Year

National Standard Abstract is a family-owned title insurance company located in Floral Park, NY. In 2018 they closed more than $500 million in commercial real estate transactions and have since closed over $1billion in transactions!

In June 2018, NSA closed a total of $432 million in faith-based and affordable-housing development transactions. The non-faith-based deals include the $189 million Archer Green in Jamaica, Queens; the $47 million Regina Pacis Housing in Gravesend, Brooklyn; and a $42 million project in Harlem.

We spoke with NSA founder and CEO, Osei Rubie to learn more about him, his background and future plans.

family owned
Osei Rubie

What led you to get involved in the title insurance industry?

14 years ago, I was refinancing my personal residence and once I realized that title insurance was required; I did not want to pay for this cost, perceiving it as optional. The bank attorney then explained that this was a mandatory cost that the bank required to confirm that they were no current defects in title, violations, liens, or outstanding judgments.

I then asked the bank attorney, who happened to be a friend of mine, if he had a business relationship with the title insurance company; which led to him setting up a meeting for me to speak with them after the closing. After meeting with the company, I learned that they were not only publicly traded, but the largest underwriter of title insurance in the country.

At the time I was working with a pharmaceutical company, so when a permanent position to begin as a sales executive 2 weeks after we met was offered, I accepted thus beginning my career in the title insurance industry.

NSA focuses on faith-based affordable housing development projects. Why did you decide to focus on this niche?

New York City’s independent churches represent a significant portion of land ownership. As a result of Mayor de Blasio’s housing initiative, developers are constantly looking for new opportunities to create development projects, leading to the partnering of the two entities to create a faith-based affordable housing market.

This opportunity allowed us at National Standard Abstract to achieve our business mission in conjunction with our social mission.  Here at National Standard Abstract, we strive to identify new sources of transactions to provide title insurance; as well as focusing on underdeveloped communities and advancing the growth of affordable housing.

It has been said that it takes the same amount of time to close a $100,000 deal as it does a $1M deal. Would you agree or not? 

The layered complexities of real estate transactions vary dependent upon the sector of real estate the specific transaction falls under, (ie: residential, commercial, affordable housing, faith-based development, multi-state transactions). There have been times where the amount of effort for a transaction under $500,000 may resemble a multi-million-dollar transaction.

But normally, no I do not find it commonplace that a multi-million-dollar transaction and a $100,000 residential transaction, require the same amount of problem-solving and transaction focus.

Your father is an entrepreneur. Briefly describe his influence on your professional life.

My grandfather (Costa Rican), as well as my mother and father, were all entrepreneurs, in addition to numerous other family members. We lived in Liberia, West Africa for several years during my childhood, during which my mother and father started multiple businesses that included, 3 clothing retail stores for men and women, a clothing manufacturing facility for school and military uniforms, as well as a restaurant.

Upon our return to the United States, my parents were driven by the void of representation for black children within the toy industry. The passion to fill this void gave birth to one of the first mass-produced black toy lines in the country, Huggy Bean Doll. This product was in all major retailers on a national basis that sold toys (Toys R US, Walmart, Kmart, Target, etc.).

I was directly involved in this process at the end of my high-school career, by actively presenting new toy product lines to these retailers. This intense exposure to entrepreneurship both domestically and internationally was the ultimate training ground.

family owned
Osei Rubie (right), founder and CEO of NSA and his son, Nadir Rubie.

In the past 5 years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?

The Power of Faith and Overcoming Doubt.

When I started in title insurance, they were many comments made to me that it was unlikely that I would be able to succeed as an entrepreneur in title insurance. So much so that people would tell me that my aspirations of owning my own firm were time not well spent.

In October of 2017 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. This potentially terminal illness also has another layer of complexity in that there has been a significant advancement in technologically for this procedure (laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (LRP)). In the past, 10-12 years ago, this procedure could have a variety of results including impotence, but with new laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, this risk has been substantially minimized.

I had the surgery February of this year and when first diagnosed I was told that because of my aggressive and intense schedule with my business I would need to adjust my schedule accordingly and to expect my business revenue and sales goals to be reduced. Mental and physical conditioning has always been a major part of my business and life prep toolbox.

I’m happy to say that I defeated cancer this year making a complete recovery; while simultaneously having my best year in title insurance in my 14-year career.

Where do you see this business in 5 years?

Our goal within the next 5 years is to be the premier provider of title insurance nationally. We have provided title insurance for 2 multi-million-dollar commercial transactions in the state of New Jersey since we have begun in 2015, one for $15 million and the other for $35 million.

Our pipeline is filled with new out of state multi-million-dollar commercial transactions. Our focus on continuing to strengthen our position of leadership in the state of New York on multi-million-dollar commercial transactions will grow from this year’s banner accomplishment of over $600 million dollars closed and $274 million in Faith-Based development

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

First, assemble an informal team and then transition to a formal advisory team, including but not limited to legal, accounting, financing, and expert or experts within the field that you have an interest in.

By surrounding yourself with these individuals to give feedback and technical instruction on processes and procedures in your industry of interest, you can maximize your ability to bypass traditional problems and errors in a startup environment, and also maximize your ability to accomplish “stretch goals” in a short period of time.

 

-Tony O. Lawson

Related: This Black Owned Commercial Real Estate Firm Has Done Over $15 Billion in Transactions


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Three Black Business Owners, facing Gentrification, explain how to Thrive in NYC

Almost 20 years ago, Janifer Wilson noticed that Harlem’s bookstores were disappearing one by one, something she couldn’t stand as a woman dedicated to preserving African-American culture and history.

She decided to launch her own, and rented a space on the ground floor of her apartment building that would become a community hub for literature, art and culture.

Her shop, Sisters Uptown Bookstore, is becoming something of a rarity as bookstores in general face stiff competition from online sellers like Amazon.com, but the overall number of black-owned businesses is falling, too, according to a 2017 report by Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

From 2007 to 2012, gentrification helped shutter many black-owned businesses, the study says. Whereas in 2007, African-Americans owned 13 percent of all businesses in the Bronx and 5 percent in Queens, they owned 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in 2012, the report says. New York City is one of only three large cities to see a decline even though the number of black-owned businesses across the nation actually grew by 2.4 percent in that time period.

With August designated as National Black Business Month — in an effort to bolster the black business community with support — we spoke with African-American entrepreneurs about how they are surviving in New York City.

Here are some of their lessons:

Be passionate

Running a business is challenging and if you’re not in love with what you’re doing, it may be impossible to last.

When Wilson was on the verge of opening Sisters Uptown Bookstore, people told her outright “you’re not going to make it because black people don’t read,” she told amNewYork.

Janifer P. Wilson (R) Owner Sister’s Uptown Bookstore

She faced that negativity as well as the realization that a rising cost of living wouldn’t leave her shop very profitable because it was the realization of a dream. She looked for ways to cut costs at home and in the business, including switching energy provider, and found that lots of money can be saved by switching. If you are struggling financially in terms of your business or for anything within the home, you could look into something like direct payday loans lender to help you out in this situation and to make life a little easier. Financial hardships can put a lot of strain on people, so it is always a positive when you find that right source of help.

You too can compare business gas prices online and save some money for your business and home.

“This is a passion of love,” the 65-year-old said. “It is a must. A lot of people want to have a business, but what I found is that it has to be a purpose. The business you open may or may not yield an enormous amount of money. My word to folks is to find out what your purpose is and choose that kind of business. It’s a challenging journey but it’s worth it.”

Sisters Uptown Bookstore

In Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Omar Thorpe, 43, runs an ice cream shop called Creme and Cocoa Creamery with his wife, and it’s been a wild ride — literally. After rebranding his cafe to an ice cream shop, Thorpe bought a bicycle cart and rode it from that neighborhood all the way to Manhattan’s Fulton Market two weeks ago in the pouring rain.

black business owners
Creme & Cocoa Owners: Omar Thorpe and Astrid Thorpe

“You’ve gotta love it to actually continue,” he said. “Everything has adversity. Sometimes I’m second-guessed because of who I am and sometimes I don’t get community support because the new business can be seen as a symbol of change [in a gentrifying neighborhood].”

black business owners
Omar Thorpe on the bicycle cart for Creme and Cocoa Creamery. Photo Credit: Jenny Baily

Crown Heights’ Rituals and Ceremony owner Sarah Williams, who opened her lifestyle and home goods shop in November 2017, said it was very difficult to branch out on her own to open a business, especially because she had to learn as she went along, but she encourages others not to give up when they’re facing adversity.

Sarah Williams’ , Owner – Rituals and Ceremony

“It’s tough navigating and figuring everything out,” she said. “I took my life savings and put it into this space. It was a matter of stepping out, adventuring and doing.”

She said sometimes families can place expectations on youth to become a doctor or lawyer, but “let that go and be on your own,” she said.

Rituals and Ceremony

“It’s a big step and a tough step,” she added. “Even if you don’t have any blueprints, let those people know you have the desire to push through and go for it. Somehow the universe always provides — whether it’s through someone suggesting something or lending a helping hand.”

Be community-minded and pay attention

Wilson has made her bookstore all about community, and it has sustained her.

Not only does Sisters Uptown Bookstore sell literature, but it acts as a hub for artists, poets, avid readers and others who need a space to share in the community.

“I’m housing and presenting my culture so folks who come in back of me would be able to connect to that and not have the same sense of feeling invisible,” she said.

Growing up in southwest Georgia, she did not see depictions of people who looked like her in the literature she was reading. After moving to Harlem with her father, she was finally able to connect with her heritage and made it her mission to help others do that, as well.

“I exude my love of people and light in this community and that’s sustainability — it’s why I’ve lasted this long,” she said.

Williams noticed that the neighborhood was missing a shop dedicated to self-care and wanted to bring that to those around her.

“There really wasn’t a space like this to go to,” she said. “Everything was in Manhattan or there were shops but they had a different feel aesthetically. It’s been well-received. At first when we were opening, people walking in would say the store doesn’t look like it belongs and ask if it is a black-owned business. When I say ‘yes,’ they get excited.”

Think creatively

Thorpe’s business has undergone multiple iterations. He and his wife Astrid have transformed the long-standing family grocery store into a cafe and then rebranded it as an ice cream shop. Now, the duo are developing packaged pints that they want to get into stores by mid-August.

“This is an evolution of the previous business that was there 30 plus years,” he said. “This is the 2.0 version of what we had. We’re doing this because of the rapidly changing neighborhood.”

With change comes criticism, of course, but the Thorpes have made it a point to not stick to their comfort zone by expanding their branding and approach, he added.

Like them, Wilson’s bookstore changed over time. When she realized book business revenue was limited, she decided to open the space to the community to also bring in foot traffic.

“I find that you have to stay creative,” she said. “They tell you to do a business plan, but none of that stuff actually works. It’s a day at a time and I’ve had to co-create with the universe.”

Now with a juice bar, an African artifact market/gift gallery, poetry workshops, two book clubs, sound meditation classes, storytelling for children, art exhibits and an open mic night every month, the space has become a huge resource for people and “allows us to pay our bills,” Wilson said.

“People should think outside of the box because the box won’t yield the freedom you need to sustain it,” she added. “You need to be creative.”

Thorpe’ also encouraged people to get creative online to increase awareness of their brand and shop. They use Google campaigns to promote their business. This lets them grow as more people find their brand. They use a script that Put your Google Ads campaigns on autopilot so they don’t need to put much effort in. They know that it is working to build their business in the background while they work.

Support others

The African-American community has “an overt and obvious” dedication to community, according to Cynthia Gordy Giwa, a former journalist turned director of marketing who runs Black Owned Brooklyn with fashion exec Glenn Alan. The website and Instagram account acts as a guide to black-owned and Brooklyn-based brands and the entrepreneurs who run them.

The Instagram-centric guide (@blackownedbklyn) features portraits of the business owners (taken by Alan) with snippets of interviews they have done — and it’s growing.

From Wine-O in Bed-Stuy to Breukelen Coffee House and so many others, the project is a delight to scroll through with entrepreneurs looking directly at the camera while in their shops.

“We started as an online resource that we felt was missing from the internet,” Gordy Giwa said. “It’s hyperlocal service journalism. There were places that were being overlooked and we started Black Owned Brooklyn so we could celebrate the creativity, the ingenuity and excellence of black businesses that people don’t know about but should know about and make it easier to support them.”

The purpose is really threefold. Black Owned Brooklyn gives visibility to businesses that are in the midst of gentrifying neighborhoods, helps people make conscious decisions to support them and thus the community, and offers a different perspective of the black experience, Alan and Gordy Giwa say.

“I think black people are interested in putting their dollars toward black businesses, which in turn will have a communitywide impact — there’s a likelihood their dollars are going back into the community,” Alan said. “It’s about supporting the community around you and the large part of the community of business owners in Brooklyn is black.”

In addition, more and more white people are reading Black Owned Brooklyn, Gordy Giwa said.

“They are thinking critically about the impact of their presence in the waves of gentrification occurring in the borough and wanting to make conscious decisions about where they’re shopping.”

And portraying images of blackness, unity and entrepreneurship offers an alternative narrative to the black experience, Alan added.

“The portraits are really important,” Gordy Giwa added. “I think they’re showing the diversity of black people — showing different genders, ages, cultural backgrounds and people from the LGBTQ community — all types, standing proudly, looking directly at the camera looking amazing.”

Having the support of the community has especially touched Williams at Rituals and Ceremony. Customers have told her they’re happy to see a young, black person with her own business. Plus, they’ve even offered a hand in helping her.

“This community is really supportive — they tell me ‘I have an accountant’ and have advice to share that I can utilize,” she said. “It’s important to speak verbally and with your dollars as well by continuing to support black businesses. It’s good to have diversity in any field or genre and good to have a different perspective and point of view. We need to keep these spaces and businesses open.”

Source: AMNewYork

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Celsious is the Most Stylish and Eco Friendly Laundrymat You’ve Ever Seen

Have you ever sipped organic coffee in a beautifully designed environment while your clothes washed and dried in  energy-efficient machines? No? Well, Celsious is here to change that and turn laundry day into a pleasurable and fulfilling experience.

We chatted with the founders, siblings Corinna and Theresa Williams. This is what they had to say.

Theresa (L) and CorinnaWilliams

You both have backgrounds in fashion. What inspired you to start a laundromat? 

Corinna: We wanted to get our fashion cared for in the best and most sustainable way possible. I moved to New York from Germany about five years ago. Having lived in Europe all my life, I was used to always having a washing machine in my apartment.

Even the most basic of washers there feature at least five different washing programs for different types of garments – from delicates to wool to heavy soiled. Living in the city was really the first time I had to frequent a laundromat. And it was not a pleasant experience.

Photo: Anna Rose

The place on the corner of my Upper East Side apartment was grimy, there were two wobbly chairs for seating and ghastly lighting. What’s more, my white linens and towels accumulated a nasty grayish-brown tint. I went looking for better options, until I reached my first “ah-hah” moment: there were none!

Second “ah-hah” moment: My then-roommate and French friend explaining to me how the only way to possibly get her whites completely white was to fly them back to Europe and give them a good wash there.

A task as simple as getting and keeping a white sheet bright should not require intercontinental airfare, I thought. That’s how the idea of Celsious was born.

Photo: Anna Rose

Why is eco-consciousness important to you? 

Theresa: It is how we were raised and has always been a part of our lifestyle. There was absolutely no question that we would run our business, which is so much an extension of our lifestyles, in an eco-conscious way.

How did you raise the capital to start the business? 

Corinna: We were fortunate enough to raise capital through our friends and family!

What differentiates CELSIOUS from the average laundromat?

Theresa: There is nothing like Celsious yet. And we’re talking about New York here – the place where literally everyone has tried to open everything under the sun.

Yet a clean laundromat that is aesthetically pleasing, efficient yet eco-friendly and offers added amenities like a coffee bar has not been done.

But it’s about time! New Yorkers have long understood the importance of being conscious of what they put in their bodies in terms of food, what they put on their bodies in the form of cosmetics.

Laundry is just a natural extension, which not many people are aware of yet. Clothes live on your skin, which is the bodies’ largest organ. It absorbs everything. The “wellness aspect” aside: Which New Yorker doesn’t like to economize time?

We’ve worked very hard with our fantastic consultants to build Celsious into the fastest laundromat in the city. Plus, in the short time (15min for our fastest wash, 16min in the dryer) it takes for you to get your laundry washed and dried, you can meet some friends for a cup of coffee – at the same spot.

Photo: Anna Rose

What is one of the most gratifying things about what you do? What is the most challenging? 

Corinna: The most gratifying thing about this is customers’ positive feedback. There is nothing better than hearing that we’ve created value for the community, that we’ve improved someone’s life significantly by turning a dreaded task into the most enjoyable part of their day.

Recently, we’ve had a new customer who suffers from allergies cry happy tears after having discovered us and the fact that we offer FREE unscented bio-degradable non-toxic detergent!

Theresa: The most challenging aspect is definitely juggling the demands of running a brick and mortar location seven days a week (7am to midnight!), while managing a growing team, strategizing on how to build the business and brand – whilst maintaining partnerships, friendships and trying to fit in some self-care.

Where do you see the business in 5 years? 

Theresa: We want to bring Celsious many more NYC neighborhoods.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs? 

Corinna: Don’t ever think it is going to be easy! Every step of the way will be challenging in new ways. A good idea is literally only a tiny fraction of what makes a business: perseverance and the grind is the rest! If you’re a firm believer in your power and abilities, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t succeed.

 

To celebrate their six month anniversary, Celsious is offering FREE washes and dries on June 1-3!

They are located at  115 North 7th St Brooklyn, NY 11211

 
 
– Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

 

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Black Owned Businesses in Harlem You Should Check Out

Yes, there are still Black owned businesses in Harlem. Many amazing ones, just like those we’ve listed below. Check them out and support!

Black Owned Businesses in Harlem

NINI’s “A Sip of Africa” is the pride of healthy, tasty, and nutritious drinks made through the consciousness of environmental sustainability and social responsibility to the community.
BLVD Bistro is a family-owned, Southern-inspired culinary labor of love.
Melba’s serves Southern classics in a retro setting that’s relaxed & homey by day, bustling in the evening.
Seasoned Vegan offers vegan dishes from organic ingredients prepared with global flavors.
MIST Harlem is a multipurpose venue that offers a cafe & bar, plus space for live music & special events.
black owned businesses harlem
The 125 Collection produces high-quality soy quote candles for those who have an appreciation for fun, stylish individuality, with a bit of a decadent taste for fine, non-toxic fragrances.
The Edge Harlem offers espresso drinks, baked goods & sandwiches, plus wine & beer, in a funky space with brunch service.

Home Sweet Harlem Southern plates plus breakfast & brunch served in a chill cafe with exposed-brick walls & live jazz.

Lenox Saphire offers Senegalese & American soul food, plus French pastries, served in a hip hangout with sidewalk seats.

Blujeen Elevated American comfort food with Southern twists served in a stylish setting with a long bar.
BSquared serves dishes such as Fresh Oysters, Tempura Filled Squash Blossoms and Oyster Chowder to offer an upscale casual dining experience right in the heart of Harlem.
Lolo’s Seafood Shack is a small counter-order place offering Caribbean-inspired fare including seafood steampots.

Flamekeepers Hat Club is an upscale store offering an array of sophisticated hats for men, in many styles.

black owned businesses harlem

Hyacinth’s Haven offers inventive spins on Jamaican cooking, plus classic cocktails, served in a casual-chic space.
black owned businesses harlem
Lee Lee’s Baked Goods is known for its gourmet rugelach, this cheery red-&-white-themed bakery offers delivery services.
Chocolat Restaurant and Lounge creates a one-of-a-kind experience that allows its visitors to enter an urban and sophisticated world.
(Photo credit: The Buppie Foodie)
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a research library of the New York Public Library and an archive repository for information on people of African descent worldwide.
The Nail Suite is a boutique nail salon that specializes in natural nail care and offers full-service manicures and pedicure, as well as gel polish manicures, and gel enhancements.
Onion Cut & Sewn provides beautifully effortless clothes that feel like lotion.
Zoma is a setting for Ethiopian cuisine that honor and continue the old tradition of fresh ingredients, low and slow cooking and balanced flavoring in an atmosphere thats modern and friendly.

Sister’s Uptown Bookstore is an Indie bookshop & community hub spotlighting a range of tales & events by & about African Americans.

Cove Lounge is a Caribbean inspired restaurant and lounge serving specialty cocktails plus a menu of Southern comfort food.

Tina Pearson Salon is dedicated to creating healthy beautiful hair. Tina believes the integrity of your hair should never be sacrificed for any hairstyle.
Levels Barbershop has been established to appeal to the individual who is looking for more than just your average haircut.

Grandma’s Place is Harlem’s premier toy and children’s book boutique that is a top-notch family experience with an upscale ambiance and down home appeal.

Cathedra is a boutique grooming salon that offers a new take on the old barbershop trend. Infusion of style, fashion, haircare and skincare.

Elite Conceptions Hair Lounge is a full service boutique hair salon specializing in multicultural hair textures and styling.

Ponty Bistro is a chic neighborhood bistro for French-African cuisine in breezy, comfortable digs with African art.

Shrine is an Arts & performance space hosting all-ages shows & serving drinks & bar bites.

Yatenga is a stylish, casual eatery featuring à la carte & fixed-price menus of traditional French bistro fare.

black owned businesses harlem

Red Rooster serves comfort food celebrating the roots of American cuisine and the diverse culinary traditions.

Calabash Imports is an African fashion, jewelry, home furnishings and gift store.

Hats by Bunn offers “classic originals for all seasons.”

black owned businesses harlem

Egunsifoods is a food company focused on producing refrigerated African food derived from classic West African dishes.

Hecho en Harlem Jewelry is rooted in the geometric form, boasting bold clean, sleek design while utilizing scale and texture to create exciting, bold, statement pieces.

Tsion is a stylish cafe featuring contemporary Ethiopian cuisine in a warm space with patio seating.

Barbara’s Flowers is a florist shop providing custom arrangements, bouquets, gifts & delivery services.

 

-Tony O. Lawson 

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BLK MKT Vintage: A Repository of Black Cool

BLK MKT Vintage is on a mission to “preserve black vintage artifacts, collectibles, curiosities, and curate them in a way that is accessible, inspiring and affirming.“

One of our favorite millennials, Syreeta Gates, spoke with founders Kiyanna Steward + Jannah Handy about all the coolish they collect and why. This is what they had to say:

BLK MKT Vintage
BLK MKT Vintage founders, Jannah Handy and Kiyanna Steward

How have you both been able to bridge Black thought, Black love, and Black business with BLK MKT Vintage?

BLK MKT Vintage is the meeting place of so many of our own personal experiences – professional and otherwise – identities, communities, and histories. We always call this our “labor of love” because it grew from our love of black people, cultural representation of black people, and curiosity about our histories.

It’s our pride, manifested. Creativity manifested. It’s our vision for how historical artifacts and products of the past can be sustainable and part of our imagined future.

We collect everything from vintage vinyl records, concert & blaxploitation posters, magazines, Afro-diasporic textiles, and vintage signs.

BLK MKT Vintage

BLK MKT Vintage allows us and our community to think about how the black experience can be codified via aesthetics to inspire, express identities, aspirations and ultimately, pay homage. It’s thoughtful and intentional curation. That’s what we’re trying to inspire.

BLK MKT Vintage

Why preserve Black culture in this manner?

Our visceral answer to this question is “why not!”. Black people are responsible for civilization as we know and understand it. Our histories are so rich and full of resilience and diversity of thought and experience. As black women, we see this work as personal responsibility and one that begs of us, integrity, and authenticity.

We also see this work as aligned with the missions of various black cultural institutions, for example, the new “Blacksonian” in Washington, D.C., and the Schomburg center right here in New York City.

Our history is worth monuments, brick and mortar, archival sanctuaries and decades of investment – you know.

Before artifacts ever make it into museum spaces, they must be collected or made.

Someone has to attribute value to an item. In our case, BLK MKT Vintage is our admiration for black culture and black people, personified. A curated love story, if you will.

What’s your vision for BLK MKT Vintage?

Our vision for BLK MKT Vintage is to thoughtfully curate the best of black vintage curiosities, cast-off’s and collectibles in order to inspire spaces and affirm pride. We see this business as a hub of blackness – where folks can come to find everything from historical artifacts to hip varsity jackets.

A repository of black cool, we suppose – but accessible and tangible for folks. In our current model, we’re operating as an e-commerce shop, but within the next year, we’re looking to open a brick and mortar shop that be a haven of black culture, personified.

An intentional shopping experience and community space that looks to the artifacts of our past to inform our present.

BLK MKT Vintage

How have you found a market for this type of business and how do you keep your audience informed on new pieces?

We believe firmly that if there are things you want and need to see in the world that don’t exist, you should create them. We see ourselves as filling a niche that hasn’t existed yet – at least in this form.

Between the two of us and our friends, there was a desire for a space to engage our nostalgia and be affirmed, not marginalized.

Word of mouth has helped us gain proof of concept at so many moments in our journey. What started out as us selling at flea markets every weekend has moved us into the e-commerce space and soon, to a brick and mortar home.

BLK MKT Vintage

Etsy and Instagram is where the bulk of our community is and with the engagement on our site, one can see the ways in which there’s a desire to invest in black history, black business owners, black creativity and black historical memory.

BLK MKT Vintage

All of our items are shared on the Instagram account daily and purchases are made via our Etsy shop. Instagram is such a dope way to build community, and it’s the platform we chose to share that BLK MKT Vintage has to offer.

 

-Syreeta Gates

Syreeta is a Creative, Collector, Archivist. Founder of The Gates Preserve, The Gates Preserve Archive & Yo Stay Hungry. She’s committed to preserving the culture. Check for Syreeta and her work at syreetagates.com

“On a mission to push the culture forward” #TheGatesPreserve
@YoStayHungry


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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.

black owned urgent care

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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