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Four Black Women business owners all began an independent journey towards building self-wealth in the early 2020s. Now, in 2023, through a pandemic and other obstacles, these ladies have all gone from online shopping brands to store-front businesses right next to one another in the heart of downtown Tulsa.
Chantell Lott, Lisa Jae, TaNesha Rushing and Fallon Laine Dickson were all participants in Downtown Tulsa Partnership’s 2022 Holiday Pop-up shop. According to their website, the Pop-Up Shop program allows emerging and growing entrepreneurs and established local brands to test the Downtown Tulsa market through short-term store fronts.
All four businesses have benefited from the program, and three out of the four businesses received extensions beyond the holidays. Bounceless, The Stylish Agency, Mi Tea lounge and Tropical Origin are all in the heart of downtown on 5th and Boston. Tropical Origin had a storefront prior to the program.
Haircare for us by us
Dickson, the owner of Tropical Origin, started her natural hair journey in 2009. As she was making the transition from chemical hair treatment to natural products, she noticed the lack of products that met her hair’s needs. “Tropical origins grew out of the need to want healthier products for my hair,” Dickson told the Black Wall Street Times. “I was transitioning from chemically relaxed to natural and I was just kind of frustrated with what was on the market.”
Tropical Origin started as an online business, selling bath and body products, beard care products for men, herbal teas and coffee. As the company’s business grew so did the need for a physical location. In August of 2022, she began leasing a storefront in the PhilTower on Boston Avenue.
The Sounds of Tea
Rushing, the owner of Mi Tea Lounge, started out in 2020 as a part of Tulsa Economic Development Corporation’s (TDEC) black start up brick-and-mortar program. Selling tea wasn’t the focus of the business in the beginning.
“When we did the program, I wanted a lounge with food, and a place to do intimate shows,” she told the Black Wall Street Times. However, the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from opening the business in 2020.
As a result, she was asked to scale the business down to accommodate the needs during that time. To keep things going, she began doing traveling tea parties, with shows to highlight various musical artists, while selling tea and herbal products online. In 2022 her business came to fruition with the holiday pop-shop business venture. After a successful run, she is now a resident in the PhilTower, where artists perform midday and evening shows, a variety of teas can be purchased, along with herbal health products.
Bounceless and Styling the Community
Lisa Jae and Lott shared a space during the holiday pop-up shop. Lott’s business, Bounceless, is designed to help women feel more comfortable exercising, without the need of changing sports bras too often. As a former athlete, she experienced the trials of ineffective sports bra wear.
“We’re on a mission to make sure women have the support they need to work and feel confident while they work out, without having to hold their chin or arms to their chest and suffer through pain,” Lott told the Black Wall Street Times.
Lisa Jae’s business, The Stylish Agency, was designed to help people in the community build their image through fashion. “I really saw the need to elevate looks, so I started Stylish Branding and Fashion Agency to focus on images and the image in the community.” She helped promote positive images through commercials and ad campaigns.
Since working together, the two have formed a new business, 5th and Fab, a community fashion collaboration with their business and other retail vendors, designers and creatives.
Each of the women reflected on what it meant for them to have businesses in downtown Tulsa.
“In 1919 or 1920 something when this building was built, you would have never had an opportunity like this, to have us working in this building, as entrepreneurs,” Rushing said.
“The fact that you have four Black women in this corner, on 5Th and Boston. It’s so much history,” Lisa Jae said. “And my kids come to my shop, and they now talk about what kind of business they want to own. Those are the conversations we’re having now.”
“When you get around other people who look like you; who are driven like you, it just brings another level of energy into your own business because you get to see what everybody else is doing, how they’re growing and what they’re doing that week,” Lott said.
“It’s diverse downtown, but there is a lack of visible African American businesses, so, bringing us together downtown in the Art Deco financial district, it just says volumes.” The representation is great,” Dickson told The Black Wall Street Times.
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