During times of civil unrest and social crisis, many people wonder what they can do to make a difference and help those suffering. The ongoing protests throughout the United States are a culmination of years of injustices inflicted on a small section of the American as well as the global community, and there has been an outpouring of support from all reaches of the country and all across the internet over the past several days. While it remains to be seen what will happen from this point forward, one thing is clear: the black community is hurting, and it’s important for everyone in the country to do something to show their support and encouragement during this incredibly difficult time.
One of the ways the average person can show solidarity and support with the black community during this time is to support businesses owned by black entrepreneurs. The Boutique and Lifestyle Leaders Association (BLLA) is proud to work with a vast, diverse network of business leaders in the Boutique Community who provide their customers with stellar experiences while embodying the ideal that is the boutique experience. The boutique businesses offer experiences that are very different from many things that a standard chain hotel or business might provide.
The following boutique business leaders have carved their own paths to success. During uncertain times, it’s important to show support to these business owners. Read through the following list of black boutique hotel and business owners and consider how you can show solidarity through this uneasy time.
Founder of Salamander Hotels and Resorts
Sheila Johnson cultivated a solid career as a producer, philanthropist, entrepreneur (Co-Founder of BET), and even a sports entertainment mogul before she decided to pursue something unique in the world of hospitality. She decided to step outside the box of the contemporary hotel experience and assembled a team of incredibly talented industry professionals, including esteemed executive, Prem Devedas. Sheila was determined to create a new kind of management company that forced her competitors to completely rethink everything they thought they knew about the hospitality industry.
Sheila and her dedicated management team set out to purchase, develop, and manage properties that offered a unique type of hospitality. Instead of revamping these properties into a muted, sterile, “branded” format, she chose to highlight the singular uniqueness of each property in the Salamander Hotels and Resorts network to provide guests with distinctive experiences. The Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg, VA is the only five-star resort in the DC area, and Sheila also owns boutique hotel properties in Florida, South Carolina, and Jamaica.
Founder of Undefined Beauty
Dorian Morris created the Undefined Beauty brand to challenge the narrative surrounding the beauty products industry. As a former U.S. marketing director for CoverGirl, marketing executive for General Mills, and brand launcher for Sephora and Kendo Brands, Dorian took her extensive industry experience to the next level with the creation of the Undefined Beauty brand, focusing on clean and nontoxic beauty solutions that include botanical infusions and social impact.
The Undefined Beauty brand offers clean beauty products that are non-toxic, vegan, cruelty-free, sustainably sourced, and 100% packed with skin-loving ingredients. Undefined Beauty does not use any parabens, sulfates, phthalates, silicones, artificial dyes, triclosan, triclocarban, synthetic dyes, petroleum, mineral oil, or palm oil in any of their products. Undefined Beauty has also launched a line of beauty products infused with cannabidiol (CBD) to allow consumers to take advantage of healing and restorative properties of CBD in an expertly crafted and safe way. Dorian spoke at our Female Empowerment Conference earlier this year (pictured above) during a panel focused around how hospitality and cannabis industries can work together.
Reggie Smith and Angela Jennings
Founder of Boombox Boxing Club
Reggie and Angela developed the Boombox brand out of their love of music and boxing and the desire to bring the health benefits of boxing to others in an engaging, inspiring format. The Boombox Boxing Club fitness program includes a variety of music-driven boxing routines designed to burn fat and build muscle in a way that people of all fitness levels can enjoy. The Jennings understand that boxing may be intimidating to those who have never tried it before, and they strive to bring this boxing-inspired fitness routine to people from all walks of life and all ability levels.
The boutique gym experience that is the Boombox Boxing Club offers a 50-minute workout routine unlike any other, one that combines shadowboxing, Aqua bag work, and various technical training exercises. Angela and Reggie strive to make the Boombox Boxing Club engaging, stimulating, and accessible for participants of all fitness levels, so beginners and experienced boxers alike can enjoy a full-body strength training routine and build confidence while enjoying heart-pounding musical playlists.
Founder of Cushnie
Founded in 2008, the Cushnie brand developed by Carly Cushnie focuses on providing ready-to-wear luxury garments designed for women as well as bridal wear. For more than a decade, the Cushnie brand has provided sculptural lines, fluidity, and a keen sense of proportion in every piece they have designed. The Cushnie brand has become a figurehead of the black business community over the past several years and a symbol of the boutique luxury clothing experience for women all over the world.
Carly developed her brand out of a desire to create beautiful and sophisticated women’s luxury clothing. Over the past decade, her clothes have been worn by famous women including Michelle Obama, Padma Lakshmi, Gal Gadot, Ava Duvernay, Lupita Nyong’o, Jessica Biel, and many others. Carly’s Cushnie brand is now distributed by more than 100 premiere retailers all over the world and has won industry awards including the Ecco Domani Award in 2009 and the CFDA Swarovski Award in 2012.
Founder of Homage Hospitality
Damon Lawrence personifies the American Dream of creating a brand name through hard work, experience, and building a cohesive team who share a common vision. Damon’s journey through the hospitality industry began when he worked as a front desk agent for the Donovan House Hotel in Midtown DC, part of the Thompson Hotel Group. He worked through the management ranks and gained valuable industry experience working for companies including Ritz Carlton, Dusit International, and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. In 2014, Damon and his business partner Marcus Carey launched the Homage Hospitality Brand. He currently oversees creative direction and all operations.
The first property of the Homage Hospitality Group was The Town in Oakland, CA, which offers a wide range of amenities along with the Homage Hospitality Group’s signature style. Damon and Marcus then purchased two more properties in Louisiana, the Moor in Mid City, New Orleans, and The Freeman, in Tremé, regarded as the oldest African American community in the United States. The Homage Hospitality Group has plans to open more boutique hotels in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Harlem, Chicago, and Detroit in the next few years. Damon and Marcus spoke at the BLLA x StayBoutique stage in early 2019 (pictured above).
Damon and Marcus also wrote a social commentary article for StayBoutique readers last fall, check out Investment Acquisition for the Unconventional Entrepreneur.
Eddie and Sylvia Brown
Founders of The Ivy Hotel
Opened in 2015, the Ivy Hotel has a long and rich history as a fixture of Baltimore, MD. First constructed in 1889, the original owner unfortunately died before he could see his dream mansion completed. Over the next century, the mansion would be home to local philanthropists, doctors, and eventually the Baltimore Parks and Recreation Department, after which the Mayor of Baltimore renovated the property and used it to host dignitaries visiting the city. Today, under the direction of Eddie and Sylvia Brown, the Ivy Hotel offers an undeniably unique hotel experience in the heart of Baltimore.
The Browns are local philanthropists and the owners of Brown Capital Management, a Baltimore area investment firm that manages more than $8 billion in assets. The Browns have donated to many cultural and social causes throughout the Baltimore area, including a $3.5 million donation to the Baltimore Museum of Art and donations to the Maryland Institute’s College of Art. The Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Family Foundation also offers support to Baltimore area K-12 education, the arts, and HIV/AIDS and cancer research.
Co-Founder of Urban Cowboy
Jersey Banks and business partner Lyon Porter wanted to take a different approach to the typical cowboy-themed vibe common in the Nashville area and provide guests with something truly comforting yet unique and memorable. After purchasing a Victorian mansion in Nashville, the duo transformed it into one of the most uniquely designed and distinctly memorable boutique bed and breakfast spots in Tennessee.
Lyon and Jersey took a different type of approach to designing the eight bedrooms of the Nashville Urban Cowboy Victorian mansion and the markedly asymmetrical design by focusing on geometric patterns, whimsical design features, and a different experience in every room. Today, the Urban Cowboy includes an eight-room boutique hotel in the original Urban Cowboy Victorian mansion and a 28-room luxury lodge in the Catskill Mountains. Jersey and Lyon have also opened the Urban Cowboy Public House, a local gathering place to enjoy great food, great drinks, music, and unforgettable times with friends. Jersey was slated to speak at our Female Empowerment Conference (whose mission is to empower women in the travel, hospitality and boutique industries) earlier this Spring.
Shawn and Eviana Farrar
Founders of Nimbus Coffee
Eviana Farrar finished law school and found herself without any desire to practice law. Growing up in a home with her mother Shawn, cooking fabulous meals every day, it inspired her to pursue a career that allowed her to express herself creatively while also developing tasty concoctions for others. Nimbus Coffee was born in the heart of Los Angeles, and Eviana and her mother-turned-business-partner, Shawn, opened this uniquely spellbinding coffee shop with a flair for the fantastic and a truly unique boutique coffee shop experience for every customer who walks through the door.
Nimbus Coffee offers a variety of unique blended drinks including coffees and teas sourced from the best vendors, and the menu is unlike anything you might find in a typical chain coffee shop. The walls are adorned with bits of fantasy, and although it is not an official Harry Potter property, the mark of the famous wizarding world is unmistakable from the first moment you walk through the doors.
Owner of The Downtown Clifton
Moniqua Lane has a real appreciation for the beauty and history of Tucson, AZ that she loves to share with her guests at The Downtown Clifton. This stylish hotel offers personalized service in historic Armory Park. Originally built in 1948, the hotel was purchased from the first owner and transformed into the boutique experience as it exists today, including an expansion of 22 rooms and the addition of The Red Light Lounge. This eatery features contemporary cuisine as well as local and regional beer, wine, and spirits.
Moniqua enjoys sharing the wonders of the area with her guests. Some of the highlights of the area include El Tiridito, a shrine to a tragic love story that dates back 140 years, the El Pilito museum and gallery, the Fourth Avenue Shopping District, and a vast array of cultural activities, shopping, dining, and music amenities, and a spectacular nightlife experience.
Owner of Jnane Tamsna
When you travel to Morocco and desire a sensational boutique hotel experience, there is nothing quite like Meryanne Loum-Martin’s Jnane Tamsna. This immaculately designed lodging facility features a serene nine-acre garden with tennis courts, five houses, and five pools. There are 24 individual rooms, as well as rentals of private villas and exclusive rental availability for private events.
In addition to magic and calligraphy courses for children, there is also an array of ventures available for adults. You may enjoy a ride through the beautiful palm grove on camelback or a tour of the city and the surrounding area in a sidecar. If you prefer to go at your own pace, bike riding is also a popular activity. No matter what you choose to do for relaxation, there is something for everyone, including cooking classes and lazy pool days at Jnane Tamsna.
Founder of Bloom & Plume
Maurice Harris’ Bloom & Plum is a visionary floral design studio in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Maurice is an artist with a unique point of view and a vivid sense of humor, as well as a dedication to his community and craft. All of which enabled him to become one of the most followed florists on Instagram and one of the premier floral designers in all of Los Angeles. Not only have Hollywood’s A-List stars called upon him for his services, but brands such as LACMA, MOCA, Warby Parker, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Gucci, Dior, and Louis Vuitton have all sought his incredible arrangements.
As if being featured in publications like Rip+Tan, Saint Heron, Hollywood Reporter, LA Times, W Magazine, and Vogue wasn’t enough, this artist has also showcased his talent with a performance piece at the Broad, photography at the San Diego Art Institute, and flower sculpture at MOCA. No matter what the medium is, this emerging artist is storming the LA scene and is sure to leave an indelible impression on the world in the years ahead.
Co-Founder of Red Bay Coffee
When Red Bay Coffee started out in 2014, Keba Konte was more than just an aspiring business owner. He had already established his mark on the art world. With a background deeply rooted in the San Francisco Bay area, he developed an ownership model based on crowdfunding and broad ownership by non-accredited investors. The diverse and inclusive coffee company hires and serves people from many backgrounds, especially people with disabilities, women, formerly incarcerated individuals, and people of color.
The Red Bay Coffee team has a strong desire to foster an evolution in the specialty coffee industry. The movement that they call the fourth wave of coffee includes being fully committed to providing coffee production that is sustainable and high quality but takes it a step further. The company wants to promote diversity, entrepreneurship, economic restoration, social restoration, and inclusion. They have been providing their beautiful coffee experience for six years.
Owner of Daze House
Gabe Leavell’s Daze House is a haven for hard-working individuals looking for adventure and a fun place to relax after exploring the many fascinating activities that Johannesburg, SA, has to offer. The hotel is designed to please the aesthetic of the modern tourist while providing the amenities that guests seek when they are away from home. A relaxing garden and pool are just a few of the features of this hotel that focuses on local brand collaboration and a desire to share the beauty of South Africa with visitors from other countries around the world.
In addition to 24-hour security and proximity to shopping and the O.R. Tambo Airport, the hotel is known for its world-class cooking lessons. The kitchen is inviting and user friendly. It is also abundantly appointed with everything an aspiring chef needs to get a start. Hotel chefs work with guests to explore cultural cuisines from near and far while educating visitors in a fun and light-hearted environment. The chefs at Daze House believe there is no better way to tell a story than with food.
Support Black Boutique Business Owners in Your Area
During times of civil unrest such as those we currently find ourselves in, reaching out with a supportive hand and lending your compassion to those fighting for their rights is one of the most impactful things you can do to help. If you are able to support any of these black boutique business leaders during this difficult time, consider enjoying a boutique hotel experience or doing business with these incredible brands whenever possible. BLLA will continue to show our support and solidarity for those fighting for their rights across the country and we hope that you will do the same in any way that you can.