BEE Marketplace

Black women must band together, put their hands and their brains together, and make work and business for themselves.  Madam C. J. Walker

Throughout American history, Black women have defied constant trials to become homeowners even during slavery and that included Harriet Tubman.  In 1670, twenty-five-year-old Zipporah Potter Atkins, a free Black woman, purchased a plot of land where Boston’s Greenway Park now sits.  She was one of the first Black women to own property in the U.S.  In 1866, Biddy Mason, a Los Angeles nurse and midwife, bought the first of many properties eventually making her a wealthy and well-known real estate developer.

And then there was the Queen Bee.  In 1903, Madame C. J. Walker became the first African American woman in the country to charter a bank and the first woman president of a bank.  While Walker’s hair products made her a millionaire, she was also a philanthropist, an activist for social justice, and a real estate investor.  She urged her 25,000 sales agents to buy homes with their earnings. Walker had her mansion, known as Villa Lewaro, built on the banks of New York’s Hudson River.  Interestingly, she made sure to situate her architectural wonder where it could be seen from the street to especially inspire little Black girls and boys.  

Fast forward 125 years where Kenya McKnight-Ahad, founder and CEO of Black Women Wealth Alliance (BWWA), brings her business experience, savvy and passion to a social enterprise focusing on the development and economic stability of Black women entrepreneurs. 

In 2020, 41% of Black owned businesses closed their doors and more than 130,000 Black women were fired or furloughed from the workplace.  Many women struggled to reinvent themselves, but it’s been difficult.  They lacked the necessary technology and marketing skills, equipment, and funds to build a digital presence.

BWWA offers a wide range of services that provide access, discovery, and realization of what can be possible, customized for individuals, cohort and membership frameworks,. 

BEE Marketplace was established as a pilot program to provide marketing, website and social media overhauls, sales tracking tools, and capacity grants.  From now through January 30th, 2022 (www.beemarketplace-us.com), the BEE Marketplace virtual shopping experience introduces products and services from a select group of Twin Cities Black women-owned businesses.

Keiona Cook, who started sewing  of six, is a couture fashion designer creating one-of-a-kind garments for girls and women at her company. Que Bella Couture.  “I’ve always wanted to share that empowering feeling, uplifting Black girls and women from the inside out,” she says. 

Cook is a mixed-medium artist, mixing acrylics with African wax, applying to print fabrics and found objects.  She is also the founder and executive director of Lovely’s Sewing & Arts Collective where she works with youth from all over the Twin Cities, ages 4-16, introducing them to the world of fashion, design, and business.  She is the author and illustrator of ‘Lovely Helps Mommy Fold the Laundry’ and a motivational speaker.

When Shamika Brown was a little girl, she loved to bake and cook right beside her grandmother.  Those fond memories led her to explore the field of culinary arts and eventually earn a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, along with an MBA certificate from St. Thomas University.  She is well-known for her bakery delights and for her high heel shoe addiction.  Her dream is to open a storefront that will employ pastry chef interns and offer baking classes to young people in the community along with a retail shopping experience.  The pandemic has required businesses like Cook’s and Brown’s to re-invent themselves. For Cook, it meant making masks and adding men’s clothing.  Our history dictates tenacity and perseverance, even in the face of the unknown.  Passing our experiences, good and bad, and learned wisdom down to the next generation is also an obligation, Cook says.

Desiaa Buford, Shamika Brown’s daughter, owns ‘Seize the Moment Branding Agency. The young entrepreneur says she loves frogs, arts and crafts, and graphic design.  Her specialties are unique web page design and strategic branding.

For more information on the featured entrepreneurs, contact Jazinae Patterson, BWWA Business Advisor.  www.jazinaep@bwwa-us.com

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