Issa Rae, Kerry Washington, More Stars Rally Support for L.A.'s Black-Owned Businesses

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic; Gregg DeGuire/WireImage
'Insecure’s Issa Rae and Kerry Washington

Stylist Jason Bolden is also encouraging consumers to shop at minority-owned enterprises, which persevere despite less access to capital: "The repercussions of these economic choices can last for decades."

Institutional racism. Economic inequality. Systemic police brutality. They're heavy concepts for most consumers, even those eager to support minority-owned businesses in this current climate of protest. But as the nation recoils from George Floyd's death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, those directly involved in ending racism say it's no longer enough to simply "buy Black or brown" — #woke shoppers need to understand why their purchasing power truly matters.

"This is a moment for people, especially white people, to understand the value of Black businesses," explains stylist Jason Bolden, a favorite of Taraji P. Henson and Yara Shahidi, who along with his interior designer husband, Adair Curtis, led Netflix reality series Styling Hollywood. "Buying from minority business owners helps sustain their enterprises, while affirming the journeys they took to get there."

Those journeys are often precarious, particularly for minority women. Indeed, despite opening businesses at the fastest rate in the nation, Black women have received the lowest levels of venture capital funding over the past decade, according to DigitalUndivided, an organization supporting female entrepreneurs of color. Perhaps that's why high-profile minority women are now directly supporting businesses in their own communities, such as Insecure creator Issa Rae, who partnered with Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen to help open its new outpost in Inglewood. "Black people rarely get to own the places that we frequent — even in South L.A. It’s so important to invest in Black communities because we were denied ownership for so long. Ownership allows us to secure legacies for our family and our communities," says Rae, adding, "I wanted to invest in a space where people there looked like me — working, producing and networking."

Minority-owned firms are also denied bank loans at higher rates, while loans are often approved for far lower amounts. "Many of us risk our own savings to start our businesses," says Nikki Porcher, founder of nonprofit group Buy From a Black Woman.

At the same time, Black families possess the least accumulated wealth in the nation, nearly 10 times less than the average white family's, reports the Pew Research Center. "Black business owners usually don't have Mom or Dad to bail them out if things go wrong," says story editor Calaya Michelle Stallworth, who led a move to order writers room lunches exclusively from Black-owned restaurants on Hulu's Wild Cards during Black History Month 2019.

Black-owned businesses also are often located in mostly African American neighborhoods, which may later gentrify, pricing out pioneering owners. Marginalized areas are "where we [can afford] to get in," says Karl Franz Williams, owner of 67 Orange Street, a cocktail lounge in Harlem that has welcomed Chris Rock and Nicole Ari Parker. "We help these neighborhoods succeed, but don't always get to enjoy these successes." Apps that list Black-owned businesses include Black Nation and EatOkra. “People always speak about diversity, but what we really want is equity,” says Malene Barnett, founder of the Black Artists and Designers Guild, a coalition of 75 international designers and makers whose members include interior designer Sheila Bridges, who’s worked with clients such as Bill Clinton and Tom Clancy. “Equity levels the playing field; without it we face a different type of chokehold.”

Supporting minority-owned businesses — as Kerry Washington rallied for in a June 2 tweet, posting a list of her favorite Black-owned beauty and jewelry brands — can help undo the legacies of slavery and Jim Crow, while enabling minorities to create wealth for themselves, their families and communities, says Stanford law professor Ralph Richard Banks, an expert on racial justice. "If this trend continues, buying from minority-owned businesses could be more important than any type of government action," he says. "The repercussions of these economic choices can last for generations."

 

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17 L.A.-Based and Black-Owned Businesses
By Emily Hilton

CANDLESSENTIALS

All candles are handmade with 100 percent coconut wax in L.A. Some come with plantable packaging; the seed-embedded boxes can be planted and watered to grow into wildflowers. Ten percent of profits go to nonprofit Her Success Inc., an organization dedicated to empowering and encouraging underrepresented young women. candlessentials.com

ESO WON BOOKS

Located in Leimert Park, Eso Won Books is one of the few Black-owned bookstores in Los Angeles. Their wide range of literature is available to be shipped nationally. "It’s so important to have those kinds of bookstores," Roxane Gay has told THR. "They are Black-owned and they feature African American writing in every form." 4327 Degnan Blvd., esowonbookstore.com

GYMWRAP

The Gymwrap is a fitness accessory business that keeps sweat out of customers’ hair, making exercise more efficient than ever. We are “dedicated to serving our teachers, essential frontline workers and health staff by donating soft, washable, reusable masks worldwide,” says Nicole Ari Parker, who founded the company with husband and actor Boris Kodjoe. thegymwrap.com

HILLTOP COFFEE + KITCHEN

After opening in View Park in 2018, the boutique coffee shop, which also offers a daytime menu of breakfast and lunch options, quickly became a major player in South L.A.'s growing coffee scene. The next year, the brand opened a second location in Inglewood. The company is working to open their next location in Eagle Rock. findyourhilltop.com

LOLA ADE JEWELRY

Designer Lola Ade has been crafting handmade jewelry, from chunky and colorful to subtle and delicate, inspired by her childhood in Lagos, Nigeria, since 2010. lolaade.com

LOT XI 

The Compton, California-born company defines itself as a "community-conscious urban apothecary." Fifteen percent of the proceeds from their fair trade and organic products, including soaps, scrubs, bath teas and candles, go to Inglewood- and Compton-based organizations. lotxi.com

NIMBUS COFFEE

This year-old DTLA cafe is a whimsical Harry Potter-inspired destination for J.K. Rowling fans and caffeine addicts alike. 1115 S. Hope St.; nimbuscoffeela.com

ORGANIGROW HAIR AND SKIN CARE

Founded by Grammy-nominated songwriter Kay Cola, the company offers a range of nontoxic, plant-based hair and skin care products, from natural anti-odorants to shower filters. organigrowhairco.com

POST & BEAM

With a kitchen led by Govind Armstrong, who began his career at Spago, Post & Beam is a culinary cornerstone of the South L.A. food scene. The restaurant, which recently changed hands from founder and L.A. native Brad Johnson to transplant-turned-local chef John Cleveland, has been thriving since it opened in 2011. postandbeamla.com

REFLEKTION DESIGN

An online store featuring handmade bags, jewelry, cloth face masks, head wraps and pillow covers — made from ethically sourced fabrics — "for culturally inspired people who love unique, colorful pieces," says designer Anitra Terrell. reflektiondesign.com

REPARATIONS CLUB

This concept shop and creative space features books, gifts and apparel and supports Noname's Book Club, a reading community spotlighting authors of color. 4636 W. Washington Blvd., rep.club

SORELLA

This female-founded clothing brand, founded in 2012, is often sported by rapper Megan Thee Stallion. 7829 Melrose Ave.; sosorella.com

TELEDESIGNPRO

Celebrity interior designer Nikki Chu, who has her own makeover show Unboxed, recently launched her own online platform that allows her to work with clients virtually. Clients can ask quick questions or schedule virtual consultation meetings, and Chu recommends furniture and décor in real time. “During these crazy times, we are rethinking the way we use our homes,” says Parker, “and now that we are in them all day, it’s definitely time for an affordable yet luxurious spruce-up.” teledesignpro.com

THRIVE DOUGHNUTS

Located in Canoga Park, this unique doughnut shop is completely gluten-, grain- and refined-sugar-free, with keto, paleo and vegan options. A dozen different flavors, that all come in mini sizes as well, means there is truly a doughnut to satisfy every craving. thrivedoughnuts.com

THE V TREE

A new collab between The Masked Singer host Nick Cannon and Chef Velvet, this vegan soul food spot is hosting a Juneteenth virtual celebration to commemorate the end of slavery. A portion of the profits will go to Our Own, an organization that empowers underprivileged communities through mental, physical, nutritional and emotional health. 1999 N. Sycamore Ave; thevtreehollywood.com

WOODSPOON

This rustic restaurant is inspired by the African, European and Indian influences prevalent in the Minas Gerais region of Brazil. “The most delicious gourmet Afro-Brazilian food in downtown L.A.,” says Parker. Woodspoon chef and artist Natalia Pereira has been working on a book of photography, recipes and stories, which is available for pre-order on the site and expected to publish late this year. woodspoonla.com

ZELIE FOR SHE

Owner and designer Elann Zelie describes Zelie for She as "an unapologetic expression of one's authenticity and individuality." The brand features limited-run leisure and resort wear for women sizes 14+. zelieforshe.com

A version of this story first appeared in the June 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.