We all think our friends are stellar-smart-amazing people–if not you probably need new friends. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some pretty amazing folks throughout my life so far and some of them have developed brands and businesses that are doing dope things you should know about.
There’s something special about knowing or being around someone who has stepped out on faith to follow their passions and create the life they want to live. Did I mention they’re all brown folk? We’re having an awesome 2016, ode to Rio.
In no particular order:
Black Travelista | www.blacktravelista.com
I had the good fortune of meeting the creator of Black Travelista, Jae Arnice, through a mutual friend (oddly enough one brand owners listed) while in undergrad as she began nursing school, truthfully it was more like I sought her out but that’s another story :). Since then, I’ve always known her to be an avid traveler (seriously she’s been to 6 of the 7 continents and 20+ countries), brave and bold enough to see the world on her own. To that end I always tell her I want to be like her when I grow up–degreed and well traveled. I was ecstatic to hear of her plans to create the Black Travelista brand a couple years ago, as it is truly an example of someone making their passion work for them. It goes without saying that Black women have a unique experience traveling the world, and Black Travelista is a digital storytelling platform dedicated to sharing the experiences of Black Women travelers, providing resources, advice, travel tips, and perhaps most importantly to provide the “space for women to foster relationships and share their experiences to encourage other women to journey their paths.”
Are you a Black Travelista? Visit the site or the BT instagram account (@blacktravelista) for travel inspiration, interviews, and stories!
FoodBeforeLove | www.foodbeforelove.com
Like many of the other brands on this list, I met the founder of FoodBeforeLove, Casandra, during undergrad. Though she created the FoodBeforeLove brand in 2012 after we graduated, it has flourished into a well known source for all things food related. It was created to “create a space for New York food lovers to find their next best culinary experience and, from time to time, bring those experiences to their doorstep with food centric events.” Although the brand is based in NYC, FoodBeforeLove has hosted events in several states across the country, including in the DC area! I had the chance to attend one here during Howard Homecoming one year and the vibes were on 10 and the food was delicious! Sometimes finding a new brunch spot to try is easier said than done but FoodBeforeLove can be your resource! Check out her site for events, restaurant guides, and reviews.
Sani’s Catering | www.foodbysani.com
Sani and I met as teammates on our high school pom’s team (the 2005-6 team was everything and won all competitions), and we’ve been good friends ever since. I am a notoriously picky eater and somehow she would always convince me to eat things I would normally never consider eating. She introduced me to Chipotle–I’m not sure more needs to be said. An avid baker and cook, she started sharing her talents by starting Sani’s Catering, and she has some dishes that are literally to die for. My favorite drool worthy dishes of hers are her Henny Cupcakes (yes, I said Henny cupcakes), the fried chicken, and the cold spinach dip. Lawd. If you’re in the DMV area, make sure you contact her for all your catering needs, you won’t be disappointed!
YoungYetWise | www.youngyetwise.com
I also met the founder of Young Yet Wise, Candice Marie, while in undergrad (what can I say RIT produces some talented people). It’s no secret that minority communities have struggled to build generational wealth, and just in general to maintain financial health. Young Yet Wise seeks to address those issues and empower the urban community with the tools to make smarter financial decisions and in turn have a better future. Since starting back in 2013, Candice Marie as written a 10 chapter ebook entitled “Investing for Beginners: How to Invest Your Money,” created a workbook “Get Rid of Your Debt” with an accompanying “Slay Your Debt 2016” Challenge, created a Fitness Guide for the Healthy and Curvy, and has a new book set to release this fall. I’ve always wanted to get into investing but have always found the associated literature difficult to understand if you don’t have a degree in Finance. I purchased a copy of the Investing for Beginners: How to Invest Your Money ebook, and really liked that the examples were not only broadly relatable, but without the fancy “financial-lese” jargon that often makes trying to get into investing challenging to understand. You can even find her on youtube (Candice Marie) addressing life and money related topics. If you’re looking for ways to clean up your debt, make better financial decisions, or build financially for your future, check out Young Yet Wise.
CicelyRue | www.cicelyrue.com
Truth is I’ve never actually met Cetarracca, creator and owner of Cicely Rue, in real life but we’re facebook friends and that has to count for something. After seeing her posts about her writing services (academic, ghostwriting, and creative marketing), I reached out to her for help writing some branding related pieces for my own brand. Through this process turns out we have quite a bit in common. Her first book, The Eye of the Panther, releases on September 11th (I’ve already pre-ordered my copy), how exciting is that? I got to read the first two chapters and I am already hooked. If you’re in the Dallas, TX area, be sure to attend the book release party, meet the author, get a signed copy, at the Grill House Cafe on September 11th, 2016. Check the website to secure your writing services and to order your copy of The Eye of The Panther.
CrowdFit | www.crowdfit.training
Like many of the other brown owned brands listed, I met the founder of CrowdFit in undergrad. CrowdFit is a nifty app that essentially allows you to crowdsource your fitness. You can connect with people who have similar fitness goals, find trainers, create groups and challenges, track your progress, and communicate with others. I can attest to the difficulty of living in cities by yourself or just in general not having a partner to help hold you accountable while trying to attain your fitness goals. How many times would it have helped to be able to find someone seeking the same results or just simply struggling to stay committed? The smartphone app is available on IOS and Android–go download it!
TiyanaRobinsonBeauty | www.tiyanarobinsonbeauty.com
I met Tiyana’s now husband at a community service event a couple years ago and through him found out about her make up artistry–I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting her yet. I’ve since been following her on instagram and really love the signature #LuxuryBrownLook she has developed which in my opinion is best described as where simple and natural meets glamorous. Aside from these amazing make up looks, it has been truly inspiring to see someone build their passion to a point where they can make it their full time career, gain notoriety amongst peers and within their industry, host classes and webinars, and share their talent with those coming up behind them. She’s a DC based MUA and you can contact her for bookings email@example.com!
Innclusive (formerly Noirebnb) | www.innclusive.com
Remember all those discriminatory incidents involving hosts from Airbnb #AirbnbWhileBlack? Well from those terrible incidents came Innclusive (formerly Noirebnb), which seeks to create a world where a “culturally diverse community of nomads can travel and build strong connects, and make lasting positive impacts on the global travel community…a platform where everyone is treated with dignity, love, and respect.” One of the co-founders of Innclusive is a member of a travel tribe I belong to. Innclusive is now focused on building its number of hosts. You can become an Innclusive host by adding your property to their network, and make a few extra coins temporarily renting out a room or the entire home. Unlike other rental platforms, Innclusive has a “diversity guarantee,” meaning hosts make a commitment to inclusion–what’s better than knowing you can spend your money without facing discrimination? They’ve even integrated certain features to enable bias such as profile pictures not being available until after booking.
Look out for the official Innclusive launch in September 2016.
You can read more about how Innclusive began here: www.quirkybrownlove.com/2016/07/airbnb-while-black-innclusive.html
DearNabby | www.dearnabby.com
Talk about travel connecting people–I met Nabby while on vacation in Guadeloupe through a mutual friend. I remember the group of us talking about different goals and ideas and she shared this concept she had for DearNabby where young Black Women can ask and answer questions anonymously, “share advice and build a support community.” DearNabby has a collection of “successful, vibrant, and passionate team of Young Black Professionals in their 20s and 30s” who’ve essentially been there and done that and are now in a position to help the younger generation navigate through the challenges they may be experiencing. Think back to when you were younger, how many times could you have made a better decision if you had a person or resource you felt consulting with? Especially with the reach of social media these days, platforms like DearNabby are so important!
Pantora Bridal | www.pantorabridal.com
Oddly enough, I met the owner of Pantora Bridal, Andrea Pitter, while on the travel deal of a lifetime ($125 RT) to Guatemala, through her friend who we shared a row with on the first leg to Panama. While our group of friends casually got to know each other we discovered that Andrea was a fashion designer but had no idea how big a deal she is (she’s so modest)! She owns the Pantora Bridal shop located in Brooklyn, New York, specializes in evening wear and bridal gowns, and is the magic behind the gowns of some of your favorite TV stars–A Belle in Brooklyn (Bravo), Yandy & Mendeecees (VH1), Ebony Style, Red Carpet premiere’s, and countless bridal publications. While I haven’t had the chance to visit the shop yet (and am also NOT engaged in case you were wondering), just strolling through the Pantora instagram account you can tell each bride is given a glamorous experience and each gown is made with love (not to mention they are STUNNING). She’s also getting married soon and I cannot wait to see her gown, I know it will be a show stopper!
Last one I promise! I also met the creator & Co-host of Joblogues, Joymarie Parker, in undergrad. So often people are very “pc” or jaded with career advice, that either paints a very bleek and uninspired outlook on professional careers or simply don’t provide clear answers. Joblogues is a weekly podcast that “highlights candid career conversations with young professionals around the globe” and seeks to inspire young professionals to reach their “full career potential through storytelling and shared experience.” Joblogues has been featured on iTunes in both US & UK stores, is signed to a Swedish podcasting network, and has been featured on platforms such as The Wall Street Journal, Blavity, and Into the Fold to name a few –how cool is that? There are many podcasts and articles on the site not only dedicated to pushing oneself forward professionally, but also addressing how to navigate through some of the more complicated aspects of life as a young professional. It’s refreshing to hear people keep it real!
Crystal Loves Design | www.crystallovesdesign.com
Last but certainly not least, this list wouldn’t be complete without Crystal Loves Design, the designer of my own website. I actually was connected to Crystal through a mutual facebook friend who had recently launched his website (www.beyondbmore.com) and I loved the simple and clean design. Originally I had planned to build my site myself but between working full time and being a full time student it was difficult to find the time to get it done. I reached out and asked pretty please for the information for whomever designed his site and luckily he was nice enough to share. She listened to what I wanted, saw my vision, and even gave me ways to make it better than what I could have imagined. Probably most importantly she was patient with me around my work and school schedules, as I definitely slowed down the process lol. Not only did she create my website, she also redesigned my Twitter/Facebook/Youtube banners and my business cards so my brand would be consistent across the board. She’s an incredibly talented designer based in the Baltimore area and I would definitely recommend her to anyone with design needs. Though her creative design agency website will be launching soon, you can connect with her on facebook or instagram @crystallovesdesign. She also has a personal blog, www.sincerelycrys.com, dedicated to life, travel, and natural living!
If you get nothing else from this post, take this: Support your friends. It takes a lot of passion, hard work, and faith to follow your dreams. The easiest part of that process should be support from friends and family. Whether it’s a like, a retweet, repost, buying a ticket to an event, a download, or purchasing an ebook–every little bit counts and everyone starts somewhere. Have you patronized any of the brown-owned brands on this list? What are your favorite brown-owned brands? Comment down below!