We are already more than halfway through the calendar year. For many students, that means school is quickly approaching. For me, it means revisiting old goals and making new resolutions. At the top of my mid-year resolutions list is supporting more black-owned businesses, and as I did my research, I learned that there are college students taking #blackexcellence to the next level. Here are six black-owned businesses started by college students.
1. Ataria NYC
Black-owned, woman-owned and simply chic, Ataria NYC began as a t-shirt company called Emoji Express before evolving into a full fashion line. Chinasa Nwokocha, the founder, CEO and president of Ataria NYC, proves that a student's career can begin before graduation day. She founded the company while studying at university. What makes this brand unique are the African influences. However, the company strives to "bridg[e] the gap between African, American, Asian and European clothing styles."
Now, Nwokocha holds a degree from Villanova University and an apparel company that has a new collection set to release this fall. Visit the website to check out these fun prints and follow the company on Facebook for updates.
2. Bahi Cosmetics
Bahi Cosmetics is not only black-owned, it is also black-inspired. According to the company website and founder Danielle Bahi, "We at Bahi were tired of seeing women of color placed in a single category by so many brands."
Thus the vegan, cruelty-free cosmetics brand was formed. From a feeling of constant frustration, Bahi launched her company not from a giant board room but from a college dorm room. As a university student, she watched her business grow through the success of skincare products like black soap, toner and clay masks. The easy-to-recognize ingredients make Bahi Cosmetics appealing to sensitive skin while its message speaks to everyone:
"Bahi's goal is to create a new standard for the cosmetics industry. We want natural ingredients that work for all women to become the norm, in order to provide high-end products at a reasonable cost."
3. Enbois by Maxim
Enbois is much more than the typical jewelry collection. Enbois is a lifestyle. Enbois is a retailer. Most importantly, Enbois is a philanthropy. Although the company has international reach, Maxim Thuriere writes on the website that Enbois began "as a creative hobby in [his] college apartment.”
Thuriere's leisurely activity of stringing beads into bracelets became Enbois (pronouced en-bwa), which means "wooden" in French. The company began in South Florida and to this day designs and creates products out of South Florida. The wooden jewelry company also leads efforts to reverse the effects of deforestation in Haiti and encourages eco-friendly habits. In fact, for every Enbois purchase, a tree is planted in Haiti. This is the perfect environmentally-conscious, black-owned business for accessorizing.
One thing college students always need, or perhaps, want, is money. This black-owned business will give just that — money — in the form of scholarships. After being featured on Shark Tank, Christopher Gray’s Scholly app has dominated the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store. Students and parents flock to the app to earn thousands of dollars in scholarships, which makes sense, considering Gray earned 1.3 million dollars in scholarships himself. However, it was not enough for Gray to pave his way through college on scholarships. He wanted to make college a reality for every student and created Scholly to simplify the scholarship search. This cool company is like the common app for scholarships as it condenses money-saving information into one neat app. Since Gray’s humble beginnings as an aspiring college student from a single parent household, the company has collected big name partnerships like Jessie Williams serving as the Chief Brand Ambassador. While the app is free to download, it costs $2.99 to unlock its premium features. Still, for the amount of scholarship money available, it is a small fee for a bright future.
5. Kyra's Shea Medleys
Beyonce sings that "a diva is a female version of a hustla" in her song "Diva." Kyra Nicole, founder and CEO of Kyra's Shea Medleys, qualifies as a diva under that definition, but I would go a step further and call her a hustla (no "female version" caveat required). This South Central LA-based company developed out of Young’s experience during her college years at a predominately white institution. She, like many other black women, faced the difficulties of finding suitable hair and skin products in college towns that do not cater to the needs of kinky or curly hair and dark-toned skin. As Young explains on the website, "I needed something that a student on a budget could appreciate, yet something that also simply gets the job done ... thus ‘Kyra's Shea Medleys’ was born.”
One fabulous feature about Young’s product is its versatility. Kyra’s Shea Medleys doubles as a natural hair and skincare product. It is also delicate on sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, plant-based and contains 100 percent organic and natural ingredients. As if all these features were not spectacular already, Kyra’s Shea Medleys prioritizes philanthropy and gives to charity for every purchase. The website puts it best: "Every purchase is a purpose."
Find Kyra's Shea Medleys all over the web on their website, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram. Kyra's Shea Medleys is sold at Target and there is a store locator to help track down local spots for this natural hair and skincare product.
6. Vita Shoes
The company website reads, "Community. Quality. Affordability," and I can not think of three better words to describe Vita shoes. The shoe company was founded by Daniel Abaraoha, an avid shoe lover who did not always have the funds for expensive sneakers. Abaraoha tapped into that feeling of discontent and created Vita shoes as an affordable option for stylish, quality shoes. This Cornell student has yet to graduate college but is already making a lasting contribution in his immediate community and beyond. Follow Daniel Abaraoha on Instagram, as he's a self-described "aspiring insprirer." Also find Vita shoes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
It is certainly possible to support black-owned businesses from head-to-toe — everything from Kyra's Shea Medleys hair care products to Daniel's Vita Shoes. There are also the fun products in-between; Chinasa's stylish African-inspired apparel, Maxim's environmentally-conscious jewelry and Chris' scholarship finder. Oh, and these companies were all founded by college students, so support the dream and let it inspire yours too.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash