- Black-Owned Businesses (February)
Black-Owned Businesses (February)
Black History Month Engage & Learn – City of Fredericksburg FXBG Love Local Black-Owned Businesses VA Black Business Directory
Using the resources above, Diverse City featured Black-owned small businesses in the City of Fredericksburg during Black History Month in February.
February 2, 2021 | Faded and Company | Antoine Carey
Just off a Jefferson Davis Highway service road is a barber shop tucked away in a Fredericksburg office building. The bell clangs as you walk in the door and you are immediately greeted by a warm group of barbers, barber shop students, and of course, the owner. If you playfully yell out, “Faded!” a chorus chimes back at you, “Faded!” This is Faded and Company, the barber shop created by Antoine Carey that services the community beyond just a haircut. We had the opportunity to interview him about his journey to being a barber, owning a small business in Fredericksburg, and the important role community service plays in his life.
Did you always want to be a barber, what is your story to how you ended up owning your own barber shop?
Antoine: Unlike most barbers, I never had the desire to be a barber. I never cut my little brother’s or cousin’s hair growing up. It wasn’t until my incarceration…… where during my incarceration where you had to be on a waiting list for your GED or a trade. I was blessed to be at Haynesville Correctional Center at the time, which they had electrical, they had brick masonry, and they had barbering. I’m definitely not fighting with any bricks and I’m definitely not going to play with any electrical so I got on the waiting list for the barber class. At the time that was the only place because everyone has to have a compliant haircut. Once in the class, I was like, “ok I’m actually kind of good at this.” Upon coming home, I was licensed so I was easily able to be gainfully employed and I loved the fact that there are no glass ceilings in the barber industry. Faded and Company, to me, has been the most rewarding thing that I have ever done.
Where did the name Faded and Co. come from?
Antoine: Urban guys, we get a fade, as opposed to straight hair guys may get a layered cut or tapered cut. So urban guys, we get a fade, and I wanted to add some type of prestigious look to it so on paper there comes the “and company.”
A lot goes into a name and it took a long time for me trying to decide what I wanted the shop to be. Once I settled on Faded, from that moment, the first time I got the SCC certificate in the mail and I actually seen Faded and Company on paper…. like, I’m married to this. Everything is Faded.
What does it mean for you to be a small business in Fredericksburg? How has the community influenced you?
Antoine: Fredericksburg has humbled me because I began my career here. I’m so blessed to be in a community that knows us for more than just a barbershop. The bible tells us, “to whom much is given, much is required” and we’ve been blessed tremendously. Every time that we are afforded an opportunity to be somewhere or be a part of something, we try to take advantage of those opportunities because each one of those has yielded their own blessing.
Where some may not look at a haircut as a major thing, we know that the haircut is the first thing as far as boosting morale and confidence and really being able to tie into self worth.
What is your favorite part about owning your own business?
Antoine: The favorite part for me about owning my own business is my potential. To be surrounded by such a great group of people who are doing great things, positive things, to be considered someone worthy of having an influence on other people whether by inspiration or motivation or possibility of things that could take place, to be afforded a lot of the opportunities. I literally do not know what the next email or door may open up for us and that’s a great position to be in. That potential is what is most rewarding to me.
How have you adapted since COVID?
Antoine: In order to protect the health and safety of the public, we already pride ourselves on vigorous safety infection control procedures anyway as being a licensed professional in this field. So COVID gave us a more intensive cleaning regime in terms of maintaining the cleanliness of the shop, but outside of that it has really been a humbling situation.
During this time, yes we were forced to shut down, but you’d be surprised if the clients that during this time still reached out, still wanted to pay for their haircut as if they were still getting their haircut. A lot of people showed a lot of care and consideration for us. It really shed light on how much a part of these families we really were.
Where do you see your business in the future?
Antoine: Moving forward, I would like to offer Faded and Company franchise opportunities. I would like to make a partnership with the Virginia Department of Corrections in order to offer the same opportunity that was afforded me while incarcerated- make that opportunity to guys that missed that opportunity due to smaller class sizes. Ideally I’d like to have a Faded and Company Academy close to any halfway houses, so guys can be afforded this opportunity. I would like to also be able to partner with the VA so we can be a VA approved facility so that we can accept veterans and I would like to see those that came through Faded and Company to go on and open up their own businesses so that they can employ others and offer the same opportunity even further.
February 6, 2021 | NIRAY | Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall
Partners and co-owners Ernisha Hall and Tracey Hall began their graphic design career by simply doing favors for their friends and family. What started out as just a few baby shower and event invitations, quickly turned into NIRAY, a custom website and graphic design company. Combining their passions for design with their Master’s degrees in Business Administration, Ernisha and Tracey Hall expanded their clientele nationally, as well as began the Virginia Black Business Directory (VABBD). We had the opportunity to virtually interview Ernisha and Tracey about their journey to being business owners in Fredericksburg and creating the VABBD, an invaluable resource to help support Black-owned businesses.
When and how did your passion for website development and design begin? Who helped nurture your talents and skills that lead you to the professional you are today?
Ernisha and Tracey: Our passion for website development and graphic design started with family and friends asking Ernisha to design invitations for special events, to include a baby shower and an engagement party. As people began noticing the work Ernisha was producing, we began to see an increase in requests. From there, friends looking to launch their own businesses would request assistance with their branding which included the design of their websites. Through word of mouth, we continued to acquire more clients across the United States.
As far as who helped to nurture our talents, as a married couple we helped nurture each other’s talents and skills to get where we are today. We both have our Master’s in Business Administration, and so we are knowledgeable in understanding how to operate a business; however, we are self-taught when it comes to graphic design and website design. We dedicated time to learn and understand the varying Adobe software programs and website design platforms. We attribute what our skills are today to pushing one another to learn as much as we could to become a sustaining business in the industry.
How did you come to start NIRAY?
Ernisha and Tracey: NIRAY was officially started in 2018. Again, our support system encouraged us to launch our business. Initially, we were designing as a favor and it quickly flourished into more.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do and owning your own business?
Ernisha and Tracey: For the both of us, we enjoy working with business owners. Each business owner has a different story as to why they started their business, and you can see that story develop into their brand. Many come to us for branding consultations to get started from the conception of their business idea, while others consult with us because they need to rebrand and relaunch. We enjoy the journey with our clients and the empowerment it brings to business owners when they start to see their business flourish because they have invested in the potential of their products or services.
What does it mean to you to be a business in Fredericksburg, Virginia? How has being a member of this community influenced you?
Ernisha and Tracey: Being a business in Fredericksburg has been a journey. Initially, we found that it was difficult for businesses in the community to trust our work because they did not know who we were. It took a lot of networking to get to where we are today.
Explain the start of your non-profit organization, the VABBD, and the importance it serves in supporting black-owned businesses in Fredericksburg, as well as the state of Virginia.
Ernisha and Tracey: The VABBD was founded in 2020 prior to the pandemic. Again, Ernisha had an idea to build a repository of black businesses in the area so people looking to patronize black businesses could freely do-so without searching tirelessly. Ernisha phoned a friend who thought the idea was great, and the rest is history. The evolving theme of a strong support system is important to highlight because what started as a for-profit quickly transformed into a pending 501(3)(c) with a few different programs and initiatives to include: Fredericksburg Black Restaurant Week, Fredericksburg Food Truck Festival, The Virginia Black Business Directory Expo and coming soon The Virginia Black Restaurant Week. Each of these programs and initiatives were developed to highlight the region’s (Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania) black-owned businesses, but to connect the community to these businesses. The directory is for the state of Virginia; however, it is inclusive of DC and Maryland since we are the DMV area. We have grown exponentially over the year to now having more than 1100 black-owned businesses in our directory. We have a mobile app which you can download for free from the Google Play Store and Apple Store, or you can visit our website at: www.vablackbusinessdirectory.com. Last but certainly not least, we have a strong support system which we rely heavily on and are profoundly grateful for. Our Board of Directors includes Michelle Riddick of Riddick Entertainment & Events, Tortica Anderson of A Family Affair (AFA) Event Management, Vernon Green of GCubed, Inc., and Marlon & Nyesha Wilson of Algiers Diamond Productions.
February 9, 2021 | Jus Pop’N | Carolyn Gipson
Jus Pop’N sits on the bustling corner of William and Princess Anne Streets in downtown Fredericksburg. Owner Carolyn Gipson fills her popcorn shop with love, from the delectable scent that greets you at the door, to the specially-made popcorn flavors created by customer requests. For Carolyn, it’s more than just selling delicious popcorn, it’s about being a beacon of light and positivity in the community. We had the opportunity sample some popcorn flavors at Jus Pop’N and to interview Carolyn about her popcorn process, how she got started, and what she loves about Fredericksburg.
Have you always wanted to be a small business owner, how did you get into popcorn?
Carolyn: I never thought I’d be a business owner and about five years ago, my brother and sister in different states started the business, and so I said, “let me try something!” I started ordering their popcorn to sell at different events and once I started selling it, people started wanting more. So shipping became a big issue for me, so I said “you know what…. I need to do this on my own.” My brother and sister taught me over the phone and through email how to make popcorn and what equipment to get. I thought, “Hey I like this! It’s a passion!”
Was it their recipe that you used, did you adapt it?
Carolyn: Initially I started out with their recipes, but a lot of times, it’s in the water. Wherever you are in a different part of the country it tastes different or it tastes better. So I made a lot of mistakes going off what they told me to make, and I’m like, “oh this actually tastes good!” then we’d come up with a name for it. So it’s kind of a mixture of their recipes and a mixture of mistakes and then a mixture of people saying “I want to try stuff!” and then I see if I can find the seasoning for it, and I’ll try to make it for them.
Is there anything that surprised you about the process of making popcorn?
Carolyn: The overall process! You think that you go to the store, buy some caramel, dip the popcorn in it, and that’s it. Then you realize it’s a 45 minute to an hour process of cooking everything, making sure you don’t have salt in something that doesn’t need salt in it, butter in something that doesn’t need butter in it. It’s just the overall process. I like to cook, and so it was like, “Wow! I didn’t know it was so involved.” I didn’t know this is how popcorn was made, until I did it.
What do you enjoy most about owning JusPop’N?
Carolyn: The customers. The people that come back, the kids that say, “Mom I want to go to the popcorn shop and see the popcorn lady!” or when I’m in public it’s like, “oh that’s the popcorn lady!” When people recognize who you are, it’s not bad. It’s a good feeling that it’s always with a smile. So it’s the people and also the opportunity to be able to give people opportunities, because the four people that work for me are two teenage girls, it’s their first job ever, then I have a single mother who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to try to get out and do something and it’s flexible. I love being of service to people, I love helping people, and I love cooking. So it’s the love of everything- the people, the process, the product, and that’s what I love about it.
How has the Fredericksburg community influenced your business?
Carolyn: I’m from a little town in Iowa- Waterloo, Iowa. I remember our downtown looking like this, Fredericksburg. It was thriving and then it became where it wasn’t thriving as much, and then trying to revitalize it. So looking out how when I first came to Fredericksburg 20 years ago, it was always nice, but not as up and coming as it is. There’s more to see, more people want to come down and see it, and the more it gives me this “at home” feeling. I think that being here in Fredericksburg and downtown Fredericksburg, allows me to see people of different walks of life, and be able to just be like, “you know what, I’m a part of this growing thing!” because downtown Fredericksburg is going to be something soon. You know, it already is, but it’s growing and I’m glad I’m a part of it.
How have you adapted JusPop’N during COVID?
Carolyn: I opened in COVID and [this is] a comfort food. They don’t have to go out at a restaurant, they can take it home and sit with their family while their quarantined or not quarantined. I also deliver so it’s able to get it out to the people who can’t get here. I can’t wait to see what it will be like once this is all over. So it’s a fun avenue for people to come in, a bright spot, and when they come in it’s like a breath of fresh air.
Well, when you walk in here it smells so good!
Carolyn: I just tell people that’s my perfume! No one believes me!
What would you like to see from JusPop’N in the next couple years?
Carolyn: In the next couple years I want to be on this corner still showing the love for the community, still being part of the community. There’s not much expansion to do as far as physical, but to be able to bring more jobs, extend the hours, and have the chance to help other people and stay here and keep being a beacon for this community, right here, right on this corner, having a good time.
Ok so last question. VERY important. Which popcorn flavor is your favorite?
Carolyn: Every last one of them! You know what… if I had to… butter. The Movie Theater Butter is a great flavor. It offers the salty and I can add the cheese, like our Virginia Mix. That’s a big favorite of a lot of customers is the caramel, the cheddar, and the butter. You get all three, so that would be my favorite because you get a taste of everything. So the Virginia Mix is my favorite!
February 13, 2021 | Beverley’s Ribinator Food Truck | Tony and Vicky Beverley
Beverley’s Ribinator BBQ is a family affair. It began with Tony Beverley surprising his wife with a towable grill after he returned home from his station in Okinawa, Japan. Now, Beverley’s Ribinator has been serving the Fredericksburg region classically unique BBQ for over a decade. Their BBQ recipe combines all the classic flavors from historic BBQ cities across the country and makes something for everyone. The star of the show isn’t just their ribs or macaroni and cheese. It’s their daughter Mya, who just entered the 2nd grade, and greets customers at the food truck window. She even has her own special- Mya’s Mini Special- 2 wings, 2 ribs, & pulled pork! We had the opportunity to taste their delicious BBQ and to interview Tony and Vicky Beverley about what it means to own a food truck in the Fredericksburg region.
What’s the origin of Beverley’s Ribinator? Did it come from a passion for cooking?
Tony: My grandmother, she was a cook in a restaurant for many many years. She loved to cook, and as I grew up, I saw her cooking. When we were stationed in Okinawa, Japan, I was given orders to come back stateside. So, when I got here I called my wife and said, “Hey.… I want to get a grill.” Long story short, she thought I was just going to get a regular small grill but it was an actual towable grill that went behind a vehicle. I sent her the picture and she was like, “WHAT are you doing?!” I’m like, “Hey you know… I want to go into business, I want to do barbecuing!” Pretty much that 250 gallon fuel drum on two wheels is where we started from.
So you didn’t know he wanted to make a business out of it? You thought he was buying a George Foreman or something?
Vicky: I thought it was going to be something simple, you know I didn’t think it was going to be where it’s at today. It obviously got big!
What year did you start?
Tony: It started in late 2010. 2010 was when we got our flagship, the little 5 x 8 trailer we first had, but in 2007 or 2008 is when we got the towable one that she thought was going to be a regular grill!
Tony: Folks love BBQ! And we get asked the question, “do you do the North Carolina style, do you do the St. Louis style, do you do the Memphis style?” and to be honest with you, we do our own style. We buy different seasoning, we mix everything up to our tastes that we think would appease anyone that comes up to the window, and we just go from there. There’s no set region in the BBQ. In my opinion, I try to incorporate everybody into it.
How has the Fredericksburg community or region influenced your business?
Vicky: We’ve always traveled to the local counties: Spotsy, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Caroline County. It’s our normal pop-up. What has increased is neighborhoods. [They] have reached out to local food trucks and that’s how we have kept ourselves going, which helped a lot.
What is your favorite part about owning the Ribinator food truck?
Vicky: The hours! If we want to take a month off, cool! If we want to keep going everyday, cool! We’re our own boss.
Would you like to talk a bit about your military service?
Vicky: Well you [Tony] retired, I did 8 years [in the] Army. We met in Okinawa, Japan. I was Logistic and he was Signal, so the unit that I just happened to be assigned was Signal, so that’s how we met. It was like at first sight!
Tony: It was at first sight. You know that saying… you know when it’s that person.
What would you like to see for the food truck in the next 5 years?
Tony: Nothing against a brick and mortar, but with a brick and mortar, there’s going to be an influx of people that will want to come everyday. You have to be open if you’re a brick and mortar, no if ands or buts. With the food truck, if we want to open up, we open up. If we want to close down, we close down. We have the capability to move pretty much anywhere in the state of Virginia. For us, within the next 5-10 years, I think it’s still going to be the food truck that we have. Unless the man upstairs has a different plan upstairs with us, we have peace of mind with the food trailer.
Vicky: Not only that, but we’re family-owned, so we love to take breaks. Especially for our daughter because she’s in dance classes. We make sure we work around her schedule as well. We’re busy all around.
Tony: By being a family-owned business, she [their daughter] gets to see what goes on. She interacts with folks all the time! We work for her. Because when folks come to the window it’s, “Where’s Mya? Is Mya in there?” They just want to see Mya.
February 16, 2021 | Chalk N’More | Tracee Fisher
Chalk N’More has been serving the Fredericksburg community for over 10 years. More recently, it has known a new owner, Tracee Fisher, who teaches by day and operates the store at night with her husband, Roderick Fisher. With their dedication to equal education and supporting the local community, it is an understatement to say we are lucky to have Chalk N’More call Fredericksburg home. We had the opportunity to interview Tracee in Chalk N’More about the store’s products, services, and future plans.
You’ve been a teacher for many years, is that right? What drew you to the field of education?
Tracee: Absolutely, 18 years! I honestly have to say, and anyone who knows me would say, I love to talk. As a result of loving to talk and loving to be in charge, I kind of gravitated to teaching and education. Many don’t know that prior to becoming a teacher, I was actually in the military. And as a result of being in the military and growing up and ultimately wanting to be like my father in the military, that was my initial plan. But sometimes your plans don’t go as you think, and ultimately I met my husband and I became a student. When I started school after getting out of the military, I had to have a major. What better major than doing something that I love doing, which again is talking, being in charge, and helping others.
What made you decide to go the extra mile outside of teaching to start Chalk N’More? You bought this business in 2019?
Tracee: 2019, yes. To be perfectly honest with you, everyone here in this area has known about Chalk N’More. Chalk N’More has been a mainstay here for the last 12-15 years. I recall being military, my family and I were stationed here 15 years ago. As a teacher, I would go and do some shopping in Chalk N’More, it was the premiere store, and really the only one around. Fast forward to 2019, I go into the store back in April because it was my birthday, so my husband was meeting me for lunch. I go in, and the previous owner said, “We’re going to be closing, I’m going to be selling the store if I can find a buyer, you might want to get all that you can get!” My mind starts going because I am a busy body. I call my husband and told him, “Meet me at Chalk N’More, not where we were having lunch. My birthday can wait!” I explain it to him, and my husband is my biggest champion, he supports me and every idea I have. He is the type to look before he leaps, I’m just going to jump! My husband says, “Well, let me talk to the owner and see what’s going on.” I didn’t get into it because I’m a language arts and reading teacher, I don’t do math, so I didn’t get into that part. My husband comes back a few minutes later and says, “Well, Happy Birthday! You just got a store! I bought your store for you.”
What plans do you have for Chalk N’More? What does the next 5 years look like?
Tracee: Growth and expanding what Chalk N’More provides here in this area. Ultimately my goal is to not only be an educational supply store, but to be a tutoring center so that students that don’t have opportunities, and most importantly, minority students, students of multicultural backgrounds that sometimes go to the wayside when it comes to being their best. I want to be able to provide that so I know I need a bigger facility for that.
So you do sell a lot of education supplies here, but you also do some events, and right now because of the pandemic they’re virtual. One of those is a Live at 5, do you want to talk a little bit about that?
Tracee: [We’re] trying to keep ourselves active and in the minds of everyone. We started when we first opened up, I realized we had to do something. The pandemic hadn’t hit yet, but I wanted people to know where we were, know who we were and knew where to get what they needed. So I started my Live at 5s every Tuesday. Once the pandemic hit and we closed down for a bit, they turned into weekly readings for students. I was reading to my students on my Live at 5s, we would choose books to read, and then it ultimately really has become an opportunity for us to educate the community, the parents, the students. So each week we focus on different activities or products we have in the store so parents can come in, and shop, and pay a reasonable price for things. I tell our customers,” I’m trying to get you more bang for your buck.” I am very conscious of what we purchase and what we have in the store because I too, am a mother.
What is your favorite part about owning Chalk N’More?
Tracee: I never want people to think that Chalk N’More is just me. Like I said before, I wouldn’t be able to do this if it weren’t for my husband. My husband is right here now, so I would like him to answer this question. This is a team effort and I want people to know that.
Roderick: Probably the best part about owning Chalk N’More is having the ability to help others in the community. Leveraging our experience and our abilities to attain certain tools that can assist the parents and teachers with teaching our future leaders, it’s probably one of the most rewarding parts and what is most important to us. A lot of times you go into a business venture to make money. This is by far the lowest on the totem poll for us in terms of trying to become wealthy with this. It’s to give back to the community.
February 20, 2021 | Pimenta | Simone Simmonds
Partners Ray and Jaqueline Simmonds own Pimenta along with their daughter, Simone Simmonds, making it a true family affair. Their Jamaican restaurant on Caroline Street has been contributing to the unique downtown Fredericksburg food scene since 2018. We had the opportunity to talk with owner Simone Simmonds about their family’s cooking influences and what it’s like being a restaurant in the downtown Fredericksburg community.
Who’s idea was it to start Pimenta?
Simone: As a family, we both went into it all together. However, it originated primarily from my grandmother on my father’s side. She loved cooking, she would cook every Sunday practically. When she had passed away in 2015, obviously it left our family very devastated. My father grew to love cooking as well because he learned so much from his mother and we thought a good way to do that is to also share her cooking and his cooking with the community, which is Fredericksburg. We decided to take this path and open a restaurant. Ever since then, that’s been our story.
For people who have never tried Jamaican cuisine, how would you explain it to them?
Simone: I think a lot of people have this assumption that Jamaican cuisine is very spicy and full of jerk, and don’t get me wrong jerk is absolutely delicious, jerk chicken is one of our best sellers, but I will say that the cooking is more so very flavorful; it’s made with passion and love. We have a lot of different dishes that are varied from different parts of the world. So we have our jerk but we also have our curry chicken and curry goat, which is mostly Indian based. We have stewed chicken and all these lovely delicious items on our menu, so I would say that Jamaican food is mixed with a whole bunch of other cultures and has its own twist.
Are there any traditional recipes that your dad, who is the head chef, has put his own twist on?
Simone: I think we’ve added a twist on a bunch of things. Primarily, one of our sides that we serve is actually the mac and cheese. We get a lot of compliments on our mac and cheese because we do it a different method, so my father added a twist to that. He also added a twist to his curry chicken along with the escovitch fish, which is a red snapper fish, and he’s just added different items. Not only do we have Jamaican things on there but we also have our Rastaman lamb burger, which is pretty different, not a lot of Jamaican restaurants even have that item. So we try to do things in a different way, but we still stick to our traditional roots.
Where does the name Pimenta come from?
Simone: Pimenta is actually a spice that we cook with a lot in our food back home in Jamaica. It’s also known as well in South America, so my dad would always use that when he was cooking. When we were brainstorming names, my father was like, “definitely Pimenta.” We’ve used that ever since.
You said you’re also a co-owner as well as your parents, what do you all enjoy most about owning your own restaurant?
Simone: I think the most beautiful thing about owning the restaurant is having families come in or couples come in or individuals come in and enjoy their meals and bring their friends, their family. Whether it’s just for a family dinner night or to celebrate a graduation, a birthday, to me it’s bringing people across the table and making sure that they’re satisfied. The most wonderful thing about it is the people we’ve met through this process of being in downtown Fredericksburg, there’s such a wonderful community here. It just makes our day to know that we can bring smiles and fill up people’s tummies with good food and keep them motivated.
What does it mean to you to have Pimenta be in Fredericksburg?
Simone: We absolutely adore downtown Fredericksburg. It’s all about the people. The support that we got just from being a Jamaican restaurant in downtown was outrageous. We really like the atmosphere that downtown gets. Not only do we get support from the locals, but we also get support from other local businesses down here. It’s all about supporting each other and making sure that we keep downtown Fredericksburg a very strong, nice, and beautiful city.
What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
Simone: There’s too many! I would say when it comes to food, the curry goat. My father sources all the meats, it’s halal meat, so you’ll taste that fresh organic to it. With the goat in particular it’s just one of my favorites!
February 25, 2021 | Whatever It Takes Fitness and VIBES Entertainment | Kenneth Monsanto
Kenneth Monsanto (left) is a man who wears many hats. After being in the Fredericksburg region for just six years, VIBES Entertainment and Whatever It Takes Fitness are just two of the many endeavors he has already pursued here. We had the opportunity to get to know Kenneth, his inspirations, and what his businesses offer. VIBES Entertainment hosts decked out themed paint night events and Whatever It Takes Fitness goes a step above and beyond a traditional personal training program.
What is the concept of VIBES Entertainment?
Kenneth: VIBES Entertainment, the reason why I did it is because being Black in this area, there’s not too many places that I felt was conducive to what I wanted to do. There wasn’t really anywhere outside of Hard Times. I don’t really like the smell of cigarette smoke and there just wasn’t really anything conducive. I was looking at different things going on in Florida, Georgia, California, Vegas and it was just like, bring it all in here, together. We do themed paint events- I do listening parties, fundraisers for high schools, day parties. Let’s say it’s a Reggae night, I would do the Caribbean food, decorations, a painting inspired by that, I might have a spoken word, I might have an artist. I just make sure I’m providing an experience that you could go to Dallas or Houston to get.
The Juneteenth event this past year, that was an outside event. We painted a Black Lives Matter fist, but it was a tree rooted. We pick something themed, that will really resonate with people and cause emotion. We’re not looking for something just for you to paint, we’re looking for an experience, and something that you actually want up in your house. It’s been a blessing man, that people have been supporting it and how there’s so much diversity.
Do you put together the playlist?
Kenneth: I do. I’m actually very intentional with everything- the playlist, the food, the performances, timing, just every aspect. I don’t leave anything to chance, down to the security. I’m big on prevention being the best cure.
Do you do all your events at other locations?
Kenneth: I usually rent out a space, I might do it outside. I’ve done… I don’t know how many breweries, wineries, I rent out places in D.C., we go to this thing every year for this church convention in Lynchburg where there’s 1500 kids. I’ve been thinking about getting a brick and mortar for VIBES, but thank God I didn’t. COVID kind of blessed my business. I was able to scale everything I’ve got going on. I was thinking, “How do I transition everything I do good in person, over technology?” So now I do art boxes online, I do entrepreneurship events online, we have a whole virtual training platform that does kids classes, adult classes, and senior classes.
What are some of the popular themed nights you do?
Kenneth: I think the world’s favorite is Reggae night. Trap and Paint is fun, cuffing season, I do an ugly sweater party every year. I would say Reggae night, I always have to turn 20 or 40 people away, it’s unbelievable every time we throw that.
Let’s talk about your other business, Whatever It Takes Fitness. Is it a personal training program?
Kenneth: It’s bigger than a personal training program, it’s a philosophy. My mantra is, “If you want to live in that body, you got to pay rent.” So what I teach to my staff, my team, everyone, is we base everything off of physical, mental, and spiritual refinement. I’m a firm believer that refinement brings value, value brings significance, significance brings influence. Whatever It Takes Fitness is my biggest platform now. We have a subscription based membership there with anything and everything you can do from healthy classes, to tips, we do 21 live classes a week, we have pre-recorded classes, we have an exercise library, there’s so much value on that thing that it’s almost unbelievable. It’s just a blessing to have the team that I have, to cast a vision and find people that really saw it and bought in. It’s been a blessing.
That leads me to my next question, what’s the idea behind “if you want to live in that body, you got to pay rent?”
Kenneth: That’s just that holistic approach. Literally, reading and working out changed the whole trajectory of my life. I didn’t find education and things of that nature, valuable until the past four or five years. I’ve been in this area for about six years and prior to coming here, I’ve been in the newspaper, but not for the things I am now. Refinement, refinement, refinement. What I tell my clients is when they wake up in the morning after you pray, you need to look at yourself in the mirror and say if you want to live in that body you have to pay rent.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner?
Kenneth: The most rewarding thing is opportunity freedom. I’m in a position where I empower my family and my friends. Before, I felt like I didn’t handle that responsibility well. It was a selfish look, it was about me. Once I took the approach of being selfless and understanding why am I being given these platforms? Why have all these things fallen into place for me? It’s not because I’m so smart, that’s God’s grace. That’s the biggest thing about being a business owner, it’s that opportunity freedom and the effective change that you cause if you have the power to see.
February 27, 2021 | Inspired Selections Boutique | Lakeya Hunt
Much like her boutique, Inspired Selections, Lakeya Hunt cannot help but radiate positivity and joy. Her women’s clothing and accessories store is about much more than fashion- it’s about cultivating self love and inspiring confidence within every customer that walks through her doors. From the color coordinated racks to the eccentricity blinged-out Coca-Cola purses, it’s no secret that women call this store their “happy place.” We were fortunate to interview Lakeya about her positivity philosophy, motivations, and the many services she offers to women in the community.
How would you describe Inspired Selections Boutique? Because it’s more than just a retail store, right?
Lakeya: Inspired Selections- we are basically a group called Inspired Women. We’re a non-profit group and we have positives that we do to motivate and inspire women. The boutique is like a big inspiring closet, actually the women call it their happy place. So you come in, you get motivated and you love on yourself. Self love is very important and that’s what we’re offering to the community.
You’re also a motivational coach, is that correct?
Lakeya: I am! Giving positives to people, working with people, making sure that they are focusing on life moving forward, looking at the positives, especially during the pandemic time, it’s really been a big help.
Given that you’re also a motivational coach, what inspired you to start your own business?
Lakeya: What inspired me was seeing a lot of women with their heads down, not feeling positive, knowing that a lot of women didn’t have those positive-perspective people in their lives, and growing up in church and just coming into contact with a lot of women who needed lift and love. So I said, “Hey! I need to do something to give back to the women in the community.”
Do you want to talk a little bit about the service you offer? Because as we said, it’s not just a store, you offer things like makeovers, you do parties, etc.?
Lakeya: Yes! We do makeovers for women, we offer free services for women, help them with their resumes, we get them prepped for interviews, we also provide them with free clothing to go to their interviews and a week’s worth of clothes to start their job. We go out to the community and do empowerment events- we host them ourselves or we join others, and that’s a lot of positivity, so women are getting lifted, educated, and taking courses and trainings. We do shelter give back as well. We have a group of women, we go into the shelters and we feed them and clothe them.
What do you find the most rewarding about having your own business?
Lakeya: The most rewarding is giving to another. Inspiring another. Encouraging another. Seeing another smile. So they come in one way, but they leave out a better way. That’s what motivates me and makes me feel great about being an owner of the business.