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She Owns Two 7-Elevens and is Achieving Record Sales With a Black Owned Wine Brand

Alyson Rae Lawson is the CEO of RaeLawson Enterprise LLC, franchisee/operator of two 7-Eleven convenience stores (with gas stations) located right across from each other in Arlington, TX.

In this interview we discuss:

  1. Becoming a franchise owner vs starting a business from scratch.
  2. How and why she uses her platform to be a positive influence in her community.
  3. The amazing response from selling a Black-owned Wine brand in one of her stores. (1100 bottles in two days)

…and more!

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Tony O. Lawson

 

Related: Black Owned 7-Eleven Sold Over 100 Cases of a Black Owned Wine Brand Three Days


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This Black Owned 7-Eleven Sold Over 100 Cases of a Black Owned Wine Brand Three Days

Alyson Rae Lawson is the CEO of RaeLawson Enterprise LLC, franchisee/operator of two 7-Eleven convenience stores (with gas stations) located right across from each other in Arlington, TX.

One of her locations recently started stocking the “Black Girl Magic” collection from McBride Sisters, the largest Black owned wine company in the country.

The results have been phenomenal!

Black owned 7- Eleven
Alyson Rae Lawson

“It kind of blew out of the water,” Lawson told Fox 4 News. “I think my last order of the entire McBride collection was 80 cases.”

Robin McBride confirmed Lawson has become the highest volume selling retailer of their brand in the country.

“I don’t know that we’ve seen an account quite like this before,” Robin said. “But her for a 7-Eleven, they brought in 10 cases of Black Girl Magic and they sold out the first day. The next day, they brought in 30 cases and they sold out that day. Then 70 cases and it’s sold out immediately. She said I can’t even keep these in stock.”

“It started with the Black Girl Magic collection and that sold like crazy,” Lawson said. “Then once I bought out all of the warehouses in Texas, I said why don’t I get the rest of the McBride’s in stock until I get more Black Girl Magic.”

Across the miles, the two Black woman-owned companies feel something special helping one another.

“As soon as we’re able to move around, we are going to get on the first thing smoking to go hug her neck and congratulate her,” Robin said.

“It’s really about helping each other,” Lawson said.

Lawson is very social media savvy. That’s how she keeps her customers up-to-date on when they can expect each shipment the McBride Sisters Wine to arrive.

 

Lawson owns both of the 7-Eleven gas stations on the corner of Matlock and I-20. Currently, the McBride Sister’s wine is only stocked at the Shell Station.

RaeHive 7-Eleven
100 E I-20
Arlington, TX 76018
817-233-1635

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Texas Black Expo provides $1,000 Grants for Small Businesses Affected by Coronavirus

In 2002, he founded the Texas Black Expo, Inc. which now produces one of America’s largest business expos. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey the organization launched the Hurricane Harvey Small Business Relief Fund which provided $1,000 emergency micro-grants to support small business owners affected by the storm.

Now, through its Texas Small Business Emergency Micro-Grant Source, the nonprofit is offering grants to small business owners affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The Texas Black Expo partnered with several major corporations, including H-E-B, Enterprise Holdings, Chevron, and UPS, in an ongoing effort to support small businesses.

At least 100 qualifying companies will receive $1,000 each in grant funds, according to Texas Black Expo.

The grant portal is currently open. The first round of funding will be distributed by April 30.

The severe impact of the pandemic on Houston and surrounding areas has resulted in unprecedented losses for many, including thousands of small businesses, whose operations have been shut down to slow the spread of the virus.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, and like every other city in the nation, Houston area companies need every possible resource available to help them keep open the doors of their operations,” Texas Black Expo Founder and President Jermone Love said in the release. “In addition, families depend on jobs provided by small businesses, so we want to do everything we can to help keep the local economy healthy.”

Texas Black Expo also announced its forgoing all activities for its annual conference, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Texas Small Business Emergency Micro-Grant was created in 2017 as a response to the devastation small businesses faced after Hurricane Harvey. Since then, the fund has awarded $45,000 to assist entrepreneurs facing business interruption as a result of disaster or emergency.

 

Source: Click 2 Houston

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Sassy’s Brings Its Vegetarian Soul Food to East Austin

If you take a step into Andrea Dawson’s food truck, Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food, it’s like stepping into Grandma’s kitchen while she’s preparing a Sunday feast.

That familiar smell of red pepper and paprika immediately fills your nostrils, and the popping, hot oil signals it’s time to fry the chicken. In a city full of tacos and barbecue joints, the soul food circle is small, but Sassy’s food truck is joining that list with a vegetarian twist.

vegetarian Soul Food
Andrea Dawson with Sassy’s collard greens, black-eyed peas, and sweet potatoes (Photo by John Anderson)

The words “vegetarian” and “soul food” in the same sentence would cause a head scratch from Black elders used to collard greens seasoned with turkey neck or chitterlings doused in hot sauce, but Dawson’s vegetarian soul food has even the biggest skeptics not only coming back for more, but claiming they don’t miss the meat with her cooking. “It’s just down-home cooking, without the meat,” Dawson said. “A lot of people are really amazed that it’s just hearty food.”

Sassy’s menu offers the usual soul food joint staples: fried cabbage, black-eyed peas, hot water cornbread, and a medley of collard, kale, and mustard greens.

But where you’d typically find bacon in fried cabbage, Dawson uses a vegan bacon substitute – which maintains the smoky flavor of regular bacon – and black-eyed peas’ meaty flavoring is substituted with a ginger and green onion mixture that brings out the smoky flavors.

Vegetarian Soul Food
“Chicon N Waffles” at Sassy’s (Photo by John Anderson)

But it’s not a true soul food feast without the well-seasoned, crunchy-skinned goodness of fried chicken, arguably the ultimate staple of good soul food. Dawson has created her own vegan version of fried chicken and waffles called “Chicon N Waffles,” an homage to the street where her food truck has been in operation since November 2018.

Instead of a soy-based meat substitute, Dawson uses wheat gluten – a natural protein found in wheat that creates vegetarian substitutes like seitan – to create the meatlike texture of her “chicon.” She then deep fries the wheat gluten and tosses it in hot lemon pepper, barbecue sauce, Carribean jerk, or Asian orange seasonings, and after one bite, any reservations about eating plant-based meat dishes have flown out the window.

“Sure enough, it looks like fried chicken,” Dawson joked, as pieces of “chicon” float to the top of the hot oil basket.

Before Dawson opened up her bright blue truck in East Austin, she wasn’t working her way up as a server in restaurants or bussing tables or working back of house on the line.

If she was in a restaurant, she was likely its entertainment for the night, serving up her renowned blues vocals. Dawson’s voice took her around the world from Brazil to China, but she ended up settling in Austin to be a singer in a blues band after living in Dallas for 30 years. As if a food truck owner’s origin story wasn’t already unusual, Dawson never really liked to cook.

As the oldest daughter of a large family, she often helped her mother prepare meals, and consequently any affinity she had for the kitchen just fizzled out as she got older. It wasn’t until Dawson developed digestive problems and needed to switch up her go-to recipes to improve her health that she crept back into cooking.

She decided to cut out meat for one week. Then two weeks, then three. After converting to a completely vegetarian diet, Dawson still craved her soul food favorites like fried cabbage, so she turned to YouTube for help, a move she unapologetically admits.

She watched countless how-to videos and learned to re-create the soul food dishes she missed, now with a plant-based focus. Turns out all the time she spent developing new, meat-free dishes sparked an idea: She began recipe testing for the Sassy’s menu as well.

“I started developing some of the [soul food] recipes and nothing was lacking,” Dawson said. “So it just got stuck.”

Her decision to open Sassy’s fell in her lap when along came a truck for sale. Dawson took the leap, purchased the truck – which was in “horrible shape” – and went to work fixing it with her own two hands.

The journey was fueled by a supportive network of friends, family, and even fans from all around the world, who convinced Dawson to buy the truck, helped name it Sassy’s, and invested in the business, including by buying restaurant tools she’d added to an Amazon wish list.

“I knew I was not going to be able to do all those fancy foods that I see vegan chefs do – I’m just going to do the stuff I grew up with, and that’s the best I can do,” Dawson said. “And so far, it’s been pretty good.”

The creation of Sassy’s was a collaborative project, one aimed at building a support system for a Black woman-owned business, a minority in Austin’s bustling entrepreneurial culture. On a small scale, Dawson sees Sassy’s as a form of reparations – with one of Dawson’s biggest investors being a white, female friend who had the financial means to invest in a Black-owned business.

“Because of her, I was able to realize a dream and open a business that could potentially hire more people, and to create jobs, and to create a legacy,” Dawson said. “Before she offered that help, there was no way I could have ever done this on my own.”

Sassy’s now joins a community of Black-owned businesses in East Austin that are up against the rapid effects of gentrification and its threat to displace communities of color and low-income residents.

Last year, the University of Texas at Austin released “Uprooted,” a report focusing on Austin’s most vulnerable residents, who either are at high risk of being displaced or have already been displaced as a result of gentrification.

One of the report’s several conclusions called for the city of Austin to adopt strategies to help slow the displacement of East Austin residents through a policy framework that could address and prioritize “the needs of various groups and neighborhoods.”

Although Dawson is new to Austin’s Black-owned business community, she understands the importance of the city of Austin investing in minority-owned businesses just like hers so they too can have a chance to thrive. “[East Austin] is still a viable community and Black people can get a hold [in] … the community and build,” Dawson said. “Even though things are more expensive and different, there are avenues for us.”

If one bite of Sassy’s takes you back to Grandma’s kitchen, then the love and passion Grandma had when sharing her secret spice mix or how to perfectly season collard greens is emulated through Dawson’s welcoming personality and warm smile. But this little food truck isn’t just about making a perfect piece of hot water cornbread or the best batch of fried cabbage.

Sassy’s is also a space of fellowship and community for Black residents in East Austin, who can connect over the food that has meant so much to our culture through times of grief and times of celebration.

“That makes me feel really good – that they can have a piece of home,” Dawson said.

 

Source: The Austin Chronicle


Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food

1819 E. 12th
sassys-vegetarian-soul-food.business.site
214/703-6617
Mon., closed; Tue.-Sun., 2-11pm

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This Entrepreneur Turned a Hobby into a Custom Leather Goods Business

When we first discovered Coppell, Texas based Odin Leather Goods , we were impressed by the aesthetics of their online presence. It came as no surprise that founder, Odin Clack has a background in Digital Marketing.

We spoke with him to find out how he went from making one laptop case in his garage, to producing a branded line of leather products for himself and a growing list of clients in a 1500 sqft workshop space.

Odin Clack

What inspired you to start Odin leather?

In the beginning, I only had two goals: 1) create something I needed (a laptop sleeve); and 2) find a creative outlet. After spending 15 years working in corporate America building a successful career, I found that I always needed a creative outlet. Over the years that need for a creative outlet lead me to do woodworking, web design, and now leather work.

The one difference is that once I started doing leather work, it really stuck! I found myself really digging in on this craft and skill set. I wanted to understand the material and the process of constructing items that I saw other producing. What’s the gap between the types of goods a hobbyist/amateur can make in their home workshop, and those that are being made by the Hermes’ and Louis Vuitton’s of the world? Is it just experience and skill? Is it equipment?

I wanted to understand that and see if I could narrow that gap significantly. It turns out that with a bit of planning and care, you can actually build a sizable business at the same time you’re searching for the answer to these questions.

How did you raise your initial startup capital?

My business has been completely bootstrapped. I’m fortunate to have had a successful career in the digital marketing space. The income from my day job allowed me to invest in the leather craft hobby for the first year or two. Once I recognized the business potential of my hobby, I quickly began to reorganize things to ensure the business would become self-sustaining.

odin leather goods

Once I made that mental shift, from hobby to business, I began to pick projects more carefully and reinvest income back in the business to acquire additional tools, equipment, and most importantly leather. Often times I’d take on bigger and more ambitious projects, not for the profit, but to raise capital to buy a large piece of equipment. I was never about what I could afford. It’s more about ‘what do I have to do, to be able to afford’ something.

Getting started in this business involves a lot of trial and error – that gets expensive quickly. There’s no turnkey ‘start your own leather brand’ toolkit you can buy or purchase. Most leather businesses were started years ago by families who produced shoes or saddles. They’ve already been through that learning curve, trail, and error and have acquired all the equipment and tools needed. I was starting from scratch. Without having a successful day job/career, I’m not sure I could have found the funds needed to start this business.

How has your background as a Digital Marketing executive helped you as a business owner?

My background in Digital Marketing has provided me the capital needed to get through the initial learning curve of starting this craft and business. It has allowed me to leapfrog ahead of some other small brands by leveraging Instagram.

It also allowed me to create an excellent website for my business. So many other makers really struggle in this area. Social media and web design is so foreign and scary to them, despite it being one of the most important sales channels for them to build these days.

There are literally so many great small mom-and-pop brands and products out there that are dying and disappearing each year, just because they haven’t been able to figure out their social media and web strategies. That’s unfortunate, but it has also provided me with an advantage.

What is the most fulfilling thing about owning your business? What is the most challenging?

The most fulfilling thing about owning my own business is knowing that I’m creating something of value. It will be apart of my legacy. Not to say that my kids are going to run the business one day – thats actually not important to me. The legacy I want to leave my kids is a paradigm that they too can build something of value on their own.

I think the default answer so many other entrepreneurs give is “I want to work for myself so that I can be the boss and doing everything my way.” Well… I think that this is actually the most challenging part. When you run your own business, you are wholly responsible for EVERYTHING that happens. There’s no way to defer to someone else or pass the buck. You bear the full burden or all decisions made.

If your goal isn’t bigger than, “I want to be my own boss,” you could easily cave under the pressure. You have to have a bigger goal in mind. Working for someone else is absolutely easier. You know exactly when you’ll get you next paycheck and how much it will be. No one is looking at you each week and depending on you to write a check for them to pay their bills and take care of their families. And let’s not even talk about the number of hours you’re going to work each week.

If you could wake up tomorrow as the master of a particular business skill, what would it be?

Wow. That’s an interesting question. The answer to this question could change daily. This year, I think I’d love to have more experience and insight on managing finances – when to spend money, scheduling expenditures and of course raising capital. Much of our future development will be closely tied to how to manage this. A close second would be related to scaling production.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

We’re going to make some significant change in our production process in 2019. We’ve got to figure out how to make bags and totes faster. This will lead us to our next big goal of opening a full retail store early next fall. This new retail concept will help to build even more brand equity in our region and really blowout our online business. Online is still our core business, and a retail store to ground us will help us greatly – it’s amazing how that works.

What advice do you gave for aspiring entrepreneurs?

My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this:

– Make sure you’re starting your business for the right reason. If it includes not wanting to work for someone else or being able to control your own schedule, I think you should revaluate things.

– Don’t’ chase your competitors! Instead, find your own unique message and brand and stick to it. That’s where you’re going to add value to the marketplace and pick up loyal customers.

Check out their website for more info.

 

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)

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Black Student Given ‘Most Likely to Blend in With White People’ Award

This past Tuesday, a Black student, Sydney Caesar, was voted “Most Likely to Blend in With White People,” at Anthony Aguirre Junior High in Channelview, near Houston.

The ridiculous “award’ was given at a mock end-of-the-year awards ceremony by her college prep AVID program course teacher, Stacey Lockett

According to reports, Lockett, is a former Texans cheerleader. Her Linkedin page has since been deleted and her contact page removed from the school’s website.

Stacy Lockett

Another student, seventh-grader Lizeth Villanueva who has been on the academic honors program for two years received the”Most Likely to Become a Terrorist” award.

She said that teachers signed different certificates like “Most likely to cry for every little thing” and “Most likely to become homeless in Guatemala”. Huh??

I’m not sure in what universe an educator would think that these actions are acceptable let alone funny. They obviously had no regard the students emotional and mental well being.

In a statement to local news channels, the Superintendent of Channelview ISD sent a statement in an attempt distance the School district from this foolishness:

“The Channelview Independent School District would like to emphasize that a recent incident where insensitive and offensive mock awards presented to students are in no way associated with the AVID College Readiness System or the AVID Center. Channelview ISD does not support this type of recognition under any circumstances and the placement of the AVID logo on these certificates was an error. At no time was the AVID program itself involved in this unfortunate incident.

The AVID System is an outstanding college readiness model that has led to continued high levels of student achievement in Channelview ISD. AVID’s system has benefited hundreds of thousands of students worldwide since 1984. Working together with the AVID Center, Channelview ISD’s AVID system provides intensive support to students with tutorials, positive peer groups, and college-readiness skills.

Channelview ISD would like to reassure the community that this incident does not reflect the many good things going on in our district. The district does not condone the incident that occurred and we are taking this matter very seriously.”

 

When we first heard about this story, we automatically assumed the teacher involved was not Black. We were wrong. However, that doesn’t make her actions any less troubling. We still need to hold each other accountable for foolish actions.

I’m sure Sydney doesn’t care whether the teacher is Black or not, she would just prefer not to have been mocked to begin with.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson

 

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Black Owned Businesses in Texas That You Should Know

The list of Black owned businesses in Texas would be too extensive if we tried to list even just a few from each city. Therefore, we’ll break it down piece by piece and start with some that are located in Dallas and Houston. Enjoy!

Black Owned Businesses in Dallas & Houston

Brown Girls Do Ballet was initially a personal photo project focused on highlighting underrepresented populations of girls in ballet programs.  (Dallas)

14492575_1074117636039838_5701853823690488560_n

Sunshine’s Health Food Store and Vegetarian Deli is a socially responsible restaurant and store that promotes healthy living through food. ( Houston) 

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Off the Bone Barbeque is a family-owned and operated business that offers old fashioned pit-smoked meat and home recipes at their best. (Dallas)

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Lucille’s offers modern takes on Southern classics by a classically trained chef served in a cozy, vintage house. (Houston)

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LA Maison in Midtown is a peaceful, relaxing environment within walking distance of Houston’s finest restaurants and most lively entertainment venues.

houston-lamaisoninmidtownanurbanbedandbreakfast

Café 4212 is the museum district’s hidden jewel and an urban oasis in the heart of midtown Houston. Live jazz & DJs are on offer at this chill club serving small bites plus weekend brunch.

picture-11

The Breakfast Klub is “kasual” family-style restaurant decorated with modern art, lush plants and wood tables. They offer diner-style American eats & stick-to-your-ribs soul food including chicken & waffles. (Houston)

14925715_10155034470144381_1712686905016144774_n

The African American Museum is an institution dedicated to the research, identification, selection, acquisition, presentation & preservation of visual art forms. (Dallas)

dallas_african_american_museum_1

Frenchy’s Chicken has been serving Houston since it was founded in 1969. Since then, Frenchy’s has become one of the most popular Creole cuisine restaurants in Houston and surrounding areas.

black owned dallas houston

Joe Black Barber Shop originated in New Orleans and relocated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina. They offer haircuts, “MANicures” and other “special” haircut services. (Pearland)

black owned

The Fade Shop is a mature, professional barbershop delivering the best haircut services with locations in Dallas, Frisco and McKinney Texas.

black owned dallas houston

Koffee Day Spa is a boutique spa located in downtown Dallas. They provide Facials, Massage, Makeup, Manicure/Pedicure, Body Treatments and Waxing.

black owned dallas houston

Deep in the Roots is a natural hair care salon located near Downtown Dallas. They provide quality 100% natural products that will keep your hair looking marvelous.

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Mikki’s Cafe & Catering is a well known soul food spot. “Eating here is like eating at Grandma’s house.” (Houston)

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-Tony O. Lawson

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


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