Right now, millions of Americans are taking to the streets to speak out against the murder of George Floyd—and the ongoing problem of police brutality in America. But in addition to protesting and donating to organizations, there are many more ways you can show your support for the Black community right now, including taking your shopping to Black-owned businesses.
Not only have Black-owned businesses historically had a harder time accessing loans and capital, but they’ve also also been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the number of working African American business owners fell more than 40 percent amid the coronavirus—a much steeper drop than other racial groups experienced. In response, both individuals and brands are raising awareness about the importance of investing in Black-owned businesses in order to help elevate and uplift the marginalized right now. From Warby Parker pledging $1 million to organizations working against racial injustice, to Brother Vellies founder Aurora James asking large retailers like Target and Sephora to buy 15 percent of their products from Black-owned businesses, with just one purchase, you can also play a part in helping to create lasting change.
Here are a selection of Black-owned brands the team here at O recommends. And if you have other suggestions, please let us know in the comments below.
Founded in 1960 by Drs. Raye and Julian Richardson—who first met while attending Tuskegee University—Marcus Books is the nation’s oldest Black-owned bookstore and has inspired generations of readers with shelves of titles by and about African Americans. They’ve also hosted readings by iconic authors like the late Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. To purchase books from Marcus Books, call 510-652-2344. You can also contribute to their GoFundMe, which is aiming to raise $200,000 to help sustain the Oakland store and the communities it serves.
In 2007, Derrick and Ramunda Young launched Mahogany Books, an online-only retailer that specializes in books “written for, by, or about people of the African Diaspora.” Ten years later, the husband-and-wife duo opened the doors of their brick-and-mortar store in Anacostia, a historically African-American neighborhood in Southeast Washington, D.C. You can purchase books online, but also make sure to check out their blog, Black Books Matter, for staff recommendations and curated booklists.
Disappointed by the lack of snack options that were both safe and healthy for her daughter, who had multiple food allergies, Denise Woodard got down to business and launched her own allergen-free cookie company, Partake Foods, in 2016. Woodard, who left her job as a director of national sales at Coca-Cola to run the company full-time, started selling the vegan, non-GMO, gluten-free treats from her car. Now the cookies can be found in more than 1,500 stores nationwide and online, and they’re available in eight flavors: chocolate chip, double chocolate chip, carrot cake, birthday cake, ginger snap, cookie butter, and triple chocolate.
McBride Sisters Wine Collection
After their father passed away in 1999, an aunt helped unite half-sisters Robin and Andréa McBride, who had grown up 7,000 miles apart. The pair quickly bonded over their similarities, including a passion for wine. In 2010, they started the McBride Sisters Wine Collection, which is now the the largest African-American-owned wine company in the United States.
Calling all tea drinkers! We guarantee Adjourn Teahouse will be your cup of…well, you know. As a young girl, one of LaTonia Cokely’s fondest memories was sipping Sleepy Time Herbal Tea with her mom. So when she entered a business planning competition in high school, it was only natural that she created a proposal for a tea company. More than 15 years later, Cokely is now the owner of Adjourn Teahouse, an artisanal loose leaf tea company offering hand-blended beverages sustainably sourced from around the world.
The Furlough Cheesecake
When life gives you a government shutdown…make cheesecake? That’s what sisters Jaqi Wright and Nikki Howard did in December 2018, when the government shutdown put them out of work and without a paycheck. “We weren’t thinking about a business,” Wright told O. “It was my mother who inspired us when she said, ‘It’s so good you can sell it.'” Thus began The Furlough Cheesecake, which the sisters launched on New Year’s Day in 2019, and has since become their full-time business. The sweets, which are available in seven flavors—original, sweet potato, key lime, banana pudding, strawberry swirl, chocolate swirl, and cookies & creme—can be ordered online and shipped nationwide.
Red Bay Coffee Roasters
Keba Konte didn’t set out to start a roastery. In fact, the Oakland-based photographer and longtime artist opened his first coffee shop Guerilla Cafe in 2005 as a way to showcase his art. But after nine years—and one more café—Konte founded Red Bay Coffee Roasters, one of the country’s few Black-owned specialty coffee companies.
In 2011, Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based designer Aurora James took a trip to Africa—and fell in love with traditional South African shoes called veldskoen (also known as vellies). She enlisted local artisans to help her produce her own take on the footwear, and in 2013, she launched Brother Vellies with her line of desert boots. In the seven years since then, James has not only won the prestigious CFDA Vogue/Fashion Fund Award (think: the Oscars, but for fashion), but she has also expanded her collection to include handbags, sandals, and more shoe styles—all of which are made by local artisans around the world using responsibly sourced materials.
Lorraine West went to the Fashion Institute of Technology to study illustration, but during her junior year, she started making jewelry from wire, metal, and beads. Despite high demand from friends and family members, West had no intention of jewelry-making becoming anything more than a creative outlet—until she sold her first piece to a customer at the juice shop where she worked. More than two decades later, West is still designing and selling her eponymous jewelry line, with designs ranging from simple and geometric to vibrant and extravagant.
Hope for Flowers by Tracy Reese
Tracy Reese has been a force in the fashion industry for decades, leading early conversations on diversity and inclusivity and hosting a long roster of big-name clients like Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, and Oprah. That’s why it was so concerning when the designer took a hiatus in Spring 2018. But as it turned out, she had something even better up her sleeve: Hope for Flowers, a responsibly designed and produced clothing line based in Detroit, where she was born.
Mateo New York
At just 16 years old, Matthew Harris came to the United States from Montego Bay, Jamaica, to attend Southern New Hampshire University. But it wasn’t until after he received his bachelor’s degree in hospitality management that Harris discovered his true passion: jewelry making. In 2009, Harris launched Mateo New York as a men’s jewelry brand, but after its early success, he added a women’s line, which has since become known for its minimal fine jewelry—at a price point you can actually afford.
The Wrap Life
After growing frustrated by how hard it was to find authentic African head wraps online, Nnenna Stella decided to take matters into her own hands—and launched The Wrap Life in 2014. Since then, the Brooklyn-based online destination has become a huge hit, selling exquisite head wraps—and headbands and turbanettes—from rich, bold textiles handpicked during trips to to Ghana and Morocco. Not to be missed: the extremely helpful video tutorials on the site, in which Stella, who wears her wraps with everything from casual tees to dresses, demonstrates different ways to tie them.
Franci Girard is taking fashion for tall women to new heights. Inspired by her own decades-long struggle to find clothes that fit her 6-foot-1-inch frame, Girard, a former pro volleyball player turned Wall Street associate, pivoted once more to enroll at Parsons School of Design, pursuing an associate’s degree in design at night. In 2018, after also earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, Girard launched The Sixes, a clothing company that offers a variety of pants styles, including flattering high-waisted trousers and ’70s-inspired flared jeans, for women over 5 feet 9 inches.
After spending a decade as one half of the design duo Cushnie et Ochs, Carly Cushnie went solo in late 2018. The rebranded Cushnie collection focuses on what the London-born, NYC-based designer saw as a void in the market: clothing that was sleek and minimal, but at the same time, sleek and elegant. “As a woman, I understand what my customer wants from her clothes,” she says on her website. “I’ve grown and evolved alongside her over the past 10 years, and I strive to present her with timeless silhouettes that make her feel sexy, sophisticated and powerful—all at once.”
During one of many sleep-deprived nights after welcoming their daughter, Ulrich “Ubi” Simpson’s wife told him he needed to step it up in the kitchen—which is how the new dad discovered the lack of durable, cool-looking kitchen products on the market. Using his background in denim (he spent 25-plus years working for brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Diane Von Furstenberg, before launching his own label), Simpson whipped up Mi Cocina, a line of stylish aprons, placemats, and napkins, all made from denim.
rayo & honey
Looking for some statement-making home decor? Roachele Negron’s photogenic, handcrafted pennants feature pop culture-inspired phrases and affirmations like “You Are Magic,” “Young Gifted & Black,” “Never The Less She Persisted,” and “What Doesn’t Kill Me Feeds Me.” Negron launched her company, rayo & honey, in 2015, which has since expanded to include totes, lapel pins, keychains, and bookmarks.
Bolé Road Textiles
Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hana Getachew spent 11 years working as an interior designer for a big New York City architecture firm—before she decided to take her career down a different road. In 2015, Getachew launched her Brooklyn-based business, Bolé Road Textiles, a collection of bright, bold pillows, throws, curtains, rugs, towels, and linens, all of which are handwoven by artisans in Ethiopia.
BLK MKT Vintage
A Morehouse College basketball jersey from the ’90s, an issue of Right On! Magazine from the ’70s, copies of Golden Legacy comic books from the late ’60s—these are just a few of the collectibles and curiosities you can find at BLK MKT Vintage. Kiyanna Stewart and Jannah Handy started the company, which celebrates and preserves Black culture, in 2014 as a way to turn their hobby of vintage collecting into a business. The couple set up shop at NYC Flea Markets before eventually expanding to their first brick and mortar store in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn—the borough where they both grew up.
The Mane Choice
In 2012, Courtney Adeleye, a registered nurse, started posting YouTube videos that documented her journey of weaning off relaxers and growing out her natural texture, using products she created from ingredients in her kitchen. When followers asked if she would sell her DIY deep-conditioning recipe, Adeleye invested $500 of her own money to produce a small batch of products, and The Mane Choice was born. Seven years later, Adeleye’s wildly popular hair care line now includes more than 100 products—from strengthening shampoos to shine sprays—available at 60,000 stores nationwide.
As a young girl, Nyakio Kamoche Grieco learned one of her first beauty secrets from her grandmother, a coffee farmer, who showed Grieco how to remove dry skin by crushing coffee beans and rubbing them on her skin with a piece of sugarcane. Greico took that recipe—along with others—and created her eponymous skincare line, which is formulated with neroli, maracuja, sweet almond, and marula oil, among other ingredients sourced from around the world.
KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson know how hard it can be to find the perfect nude lipstick. For years, they found themselves on a never-ending quest for the right beige or taupe shade—which is why, in 2017, the Harvard Business School graduates teamed up to launch six neutral-toned lipsticks specifically for women of color. Since then, the duo’s inclusive brand, Mented Cosmetics, has expanded to include foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow, nail polish, and more.
Every other Saturday, Oprah treats herself to a special self-care ritual: Getting a pedicure from nail technician Gloria L. Williams. Lucky for us, Williams is also the founder and CEO of Foot Nanny, a pedicure product line that’s been selected for Oprah’s Favorite Things six (!) times and includes everything from rich creams to soothing soaking salts. Hello, happy feet!
In 2009, Nancy Twine was a successful 27-year-old, who by day, worked as a vice president at Goldman Sachs. At night, inspired by memories of making natural haircare products with her grandmother and mom, Twine researched the beauty business, tested natural formulas, and contacted chemists. Four years later, she launched her haircare brand, Briogeo, with just four products—one shampoo and three texture-specific conditioners—and became the youngest African-American woman to launch a line with Sephora.
Black Girl Sunscreen
Whether hiking on a local trail or walking her bulldog on the beach, California resident Shontay Lundy loves to be outside. The problem: Finding a sunscreen that would protect her skin from the sun—without leaving that annoying off-white residue. Lundy’s solution: Black Girl Sunscreen, an SPF 30 formula that’s extra-moisturizing, quick-absorbing, and, most important, dries clear.
Disappointed by the lack of diversity within the beauty industry, Sharon Chuter, a former LVMH executive, decided it was time to do something bold. Enter Uoma Beauty (pronounced oh-ma), the cosmetics company she founded in April 2019 with a collection that included concealer, eyeliner, eyeshadow palettes, lip gloss, lipsticks, highlighter, and a foundation formula that came in 51—yes, 51—shades. Even better: Many of Uoma Beauty’s products feature nods to Chuter’s Nigerian heritage, like eyeshadow palettes decorated with afro-inspired art and shade names based on African goddesses.