Black-Owned Business Excellence Symposium Kicks Off Tomorrow In Tacoma | South Seattle Emerald

Attend in-person or virtually, for a ‘lifeline, and an asset map’ for Black entrepreneurs.

by Victor Simoes

The fourth annual Black-Owned Business Excellence Symposium will kick off Black History Month tomorrow, Feb. 1, at the University of Washington Tacoma — William W. Philip Hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be the first in-person edition of the event since 2020. The organizers hope to celebrate, learn, and build connections among Black-owned businesses.

“A lot of people, when they think about Black-owned businesses, don’t understand the vast majority of Black-owned businesses in the state of Washington because many of us have not been utilized,” said Jenefeness Franke, a professional development consultant and an event organizer. “We have not been celebrated and have not put ourselves in front of folks who can utilize our businesses.” 

The expo, organized by Black-Owned Business Excellence (WA), features dozens of Black-owned businesses and programming composed of panels with Black entrepreneurs from all over Washington State, a keynote lecture from Dr. George Fraser from FraserNet, and breakout sessions with specialists in various themes of business-related concerns. 

Keynote speaker Dr. George Fraser is the chairman and CEO of FraserNet, a resource center and global network focused on developing individuals and businesses of African descent. He is also the author of six best-selling books, including Success Runs in Our Race and Mission Unstoppable: Extraordinary Stories of Failure’s Blessings, a book he cowrote with Les Brown. Fraser will speak on improving networking skills, building wealth, and valuable insights from his own entrepreneurial experiences. 

Businesses participating in the first panel include Black Coffee Northwest, DayoSense, Keisha Credit — Your Business Bestie, ETC Tacoma, and QueenCare. The panel will be moderated by Curtiss Calhoun from Curtiss Calhoun Coaching & Consulting.

The second panel focuses on supporters of Black-owned businesses; the discussion will be led by the Rudd’s R.U.B.B. Initiative, National Black MBA Association of Seattle, UW Foster School of Business, WOW Tri-Cities, and the Washington State Department of Enterprise Services.

Breakout sessions in the afternoon will explore themes like business coaching, marketing, networking, financial management, start-up assistance, strategic business planning, and nonprofit management.

“We are very, very intentional about access and accountability, making sure that businesses know that they have support, a lifeline, and an asset map of where they can go to grow their business,” said Franke.

The Symposium will wrap up by giving $1,000 grants to five recipients selected from over 300 Black entrepreneur applicants in the state of Washington.

Tickets for in-person and online options are available on the event’s Eventbrite webpage. The online option is free, and the in-person event costs $15. Attendees can apply for one of a limited number of scholarships by emailing

“Everything in this event is Black-owned, from the catering to the photographer, because we really want to [promote] Black-owned businesses,” Franke said.

Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianopolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

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Victor Simoes

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Victor Simoes is an international student at the University of Washington pursuing a double degree in journalism and photo/media. Originally from Florianópolis, Brazil, they enjoy radical organizing, hyper pop, and their beloved cats. Their writing focuses on community, arts, and culture. You can find them on Instagram or Twitter at @victorhaysser.

📸 Featured Image: The fourth annual Black-Owned Business Excellence Symposium takes place Wednesday, Feb. 1, in Tacoma. People can also attend virtually. (Photo by pixelheadphoto digitalskillet via Shutterstock)

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Blue Byrd’s To Receive Ulster Chamber’s Black Business Excellence Award

KINGSTON, N.Y. — The Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Ulster County Tourism have announced the recipients of the second Black Business Achievement Awards.

A total of six businesses and individuals will be recognized and celebrated on Wednesday, April 26, at a special awards ceremony at Ulster Savings Bank.

These awards recognize local Black-owned businesses or Black business leaders who have achieved outstanding results and “shown dedication and commitment to furthering business, enhancing their community, who have shown perseverance and improved the quality of life in Ulster County,” the announcement said.

The Black Business Excellence Award will go to Blue Byrd’s, John Blue and Maureen Byrd-Blue. This award recognizes a Black business leader or Black-owned business that has achieved extraordinary accomplishments and is an example to others.

The Black Business Leadership Award goes to Joseph McDole Jr. of J’s Painting Service. This award is given to a Black individual or organization that displays exceptional leadership qualities and has a history of community service.

The Sojourner Truth Award goes to Candice Van Dyke. This award goes to an outstanding local Black Woman business leader or Black woman business owner who has excelled in breaking down barriers and has shown concern for others.

The Everett Hodge Award goes to Paula Childs-Perez. This award is given to a Black business leader or Black-owned business that exemplifies hard work and determination and has demonstrated a commitment to its employees, customers or clients.

The Maude Bruce Award goes to Christina (Nina) Dawson. This lifetime achievement award is given to a Black individual who has dedicated their life to issues of racial and social justice and has improved the quality of life for the citizens of Ulster County.

The Young Black Leader of Tomorrow awards goes to Alonzo Jordan. This award is given to a young Black adult who has displayed determination, has an exceptional work ethic and an interest in pursuing a career in business or entrepreneurship.

The awards are an annual event, co-hosted by the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Ulster County Tourism. The principal sponsor is Ulster Savings Bank. The welcoming sponsor is Go Beyond Greatness. The awards will be presented in the corporate headquarters of Ulster Savings Bank on Schwenk Drive in Kingston. The event is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26, starting at 5 p.m.

Additional information about the event can be found at  The Chamber may also be contacted at (845) 338-5100.


SSM Health Donates $100K Toward Madison

MADISON (WKOW) — SSM Health pledged $100,000 to the Urban League of Greater Madison’s new Black Business Hub.

Officials presented the check Tuesday afternoon to help develop The Hub as as a business incubator and accelerator for Black and BIPOC entrepreneurs. 

An SSM official said their own work is about more than helping their community’s physical health.

“At SSM Health, we are continuing to invest in areas that can positively impact the overall health and wealth in our community,” said Sue Anderson, SSM Health Wisconsin Regional President. “We know that economic opportunity directly impacts the health of the families in our community. Supporting new, minority-owned businesses will help Madison as a whole. We are honored to deepen this investment with a valued partner like Urban League of Greater Madison.”

The two organizations have partnered in the past on a number of community support programs.


Edmonton’s Inaugural Black-Owned Food Business Week Kicks Off February 10

In honour of Black History Month and in collaboration with ATB Financial, Edmonton’s new Feed The Soul Dining Week will celebrate Black-owned food businesses with a first-of-its-kind, week-long festival.

Happening from February 10-17, 2023, 15+ restaurants, makers and shops spanning cuisines like Jamaican, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Nigerian and Trinidadian will offer daily food specials, flash sales and other time-limited offers. People are encouraged to follow Feed The Soul Dining Week on Instagram to keep up-to-date with its daily happenings.

“Edmonton is blessed with some amazing Black-owned restaurants offering delectable dishes drawn from a rich diversity of African and Caribbean cultures,” said David Shepherd, MLA for Edmonton City Centre in today’s announcement. “Whether stewed beef, jerk chicken, kifto beef and injera, spicy tropical dill pickles or a classic roti, there will be something pleasing to every palate.”

Participating Black-owned businesses include Sauce Modern Caribbean Cuisine, Spice ‘n Rice, Graham’s Jerk House and Café Caribbean. Cakes by Layered by Rissa, as well as Mojo Jojo Pickles and Token Bitters are three makers getting in on the action too.

“Feed The Soul Dining Week is a great way to showcase our contributions to the local food scene as Black-owned businesses,” said Keenan Pascal of Token Bitters in today’s announcement. “It will serve as a great reminder to the community we serve delicious food and drinks, bursting with flavour – all year round.”

For more information on Edmonton’s inaugural Feed The Soul Dining Week, head to its website.


A Celebration Of Black Excellence At The African Chamber Of Commerce Business Awards

A celebration of Black excellence at the African Chamber of Commerce business awards

Journalist Roland Martin (middle) received the epic impact award from the African Chamber of Commerce Colorado USA. 

DENVER — Inclusion and diversity is deeply embedded in the African Chamber of Commerce Colorado USA(ACCCOUSA) mantra. On Jan. 27, a Friday evening at Infinity Park Event Center, ACCCOUSA hosted its second annual business awards reception. 

State Rep. Naquetta Ricks (D-Aurora), who is also a community leader and social activist, hosted the reception as she is president of the African Chamber of Commerce. She said Black-owned businesses “typically don’t get enough recognition,” which is why this reception is essential. 

[Related: From Liberia to the Colorado State House, Rep. Naquetta Ricks opens up about her immigration journey]

“It also helps us to foster trade and networking and to provide business opportunities,” Ricks said. “The chamber empowers the immigrant communities of Colorado for economic wealth and economic health.”  

Congressman Joe Neguse (D) was the keynote speaker at the ACCCOUSA business awards reception. 

The reception also included a silent auction where all funds raised went to ACCOUSA’s programs, which include leadership development, small business expansion and resources, and many other business skills. 

U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Boulder) was the keynote speaker for the event. Other big-name special guests included Roland Martin, an award-winning journalist and author, who received the epic impact award, and well-known actor and Colorado State University alumnus John Amos, who received the lifetime achievement award. 

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, a Denver-based performance dance group that “uses the universal language of dance to honor the African Diaspora,” put on a performance.  

“It’s important for us to create spaces like this where immigrants and everyone can interact. They’re doctors, they’re lawyers, they’re in our hotels, they’re in all manners of profession,” Ricks said. “We want to make sure that people feel connected and feel included in this community.”  


NOW Just Became One Of Canada’s Only Black-Owned Publications — But Rebuilding Will Be A Struggle | CBC Arts

The venerable Toronto magazine has a new owner … and the shadow of over $2 million in debt. Can Brandon Gonez rebuild the digital platform without a plan to pay it off?

NOW Magazine’s January 2020 issue. (Courtesy Radheyan Simonpillai)

Against the Grain is a monthly column by Huda Hassan examining popular culture and the arts through a Black feminist lens.

As a Toronto adolescent relying on public transit, I remember being enamoured with NOW Magazine, a free alt-weekly focused on local arts, culture, and political news that consumed my commutes. For many Torontonians, NOW was a staple part of the city for more than four decades.

But last year, the city’s relationship with the publication was ruptured when it was announced that NOW‘s parent company, Media Central Corporation (MCC), was significantly in debt. In March of 2022, MCC filed for bankruptcy. This also put Vancouver’s alt-weekly, The Georgia Straight, at risk of being discontinued.

The aftermath of the events left employees and contributors at NOW without pay. As of August 2022, employees say they worked 21 weeks despite not receiving their salaries. The Georgia Straight was acquired in September by Overstory Media Group (OMG). But NOW‘s new ownership was still left in limbo.

This month, however, the story took another major turn when the digital component of NOW Toronto was acquired by local journalist and Toronto resident Brandon Gonez. Once known for bringing patois to mainstream news as a CTV and CP24 journalist, the 30-year-old formed his growing media empire, Gonez Media Inc., in 2020. 

Journalist and NOW Magazine owner Brandon Gonez. (Gonez Media Inc.)

At first, it appeared that this feat could be a win for maintaining the oeuvre of NOW — a legacy publication was now owned by a local Black journalist. But many former employees and longtime supporters were furious about the new direction. NOW was digitally acquired without any former employees being paid their overdue salaries; Glenn Sumi, a beloved local theatre critic for the magazine, had found out he was no longer part of the publication after being locked out of his work email in December 2022. 

The purchase of NOW Toronto did not include legal liability to catch up with back pay, as Gonez Media only acquired its digital platform and not all of MCC’s assets and debts — even though the new brand, with the same moniker, is still promoting unpaid content by former writers. 

NOW’s loyal masthead 

NOW Magazine has a 42-year history as a free alternative weekly paper circulated across Toronto. Launched in 1981 by Michael Hollett and Alice Klein, it was privately owned until 2016 when Hollett decided to focus on his festival, North by Northeast (NXNE), selling his portion of ownership fully to Klein.

Three years later in 2019, Klein sold NOW to MCC for $2 million, shortly before they purchased The Georgia Straight. By 2022, its subsidiary, NOW Central Communications, filed for bankruptcy. 

Watch a 1986 report on NOW Magazine from the CBC Archives:

Free magazine thrives by covering the Toronto scene

Toronto’s NOW magazine struggled to pay the bills when it started in September 1981. Less than five years later, the weekly newspaper with a focus on entertainment is a success. Aired on CBC’s Monitor on March 3, 1986.

Many of NOW‘s staff members — including longtime contributors Radheyan Simonpillai, Glenn Sumi, and Enzo DiMatteo — remained devoted to the publication. Unfortunately, their loyalty meant working without earning an income in the midst of a growing recession. 

The former team at NOW was known for consistently producing stellar content, highlighting local emerging talents and keeping the city up to date about arts and cultural affairs. At a time when arts and culture reporting is severely underfunded across the continent, their steadfast commitment was honourable to watch.

It was also extremely ominous for the future of local alt-weeklies and arts journalism — something that signaled an industry-wide problem. 

The plan at the time was simple: staff would keep working, using ad revenue to pay off debts, and wait for a new acquisition to relieve overdue payments. But as MCC’s debts continued to accumulate — reaching over $2 million, which Simonpillai says he understood to include approximately $250,000 of unpaid salaries — the end did not seem nigh. By spring of 2022, staff began to leave.

Sumi, Simonpillai, and DiMatteo were some of the few who remained to contribute free labour. But by August, Simonpillai announced the publication would release its last print publication for the time being. 

“People held on until they couldn’t anymore,” Simonpillai tells me from his home office in Toronto. A film critic whose predecessors at NOW included now-TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey, Simonpillai’s career at the publication began in 2007. By 2020, he was the editor. (Simonpillai is now a contributor to CBC Arts and has resurrected NOW‘s “Rising Screen Stars” feature as a monthly CBC column called Rising Stars.)

Some contributors found themselves in significant debt, leading to economic and personal losses. Simonpillai says one writer was cut off by loved ones for being too loyal to the publication. 

“There are all of these legal things flying around now,” says Simonpillai. “It’s thrown a new wrench into [NOW Magazine‘s former staff’s] legal battles for getting our wages back.” 

2022 NOW Magazine covers. (Courtesy Radheyan Simonpillai)

Simonpillai says they were led to believe that they would be paid when someone purchased the publication.

“Every tort lawyer told us that when somebody buys NOW, they would cover the outstanding wages. Every lawyer we spoke to, all the legal advice we got up to this point, reaffirmed the idea that if a new buyer buys this company, they will be liable to pay off those debts.”

“There was no indication in our minds that anybody could find some way around that. And yet, they did.”

Every lawyer we spoke to, all the legal advice we got up to this point, reaffirmed the idea that if a new buyer buys this company, they will be liable to pay off those debts.– Radheyan Simonpillai, former editor at NOW

When Simonpillai learned that Gonez Media Inc would be a possible acquirer, he became hopeful — but not for long. Eventually, he began to accept the legacy of NOW might be over. 

“I was still invested when it was looking like he was going to try and buy NOW and make us whole.”

“I’m excited to see how he makes that new direction his own — but, again: the way it went down, I tapped out after everything looked like it was going down the wrong way.”

The legacy of Black media in Canada 

It was the early 2000s when I was a young teenager in Scarborough obsessed with collecting magazines. One of those publications included WORD Magazine, one of the country’s widely circulated Black-owned publications. It had everything 13-year-old Huda was in search of: album and event reviews accompanied with pictures and posters to collect on my wall. I would grab issues from Cedarbrae Mall and add to my growing bedroom collage.

At the time, I wasn’t aware of its significance — that the legacy of Black-owned publications in Canada was small, and its end would arrive by the time I became a journalist myself. 

Toronto has been home to many Black-owned publications in the past. In 1969, Al Hamilton launched CONTRAST newspaper, which included notable contributors and editors like Cecil Foster. It was marketed as the “eyes, ears, and voice of Canada’s Black community.” Spear: Canada’s Truth and Soul Magazine was launched in 1971 and had many notable editors, including poet and author Dionne Brand. 

But since the 2000s, the heartbeat of Black-owned publications in Canada has waned as the media sector transitioned. Across the industry, maintaining print publications became economically arduous. 

The acquisition of NOW by Gonez Media Inc. poured some water into the literary drought of Black-owned media, however. The announcement of Gonez’s new acquisition of the legacy publication also brought more good news: NOW’s editorial would be led by Kerrisa Wilson, the first Black woman to run a newsroom in Canada. 

“This has never happened before in the city,” says Brandon Gonez over a Zoom chat from his office. 

Toronto has changed over the last 42 years. It’s time the publications reflect the city.– Brandon Gonez, journalist and new NOW owner

“This is the most diverse city in the world. We say that all the time, but you walk into the [rooms of] purveyors of information and it looks nothing like the city. But if you walk into [Gonez Media’s] offices in Liberty Village, you’ll see Toronto accurately reflected.” 

“That’s our commitment. Toronto has changed over the last 42 years. It’s time the publications reflect the city. And that’s what we are about.”

Gonez is tapping into an industry-wide issue: a lack of access to Black media. Black people in this country do not see themselves reflected in the majority of newsrooms and storytelling here. But I’m wary as to whether one person representing an entire identity group can successfully fill such a colossal gap.

The future of NOW

A recent Canadian Association of Journalist report concluded that 8 out of 10 newsrooms in the country have no Black or Indigenous reporters, editors, and staff. In a country that prides itself on multiculturalism and diversity, these statistics are troubling for the dissemination of news. 

“As somebody who worked in legacy media for major networks across the country, I’ve had the privilege of seeing what it’s like on the inside in terms of how stories are developed,” says Gonez. “And I’ve also had the privilege of reporting on those stories. It’s been such a fascinating career, but I definitely saw that there were a lot of gaps that needed to be filled. What I also realized is that there weren’t a lot of people trying to fill those gaps.”

“I’m the type of person where I’m going to do something about it.”

And that’s what Gonez has committed himself to for the past two years. After leaving a cozy role at CP24, he decided to be bold: he launched The Brandon Gonez Show, a weekly talk show covering political, entertainment, and social topics. It premiered in January 2021 on YouTube and has expanded its audiences through Instagram. The show enters its third season this spring. 

With the acquisition of NOW Toronto‘s digital platform, he’s expanding his efforts and goals of Gonez Media Inc. “We’re giving great artists a platform to talk about their craft, go a little bit deeper on stories that far too often are left on the chopping block in newsrooms,” he says. “It’s just been so well received by the community across this country that we’ve grown super fast. That support led to us creating a tremendous team of a diverse group of journalists.” 

But the reception to Gonez’s acquisition of NOW has been mixed. Although there are many supporters who are enthusiastic about this feat for Gonez, longtime readers of NOW are enraged about the inability to make up for the lost wages owed to the publications’ past contributors. Although legally he is not entitled to rectify this error, the question remains — is he ethically responsible? 

NOW supported the arts community,” says Simonpillai. “And now the arts community is showing their support for the writers who have been treated unfairly.” 

The legacy of NOW is currently being coloured by legal disputes between MCC and NOW‘s previous union. (Due to this legal battle, Sumi was unable to give a comment to CBC Arts for this column.) Comments across NOW‘s social platforms demonstrate the contentious moment: feedback is mixed with support for new Black leadership and anger for neglected arts and culture journalists. To me, both sides have their points.

NOW Magazine photographer Samuel Engelking on a photoshoot with Elle-Maija Tailfeathers (left) and Lesley Hampton. (Radheyan Simonpillai)

As a Black journalist, I feel complicated about the debacle at hand. How can someone legally buy a publication without being liable to the legalities of an entity’s past? That’s a question for tort law — but what I’m more concerned about is ethics. NOW‘s writers deserve care, respect, and compensation for their diligent contributions. There are real ethical concerns as to how this compromises the publication’s journalistic integrity. 

This internal conflict stems from being a Black writer who sees the minimal spaces where Black cultural politics can be reported on. Gonez went from working at one legacy publication to owning another one, now possibly filling an everlong void. There’s something compelling about such a story in Canada’s complicated media game. But representation politics is not enough. The new NOW will need to show us what its values and principles truly are. Until then, I’m not sure it’s fair to cast them off yet. 

Representation politics is not enough. The new NOW will need to show us what its values and principles truly are.– Huda Hassan

Sandwiched between a dark past and an uncertain future, Gonez and his team find themselves in a troubling place. What has happened with the alt-weekly is a cautionary tale for local newspapers and culture journalism altogether: a possible future of financial neglect.

“I am a journalist myself,” says Gonez. “I urge [MCC] to do the right thing here. Gonez Media’s commitment is to the community; we’re going to make sure that we create a sustainable path so we don’t see the same thing happen again.” 

Because Gonez acquired only NOW‘s digital platform, he does not believe he is responsible for the insurmountable debts accumulated by the publication in recent years — leaving the future in limbo.

“All I can do as a journalist, and as the owner of this business,” he says, “is ensure that what we saw happen under the previous ownership doesn’t happen again, and that we have a strong NOW.”


Black TikTok Celebrated By The Platform With The First-Ever ‘Visionary Voices’ List

TikTok is kicking off Black History Month with Black creatives at the forefront.

The post Black TikTok Celebrated By The Platform With The First-Ever ‘Visionary Voices’ List appeared first on AfroTech.

On Jan. 31, the social media platform announced its first-ever Visionary Voices list, according to information shared with AfroTech.

In celebration of #BlackTikTok, the list is comprised of Black creators, small business owners, and culture disruptors across beauty, food, music, dance, activism, etc.

The 2023 Black TikTok Visionary Voices features the likes of upcoming rapper Ice Spice, food critic Keith Lee, fashion designer and founder Brandon Blackwood, and more.

Courtesy of TikTok

The full list of the 15 honorees is below:


  • @_itzpsyiconic_ (Houston, TX)

  • (San Francisco, CA)

  • @emmanuel.uddenberg (Toronto, Canada)

  • @kahlilgreene (New York, NY)

  • @xoxoemira (New York, NY)

Industry Disruptors

  • @chikybomreal (Miami, FL)

  • @icespicee (New York, NY)

  • @keith_lee125 (Las Vegas, NV)

  • @lynaevanee (Atlanta, GA)

  • @maiyathedon (New York, NY)

Small Business Owners

  • @brandonblackwoodnyc (Brooklyn, NY)

  • @danessamyricksbeauty (Bethpage, NY)

  • @juicybodygoddess (Charlotte, NC)

  • @spicekitchengrill (Brentwood, MD)

  • @urbandessertlab (New York, NY)

In addition to unveiling the honorees, TikTok has initiatives in store for the month that include a #BlackTikTok in-app hub, themed TikTok Lives, curated music playlists, recognizing TikTok’s employee resource group (ERG) BLXCK, and a series of IRL moments in honor of Black History Month.

The in-app hub will feature creators telling their stories plus highlight Black-owned businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Known for bringing legendary artists to its platform, the announcement shares that R&B star Mya has made her debut — right on time for the celebration of Black music.

“During Black History Month and beyond, we will celebrate the impact black musicians have on music and culture by putting the spotlight on #BlackMusic throughout the whole month with a special #slowjams mix on SiriusXM on Valentine’s Day and a  #womeninhiphop celebration on February 22,” the information details. “Our sounds page will feature special guest playlists throughout February, featuring artists including  Black Boy Joy, The Blueprint, RapGirlies and more.”

To keep up with TikTok’s Black History Month programming, follow @BlackTikTok and @tiktok.


UI Natural Hair Community Expresses Frustration With Mielle Organics – The Daily Illini

Within the natural hair community, finding the right hair product that works with one’s hair can be a difficult and time-consuming process. With the risk of damaging one’s hair by using the wrong product, the stakes are high.

For many Black people, Mielle Organics has been that right product. Founded by Monique Rodriguez, the CEO of the company, the product in the past has been dubbed “FUBU” — for us, by us — by the Black community. However, recent developments have changed this.

On Dec. 27, TikTok influencer @alixearle, a white woman, released a sponsored TikTok where she promoted Mielle’s rosemary oil — a product very popular within the natural hair community. The video was flooded with comments like “IF YALL SELL OUT THE MIELLE OIL I WILL RIOT.”

Following this TikTok, Mielle announced on Jan. 11 that the company had been sold to P&G Beauty.

Many within the natural hair community were upset at this turn of events. Jada Powell, junior in LAS, expressed her disappointment.

“This is a product that usually African American people use. Of course, other people can use it,” Powell said. “But now, since it got brought mainstream, a lot of us in the Black community knew, ‘Oh, it’s gonna be gone.’ It’s gonna be off the shelves because somebody else who is mainstream to a different community has now put this product in the forefront.”

Kayla Henry, senior in Media, expressed similar disappointment.

“I’m disappointed for a lot of Black women because a lot of us, we found out about the product first. We were using it, and then it feels like it’s all gone now,” Henry said. “When I went to the store, I couldn’t find any of those products because people have been buying them up. It’s frustrating because their products really work for my hair.”

Arianna Williams, senior in Media, said this is something that has become common.

“I just feel like it’s just another situation of people coming in and taking over something that belongs to another group of people, which is something that commonly happens,” Williams said. “I feel every time we can never have something of our own.”

Powell said she was frustrated that Mielle reached out to a white influencer to get more success.

“This is one of our staple products,” Powell said. “(There’s) nothing wrong with sharing it, but a lot of times, we’ll have different products that we’ll have, and then a company will reach out to white influencers or just get the backing of a white company. We know as soon as they start reaching out to other people for consumer purposes that they don’t really necessarily care about us, and that it’s not really for us anymore.”

Powell, Williams and Henry all said they like using Mielle’s products and that the products really work for their hair. However, Powell and Henry both expressed concerns about changes in the ingredients that could be used now that the company has been sold. Henry said she is worried the product won’t work for her hair anymore.

“It’d be very disappointing to buy a product for my hair that doesn’t work because it’s like, ‘Oh, well, we didn’t put those ingredients that we originally put in the original product,’” Henry said.

A similar situation happened before. In 2017, Sundial Brands, which sold the natural hair care product Shea Moisture, was sold to Unilever. Following this, the formula was changed, leaving many saying that the product didn’t work for them anymore.

Powell explained the dangers of using faulty hair products.

“(It can cause) extreme damage, which is not fun at all, especially for Black women,” Powell said. “It’s something that we carry very near to our hearts — our hair. Using faulty products could ruin our hair completely and can change its texture, and for a lot of us that can be embarrassing. A lot of us don’t want to wear our hair if it’s damaged or if it has heat damage.”

Williams said that products made by Black companies know what works for Black hair.

“People within our culture know what is needed to go in our hair to help me grow or to make our hair stronger,” Williams said.

While Powell and Henry both said they were happy that a Black-owned business has achieved success, they expressed frustration with what this success means for Black women. Powell said that she is upset that this means it will be less accessible.

“Although you’re kind of happy for the company that started from the ground up and a Black-owned business reaching success, it’s like you hate that the success point has to be reaching a wider audience to where we are no longer necessarily accessible to these things,” Powell said.

Powell also said that while there may be other available products to use, it is frustrating to have to search for them.

“It’s just so hard to find a brand that you really trust,” Powell said. “I feel like that’s a hard thing for our community because it’s like once we finally establish trust with a brand, it’s hurtful when you can no longer trust them. Because then you have to go on the hunt for what brand is not necessarily just out trying to take your money.”

Henry said that while Mielle’s products will no longer be as accessible, there are still several to choose from, specifically pointing out the brands Curls and tgin.

“There are some other brands that are still Black … It’s not the end of the world for Black-owned products,” Henry said. “There are still some, and I really hope that people go out and support these products because they need all the support they can get because they’re really good at products, and they really help our hair. I really hope that in the future, we do not see that all of the products have been sold away.”

[email protected]


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GILBERT BLAND – Virginia Business

President, chairman and CEO, Urban League of Hampton Roads; founder and chairman, The GilJoy Group, Norfolk

Published by Virginia Business

Hall of Fame member

Born in Jim Crow-era Harrisonburg, Bland launched his career in Chicago as a commercial lending officer before becoming a vice president for the largest Black-owned bank in the country, Independence Bank of Chicago. Bland found himself surrounded by Black entrepreneurs who “were tremendous role models.”

He took an entrepreneurial leap himself in the 1980s, becoming an owner-operator of quick-service restaurants, eventually owning more than 70 restaurants throughout the mid-Atlantic and South, including Burger King and Pizza Hut franchises. He credits mentors including Herman Cain, the late pizza entrepreneur-turned-GOP presidential candidate. (“Herman was a business mentor,” Bland emphasizes.)

Among other recognitions, Bland, an inductee into the Hampton Roads Business Hall of Fame, has received a lifetime achievement award from Volunteer Hampton Roads for his service with many boards and mentorship organizations.

Making strides: Virginia Business 2023 Black Leaders Award winners