article by Glenn Jeffers via ebony.com
It started with a Facebook post.
Curator and entrepreneur Shantrelle Lewis took to the social-media site to find sharp-dressed brothers for her exhibition, “The Dandy Lion Project.” When Tony Lawson, also an entrepreneur, responded to Lewis’ online query, the two quickly bonded over their shared history — they attended Howard University at the same time but never met on-campus — and a strong interest in business.
That connection soon turned into a relationship that blossomed in several ways. In November 2015, the couple launched Shoppe Black, a site that promotes Black-owned businesses and culture around the globe. And last month, Lewis and Lawson were married in a “Nigeria meets New Orleans” themed ceremony that Okayafrica dubbed “The Biggest, Blackest Wedding of All Time.”
EBONY spoke with the newlyweds about the site, working together as newlyweds and how Black businesses can become wealth generators.
EBONY: How did Shoppe Black come about?
Lawson: We both have an interest in creating wealth in the Black community and understand that business ownership is the way, or one of the ways, to create wealth. That being said, when the Mike Brown shooting happened, there were a lot of calls to action demanding a boycott of businesses that don’t respect Black dollars and the support of Black-owned businesses. We sat down and figured out, okay, what’s the best way for us to organize and let people know about the Black businesses that exist. We knew that there was a need for it. We’re always looking to support Black-owned businesses and this is a way to compile all that information in one place and make that information interesting and aesthetically pleasing.
EBONY: What is the company’s mission?
Lewis: Right now, we are providing content around Black money, thought, love and culture. In early 2017, we will launch the directory and business services. Our primary mission is to make the process of supporting Black-owned businesses, like our business easy, to make it exciting, to create power, give us a source of power within our community and within society at large. The sheer size of Black buying dollars is overwhelmingly powerful.
Lawson: Additionally, another goal of the company is to reduce the rate of Black business failure. Black businesses fail at a rate higher than all other businesses. We want to be a hub for Black business. The services and exposure we provide will help put them in a position where that rate will decrease. You may not know that, okay, there’s a Black-owned leather bag company, a water company or a toiletry company. Those companies are out there, and it’s our mission to let the people know that they do exist and support them.