By relying on community support and faith and fighting for representation, three Black business owners showed how to survive against the odds.
While many businesses were forced to close their doors permanently due to COVID-19, these three owners actually opened their businesses amid the pandemic — and have seen the businesses grow.
“I was set to open in March to honor my mom’s birthday but ended up delaying the opening because of the pandemic,” said Rodesia Scott of Lynn’s Beauty Depot, a beauty supply store in Desoto, Texas.
Scott said she decided to hold her grand opening during the Juneteenth weekend, a holiday celebrating the end of slavery, because the event is widely celebrated across Texas.
In the heart of a historically black neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, sits Leah and Louise, a juke joint. The Southern-inspired restaurant opened in March, just days before North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced all indoor dining would be closed and limited for takeout or delivery.
“We were so focused on opening the restaurant; we weren’t gearing up for the pandemic,” Gregory Collier, owner and head chef of Leah and Louise, told ABC News.
“We had to really be quick on our feet because we know we can be OK. But we have staff that takes care of family, so that was important to us to be like, ‘OK, how are we going to do this without cutting anybody?'” Subrina Collier, the co-owner and Gregory’s wife, said.
Meanwhile, Derrick “D” Hayes said he saw a chance to add onto Big Dave’s Cheesesteak, his restaurant in Atlanta by helping members across the community.
“When the pandemic hit, I said, ‘Listen, we’re not panicking,'” Hayes told ABC News.
The restaurant has become a staple to residents across Atlanta, even garnering the attention of rapper Offset from the hip-hop group Migos.
Amid racial unrest and the global pandemic, these business owners had to think outside of the box, finding resilience through ongoing obstacles.
“We changed our menu and price points to cater more to local customers suffering financially from the pandemic,” Subrina Collier said.
Scott created a drive-thru for her beauty supply store.
“You literally can shop online, and choose local pickup, and then you come to the drive-thru, and it’s just the same as if they’re coming into the store,” Scott told ABC News. “When they come through, I ring them up, and they go, and it helps them as well.”
Despite some unforeseen setbacks, the owners said their biggest motivation is representation.
Lynn’s Beauty Depot is the only Black, woman, and veteran-owned store in the city of Desoto.
“About 90% of the money that goes into the beauty supply industry comes from the Black community, and we own about 1% of the industry,” Scott said.
However, Sam Ennon, founder and president of the Black Owned Beauty Supply Association (BOBSA) trade group, says the number of Black beauty supply owners is slowly increasing. According to a 2018 Nielsen report, Black consumers spent at least $54 million of the $63 million industry total in 2017.
“I know people are counting on me,” Scott says. “What really makes me feel good and warm and fuzzy inside about that is the fact that I see you little girls and young teenagers and young adults come in the store, and they see me.”
In Atlanta, Hayes has made it a goal to serve as a philanthropist and offer college scholarships to students in his community.
“I am a 33-year-old Black man who has made some mistakes,” Hayes said. “This is my second chance at life. I’m a community leader now.”
As Gregory and Subrina Collier work to find new ways to introduce Memphis and authentic Southern-style food to the Carolinas, they say one of their top priorities is helping other young Black chefs.
“We are big on the mentorship side. I’m actively showing you, ‘This is how we do this, this is how you do business,’ because they won’t be with us forever. But we want them to know when their journey is with us and they go do their own thing that we had taught them. We have contributed to the knowledge that they have and the experience that they have,” Gregory Collier said.
With community support, these business owners said the pandemic allowed each of them to step back and find ways to improve from entrepreneurial and personal standpoints.
“The pandemic threw a wrench in my plans. But it also gave me a vision of what I probably would have missed out on if I did if the pandemic hadn’t happened,” Scott said.