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Black Business Spotlight: Body Love

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — The most successful businesses tend to solve a problem. Sabrina Jones’ problem was eczema and dry, over-sensitive skin. Her solution: Body Love Products. Unable to wear products with fragrances, Jones created her own line of bath and body products incorporating aromatherapy, pure essential oils, and all-natural ingredients.

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By Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

Through friends and family, word gets out

The most successful businesses tend to solve a problem. Sabrina Jones’ problem was eczema and dry, over-sensitive skin. Her solution: Body Love Products.

Sabrina Jones (Photo by: Desiree L. Wells)

Sabrina Jones (Photo by: Desiree L. Wells)

Unable to wear products with fragrances, Jones created her own line of bath and body products incorporating aromatherapy, pure essential oils, and all-natural ingredients.

For 20 years, she has worked in child protection and training, which she said also informs her creations. “I work in a very stressful environment,” said Jones. “How can I combine two things that can help me and deal with not only the wellness of my skin, but also [serve] as a mood stabilizer?”

We chat here with this rising entrepreneur about her skin and wellness line and goals for growth and longevity.

MSR: What is Body Love?

Sabrina Jones: I provide unique aromatherapy, wellness, and stress relief solutions for your skin. I handcraft a variety of aromatherapy body butters, hair and facial treatments, products and accessories [for] those that suffer from dry skin, inflammation, blemishes.

MSR: What inspired you?

SJ: I just wanted to be able to have something that anyone could use — from an infant to someone in their 90s — anyone dealing with acne or inflammation, or just wanting a product that can help stabilize their mood, hence the aromatherapy piece.

When I became pregnant with my first child, that pushed me forward in really creating my product.

MSR: How did you figure out how to mix this stuff up?

SJ: I’ve always been a creative person. It’s really working around your scents, so I just get different scents together that I would like and play around with it. That’s the fun part. I work with shea butter, and I break that down, and then I just start mixing.

MSR: What’s your top-selling product?

JS: It’s my body butters. I have eight different fragrances, and my body butters are multi-use, so you’re able to use them on your hair, your face, your body. Within the body butters, Daydream is my number-one seller. It’s like a light, sweet scent [mixed] with sweet orange and lemon with melon and other ingredients for the skin, like tea tree oil and jojoba.

Second is my facial foam wash. It helps with blemishes, acne, razor bumps, pimples. And most of my customers are able to see a difference within a week. I have a lot of testimonials based off of that, and I am working to get a patent [on the formula].

MSR: How did you know this could be a business?

JS: Well, I would not be here and my company would not have grown over four years without word-of-mouth referrals, because this truly started out as a hobby for me. And then the word started to get out.

MSR: How does your business impact the community?

JS: With friends and family and referrals coming through, I started to see how it was positively impacting others and in the community. I started getting invited to different events in the community, like popups, events on wellness and health, as well as to talk about aromatherapy and how it can help as an alternative, or a supplement, to over-the-counter medicines. I love that educational piece to it.

I also donate some of my proceeds to organizations within child welfare that provide programming for youth.

MSR: What has been the most rewarding part of owning your business?

JS: The community response! Businesses grow with consumer support. I support my business capitally, but it’s because of the consumers why I’m doing it. With the demand and the increasing partnerships that I’m having with other businesses, it’s become a point of pride.

MSR: Tell us about the partnerships.

JS: I have some local business partnerships [where you can purchase my products]. One is Heimies Haberdashery in Saint Paul. They carry my aromatherapy balls. Privileged Barber Lounge in Saint Paul, as well. And then I have a new partnership with Andros Med Spa in Mendota Heights. We have a launch on July 16th. Those are places locally that have also supported me in my growth. I’m also at Market at Macy’s at Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta. I’m there until August.

MSR: What has been the biggest challenge?

JS:  Stepping up my game as far as making our products more accessible and becoming more visible. Yes, I’m in Minnesota, locally known; I want to be nationally, if not internationally, known. So really [it’s about] figuring out that you have this masterpiece and how do you get others to be able to learn about it as well.

And then too, with any business it’s [about] capital, because I fund my own business and I’m a mom, I’m a wife, have my home life, and then I have my business. So, it’s how to keep things going without going under and not stretching yourself so thin that there’s no sustainability. I’m still trying to figure that out.

MSR: What does success look like for you?

JS: I think the short-term success is obviously sales — not in the form of profit, but in the form of somebody taking a step towards their own self-care and wellness. When they purchase one of my products, I see that as success because they’re taking control of that for themselves. It means to me that I didn’t do this in vain.

MSR: And long-term success?

JS: Legacy. Eventually, I want to be able to solely work for myself and create a sustainable business that my son can take over, or I shall I say my grandkids can take over.

MSR readers can use coupon code Love Yourself receive $5 off $25 purchase.

For more info, including local locations, visit bodyloveproducts.com.

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Bay Area

Vice Mayor: Business Group Wants to Buy Coliseum, Attract WNBA Team

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

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Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan said a local business group has made serious inroads to buy the city’s 50% stake in the Oakland Coliseum complex and to bring a WNBA team to the city.
Kaplan’s office shared a news release Monday about the effort by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group.

Kaplan said the group is in negotiations with the Oakland-Alameda Joint Powers Authority, has submitted a formal proposal to WNBA officials, and has submitted a term sheet to the city, which the City Council’s rules committee recently voted to advance to the full council for a vote.

The group will provide additional details of its effort at a news conference at 11:00 a.m. Friday at a site to be determined.

“I am pleased that there is such great interest in doing an important development at the Oakland Coliseum that will provide jobs, revenue and community positivity,” Kaplan said. “My goal is to help this process move forward before the summer recess.”

Kaplan said the group has the backing of more than 30 community groups of faith-based institutions, labor organizations, civic leaders, and job development organizations. She did not name the groups

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Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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Business

Some Upbeat News for Black Businesses Still Reeling From Pandemic Losses

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

Happy black waitress with face mask and gloves holding open sign while reopening during coronavirus epidemic./Shutterstock

Next week, after more than a year, California is expected to lift the majority of its COVID-19 related restrictions and reopen its economy at almost-full capacity. 

But as the state prepares for a long-anticipated comeback, many Black business-owners say enterprises across the state that African Americans own face an uphill road to recovery. 

“It’s a state of disrepair. They need significant support,” said Tara Lynn Gray, director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate.  

Black-owned business operators who are struggling will need all the financial support available to them, Gray told California Black Media (CBM) at a luncheon hosted by the California Black Chamber of Commerce in Sacramento.

(Black businesses) have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Gray said. “Fortunately, the governor has stepped up and provided $2.5 billion dollars in relief funds to all small businesses with priority to the disadvantaged communities of color.”

In February 2020, there were 1 million Black-owned businesses in operation around the United States, according to a University of California at Santa Cruz report.

About six weeks later, after the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Black business owners had dropped to 440,000, a 41%, reduction. Many of them had to shut down their businesses for good. 

During the same time, only 17% of white proprietors had to shut down their businesses, UC Santa Cruz research shows. Overall, nearly 4 million minority-owned U.S. firms, whose annual sales total close to $700 billion, shuttered because of COVID-19.

But despite the grim statistics, a number of small business advocates say there is financial help available both at the state and federal levels for most business-owners. 

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

The main objective of the briefing was helping small businesses, particularly minority owned ones, connect to various sources of funding created to help them recover from the pandemic. 

The key is to apply for the money, said Everett Sands, CEO of Lendistry, a leading, Black-led Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Entity (CDE) that is also a small business and commercial real estate lender. 

“Let’s make an assumption. If you are allowed to open, and you can open, then therefore you should be able to receive some type of revenue,” Sands said. “What we’ve learned about the pandemic is that most opportunities are coming a second time. If you look at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it came a third time. But it is important for businesses to apply.”

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal revenue replacement program designed to sustain small business jobs during the ongoing public health and economic crisis. May 31 was the last day for small business owners operating in low-income neighborhoods to apply for the third round of PPP loans.

In California, Lendistry helped thousands of small businesses secure loans and grants during the pandemic. Funded by the State of California through the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, Lendistry, was the state-contracted administrator of the program that administered six rounds of grant funding for non-profits and underserved businesses.

Sands was one of the guest speakers along with U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), a member of the Congressional Small Business Caucus, and Virginia Ali. Ali owns the nationally renowned restaurant and Black-owned small business Ben’s Chili Bowl in Wash., D.C.

Sands said before the virus surfaced, minority businesses were already in a “financially precarious position” with strained resources. Small businesses had limited access to capital, he said, and they lacked the infrastructure to apply for loans or contracts and many of them couldn’t self-finance in the long term.

But on the cusp of the state and U.S. economies reopening, Sands says it is not too late for businesses to get their financial footing. 

“As a result of the American Rescue Plan, most states received roughly $1 billion to help these small businesses increase their revenues” he said.

Of California’s 4.1 million small businesses, 1.2 million (29%) are minority-owned.  ZIPPIA, an online career support company, calculated that 10,287 Black-owned businesses operate in California. According to the June 2020 report by ZIPPIA, titled the “Most Supportive States for Black Businesses,” California ranked No. 4 before the pandemic. Based on data compiled by the United States Census’ Annual Business Survey, California’s Black businesses employ roughly 81,530 people. 

Gray said restaurants, barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, hospitality, and personal grooming services have been “inexplicably hurt” due to social-distancing restrictions in the state.

Those businesses, owned by many African Americans, were not deemed as essential when a shelter-in-place order was mandated. Now those are the businesses that Newsom intends to help, Gray stated.

“Our governor had a tough choice to make,” Gray said. “You close things down to make sure people are safe. Public health is a serious issue. I applaud him for doing that. Yes, there are consequences to our small businesses. But in the end, look at us now. We have the lowest positivity rate in the nation. Also, it looks like our economy is coming back.”

A survey conducted by H&R Block found that out of 3,000 small businesses, 53% of Black business operators saw their revenues cut in half due to the pandemic as compared to 37% of White owners. 

Black-owned small businesses continue to experience disproportionate difficulties, with 35% of Black entrepreneurs reporting that business conditions are worsening. Many say they may not survive the next three months.

While the reopening of the economy signals progress, Sands is encouraging Black businesses to pay attention to Small Business Administration programs (SBA) that include loans, a restaurant relief fund and venture capital investments.

To apply for federal small business funding, Sands says, a company only has to show the sole business’ gross revenue. Applicants won’t be excluded if the proprietor has been a borrower on a defaulted student loan or has a criminal history.

“For amounts less than $150,000, most of the red tape or the bureaucratic process of a loan has been cleared away,” Sands said. 

Khanna said more funding is expected to be distributed through the Saving Our Street Act, which would allocate loans of up to $250,000 to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Distribution of the money will be based on the racial and gender diversity of the business owners, he said, and it should help the economy get stronger and financially stabilize the country.

“In this next quarter, we’re going to have a pretty good recovery,” he said. “Consumer spending is at 10% growth. I think small businesses are going to come back strong. The problem is a lot of businesses that have had to close may not be able to reopen. And that’s where we have to focus: assisting with debt forgiveness and capital for those businesses that would not survive.”

 

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