11 Black-Owned Businesses Designed With Love and Pride
Who knew that a 6-year-old could be the CEO of her own multi-million dollar company? Well, she can. The peewee boss, Lily Adeleye, and many other amazing business owners, give you a peek inside what inspires them, what their most proud of, and more. And hey, this just may be the nudge you need to go forward with your own brand.
Rah Loves Boutique
Rasheda Lovelace-Nelson, founder
The biggest inspiration for starting my company came from my battle with infertility, which led to depression. The efforts I put into getting Rah Loves Boutique up and running gave me a focus other than my sadness. The more I worked, the more inspired I became to keep it going. I am so proud of being able to do something that I'm super passionate about and it's so encouraging to be positively acknowledged, especially as a small Black woman-owned business. When the pandemic hit, I had to make the decision not to use models. I decided to give customers that love our brand the opportunity to be seen. I call my customers' children "Little Trendsetters." Pictures and videos of them living their wonderful little toddler lives in our clothing always sparks new ideas. Our tiny ambassadors are seen in almost every aspect of Rah Love's Boutique and have become the faces of our brand. I want my customers to look at my business and see the faces of their beautiful children, no matter the race.
Pretty Please Teethers
Kelli Ulrey, mom of two
Being pregnant with my youngest son Colton and on bed rest with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG, or severe morning sickness), I had a lot of spare time on my hands. Since I couldn't find the type of teethers I wanted elsewhere, I decided to make my own. I know teething products aren't new, but there was a lack of modern designs and colors when I started. I wanted safe, stylish, natural handmade items. I'm so proud of the risk I took in investing in Pretty Please Teethers (PPT). I created products that I would enjoy and I wanted to make sure that they'd help my son with his fine motor skills, without sacrificing style or functionality. I poured all my time and brain cells into this business, and now my fiancé and I both work for PPT full time. When he lost his job, we had many sleepless nights about what to do next, not knowing that this was our path the whole time. It became our main source of income. I am thankful that PPT has been able to create so many opportunities for my family. I hope my company says to parents that they aren't alone. Teething can be intimidating and overwhelming, but I look at it as a precious milestone that I am forever honored to be a part of. Because from one parent to another—we got this!
Lily Adeleye, 6 years old
My mom (Courtney Adeleye) is my biggest inspiration. She always turns her ideas into real products! Now I do the same with my company, Lily Frilly. I am most proud of seeing my products in my favorite stores—like Walmart! My creative spark came from my mom. I didn't know I could make things and share them with the world until I saw her do it. I think about the idea and give it to my mom. I wanted to create bows, slime, shoes, and watches and my mom helped me make them come true. I hope my company helps little girls feel beautiful about themselves. I also hope it helps them know that they can be anything they want to be.
Tippy Tot Shoes
Yolandra Rodgers, mom of one
As a minority and woman owned business, I am most delighted about the opportunities to climb the entrepreneurial ladder, overcome complex challenges with guidance from great mentors, and partner with stores such as the Neiman Marcus Group. My creativity thrives through my keen eye for unique, vintage and timeless collections and a love for the arts. Tippy Tot Shoes began solely for the purpose of new moms alike—finding a solution to support beginner walking toddlers with the absolute best shoes for learning to walk. Our hope is to offer a great client-service experience. It is imperative that we maintain a company culture, standard practices and values to create better service outcomes.
Majaliwa Bass, mom of four
When my first born was 6 months, he started leaking through every diaper imaginable. I couldn't find anything that worked so I sewed my own and a good friend convinced me to sell it. Not only did I want to solve my own problem, I wanted to help other parents with the same struggle (thus the name Pooters!). Before I knew it, I was surrounded by this amazing community of like-minded, earth friendly parents, along with a huge demand for my overnight diaper. I'm elated about the thousands of parents and babies I've helped over the years—nearly 7,000 families to date! I am also obsessed with finding ways to make it easy for parents to do their part to be green. And with four young kids, I am surrounded daily by inspirations for how I can achieve that goal. My hope is that Pooters, in more ways than one, brings peace of mind, a good night's rest, and a laugh or two to get you through the day.
Izzy and Liv
Nicole W. Brown, mom of four
Izzy & Liv is named after my two daughters and inspired by my desire to be the brand that I looked for growing up. It is important to see reflections of yourself represented in the media and products you consume, especially as a child, and that remains important into adulthood. People of color were historically underrepresented, or an afterthought in mainstream, so when we do come across a brand that makes us a priority, we don't take it for granted. We notice it, we appreciate it, and we gravitate towards it because we don't get that every day. I've created a successful and impactful business that employs people and touches the lives of thousands of customers in meaningful ways. As a company, we want our customers to know that they matter! I am inspired for my daughters and sons and your daughters and sons to grow up in a world where representation mattering is the rule, not just the exception to it.
Nana Quagraine, mom of two
We're not just selling home decor, 54kibo is also creating an opportunity for our customers to learn about Africa and African history through design. We're providing access to a previously overlooked source of beauty, offering a new and fresh perspective on home decor. The average person in the U.S. doesn't have access to the creativity of the 1.2 billion people living in Africa. My motivation is to close this particular gap. I also have a strong desire to help my twins build a broad identity by instilling in them an understanding of the beauty of their African heritage. That's the main reason why I created the African design Wikipedia page, to contribute more to the body of knowledge about Africa and the beauty that I know exists here.
Aliou Lo and Fatou Ndiaye, parents of two
To have AGOWA Handmade be a bridge between African art, especially handmade baskets from Senegal and the international community (USA in particular) is wonderful. We're really grateful seeing how the community is so receptive to our products. Whenever we display the baskets, many people stop to show admiration, appreciation and support. Most importantly, we're thankful to be able to live up to our promise—to create an environment in which our gifted and talented weavers earn sustainable and fair wages. And since most of them are the breadwinners for their family, they can comfortably support them. Borrowing a quote from an American who visited Senegal when asked about what stood out to him about his visit, he said "there is expression of culture and art in every street or corner in Senegal." In the beginning, we were brainstorming about how to stop the enormous rate of students dropping out of high school—a major problem in our community. Once the company was established, we required that weavers who worked with us keep their children in school. So customers that purchase our baskets not only take home a unique, authentic, beautiful, and functional piece of art, but most importantly they are helping to support a great cause.
Melissa Koby, founder and artist
I've always created art purely for self-therapy, but decided I wanted to create for others after making stationary for my wedding in 2019. But I didn't start publicly sharing my illustrations on Etsy until we went into quarantine. I am thrilled to be recognized for doing what I love and being able to connect with people through my artwork. I create mostly as a response to how I'm feeling, so a lot of the pieces come from addressing social justice and wanting to share the internal peace I am feeling. I've been fortunate enough to create art that means something to me personally, yet have people who I don't even know feel connected to it. I want to normalize Black art and spread the message of unity and love.
The Black Home
Neffi Walker, mom of five
I thought the idea of helping families create dark moody sexy spaces within their home was tantalizing. Home is your safe space so I take pleasure in helping to assist in creating that atmosphere. I want The Black Home to be a go-to for beautiful stylish home items, because everyone should feel they can afford luxury. I'm most proud of my beautiful children and my mom, which is where most of my creative spark comes from. She was the epitome of style and always kept us close to our roots. I am always thinking outside the box and doing what I feel is organic, including opening a store during COVID that is for the culture. I also have a passion for assisting POC businesses, helping seven other brands to date. For me, it's about the community of artisans as a whole.
Carlissa & Laken King, twin sisters
At Worldgirls we have a deep desire to level the playing field. We wanted to create something that would bring people together, celebrate and support one another. It took us seven years (basically a Ph.D. in doll-making) to get our fully packaged dolls signed, sealed, and delivered. Holding just one of each doll in our hands was the best feeling ever. From a very young age, we navigated many different spaces and met people from all walks of life. This helped with our creativity. We've always been creating—looking to "unwackify" things, whether it was coming up with a new hand game, creative milkshake recipes, or new cheers for our tennis and volleyball teams. We hope Worldgirls will encourage children to explore their passions and interests and help them understand that fostering meaningful connections with people (and dolls!) from different backgrounds will change the world for the better.
Happy the Birthday Bird
Monica Goodson, mom of one
My son Mylen, who is also our Kid CEO, turned 2 during a hospitalization for a serious, potentially life-threatening infection. After this tragic incident, it became more important than ever for our family to celebrate his birthday in a meaningful way, and to let him know how important he is to us. We established annual traditions that have now become an integral part of his yearly celebration and have allowed us to create special memories. Ultimately, Mylen's love for birthdays inspired Happy the Birthday Bird's creation and eventually (after seeing his birthday bird dance) we thought it would be exciting for kids to have a special, magical birthday character visit each year as well. I am a first-time toy developer coming from the IT world, so I learned as much as I could about the industry, product development, and other pertinent topics before I brought on subject matter experts to guide my team and I through all of the steps to bring our vision to market. We received our first product shipment in March 2020, moved forward with our launch, and have not looked back. I feel a sense of pride about the fact that we did not let the pandemic stop us. Although we've had some challenges, we've also had lots of success in a short period of time. We hope that consumers will feel joy and happiness when playing with our toys, reading our books, and while watching and listening to our entertainment content. We hope that our innovations will become timeless, classic traditions that have long lasting appeal to consumers and their future generations. Lastly, we will bring more exciting and engaging play to our consumers when we incorporate augmented reality and mixed reality technology into our products, in order to combine physical and digital play.
CanDid Art Accessories
Candice Cox, mom of one
I envisioned my daughter's nursery to be reflective of abstract art and African culture, but I found a lack of those designs in kids bedding—so I decided to create it myself. I love bold designs and style and I wanted quilts and kidswear that had my custom art and yet reflect the African diaspora. I also wanted sustainability and longevity incorporated in CanDid Art Accessories for the mama that desires clothes that last long and can be passed down to the next generation. My mother and my father are both artists in their own right and their genes and creativity were transferred to me. Getting my jewelry into the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and my kids' line into Bloomingdales have been among my proudest accomplishments. Hopefully my designs will spark imagination, build confidence, and allow for self-expression in a world of duplicates.
Little Likes Kids
Kemi Tignor, mom of one
As a mom, I founded Little Likes Kids to be in service to other moms who want to see quality screen-free toys that are inclusive of children (like my son and his wonderful and varied gaggle of friends). I've always been interested in art and art history (even going back to my high school classes) or enjoying live shows at the Providence Performing Arts Center with my mother. My general interest in the arts coupled with my appreciation of the small joys found in everyday life come together in the products we make. In building this brand I had to figure out how I could reach customers and distribute my product outside of traditional capital-intensive channels. I first sold my products at local farmers' markets and pop-up shops with lower costs of entry and advertised through social media influencers. It all worked out brilliantly as I slowly raised brand awareness and gathered customer feedback. I have worked with a number of different artists and each person has brought unique perspectives to creating art for the company. All of them incorporate our core values of diversity, fun, and relatability. I am proud to have kept my original vision as I grow the company. The quality, diversity, and broad availability of our toys make it easy for mothers to stock their children's toy boxes with items that show them they are seen and loved.