Take a look at what local Bay Area entrepreneurs are working on. If you would like to connect with any of the entrepreneurs, with thoughts, resources, or funding, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Lead Navigator Melanie Nuni at Melanie@alliancecd.org.
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 training. She will soon be launching an online store, incorporating a blog and potentially video training. 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 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!
Kelly Bradley-Scott is an Oakland native determined to help others feel good in their own skin – literally! Kelly’s creation is an all-natural, organic skin product under the CypherComplete360 line. “Cypher” refers to anything cyclical, and is part of the hip-hop lexicon (thank you, Nas). The cyclical nature of taking care of your body and skin comes full circle to make you feel “complete.”
In his own words: “I created an aftershave that actually works. I use it. I am bald because I can be. I grow a full head of hair, and can only shave my head confidently because I know this stuff works.”
Kelly has been experimenting for over 10 years, producing balms, lotions, and ointments. He began this work while living in Phoenix, AZ where he found the heat exacerbated razor bumps and irritations on his post-shave skin. After years of trial and error, he has come upon a solution to a problem: many men suffer from use of conventional post shave products, which are often alcohol-based and can produce unsightly bumps and painful irritation. This is true especially for African American men, who often can’t use certain razors because of naturally coarse hair and struggle to get a clean shave as a result. Kelly hopes this product will allow individuals to feel and look comfortable in their skin, and plans to later introduce other skin products in his line, with a lip balm in the works and maybe one day a deodorant.
We met Kelly back in March while doing outreach for our Text Hotline with East Bay entrepreneurs. He was in the “Plan” stage of his business development, and had already developed several prototypes of an all-purpose ointment, as well as some preliminary branding material.
Over the last several months, we’ve helped Kelly navigate the ecosystem of local business service providers and zero to low interest rate lenders. Now Kelly is enrolled in a Centro Community Partners entrepreneurship course, helping him develop his business plan, and exposing him to a peer network of local entrepreneurs. Kelly also met with Working Solutions and Start Small, Think Big for advice on lending options and legal questions.
Despite challenges and uncertainty, Kelly is an entrepreneur because he finds it liberating to shape and mold his own future. He acknowledges that it’s been a difficult journey, but is grateful that it has led him to explore his world, grow internally, shift his whole paradigm, and is bringing him one step closer to “becoming a person who deserves what they want.”