Meet Constance! Constance Rice was born and raised in Oakland. In spite of the challenging economic conditions in her hometown — rising cost of living, rising income inequality, and rapid displacement — she is determined to raise her family in Oakland and run a successful business in Oakland.
Constance’s business is focused on providing local women with non-toxic, environmentally friendly, and culturally relevant alternative female-centered products and trainings. She will soon be launching an online store, incorporating a blog and potentially video trainings. But her dream is to have a brick and mortar space she knows women in her community crave for in-person visits and advice.
Constance has been thinking about starting “Joyful Vajayjay” for over a year. She first discovered alternative menstrual products in her early 30’s when she learned about the toxicity associated with mainstream feminine hygiene products and the harmful impact they have on women’s bodies and the environment. She found out later that many of her white friends knew about natural alternatives, but her friends of color knew little, if anything. This troubled her, as she knew Black women in particular to be more prone to developing fibroids and, as a result, they may delay addressing symptoms.
Constance’s target market is women of color, especially Black women, because, as she says, “we’re not targeted to and advertised to, and you won’t easily find the organic products in our inventory at our neighborhood markets. And Whole Foods is pretty prohibitive to most people here.”
Constance discovered that other local women were making similar products at home and then selling them independently. When she took her daughter to a local womb and moon cycle class by Asatu Hall called “Young Empowered Black Womyn’s Achieving Self” (YEWAS). With this information, she decided to make distribution and education the foundation of her business while also building an inventory of products and partnerships.
Constance is a member of The East Oakland Collective. Earlier this year, the Collective alerted her to panels and service provide tabling during National Small Business Week that the City of a Oakland organized at Allen Temple Baptist Church.
It was there at Allen Temple that Constance saw the ALLIANCE’s table and our text hotline flyer, which is part of our expanded outreach effort to reach more aspiring entrepreneurs and folks looking to grow their businesses. After we interviewed Constance, we provided her with a set of best-fit referrals and established connections with each of those entities. These connections, combined with Constance’s determination, have launched her business into reality! Over the course of the last four months, Constance had her business’ website built by a youth developer from Hack the Hood and enrolled in Centro Community Partners’ “Intro to Entrepreneurship” course.
Constance worked with a wonderful Youth Developer from Hack the Hood, Naillah. Constance had a great experience helping a young person gain hands on work experience while also developing her own professionalism as a client. She’d recommend Hack the Hood to other local small business folks looking to upgrade their website!
She also loves her Centro course, which she says has been a “game changer” for her. She considers her classmates thought partners. The instructor, Hope Lehman, has been instrumental in pushing everyone to think in-depth about their business plans while providing tools to conduct surveys and market research and to analyze personal and business finances.
The ALLIANCE will continue to support Constance as she puts the final touches on her business plan with Centro, connecting her to other great resources and technical support before she takes the next step of seeking lending and funding opportunities. So to our friends at Kiva, Working Solutions, Main Street Launch, Pacific Community Ventures and other great lending organizations: Keep an eye out for this impressive, up and coming business woman!