C/O @ark_collectivehamilton

The Ark Collective draws the community’s attention to local BIPOC businesses.

The Ark Collective strives to promote and support local Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour owned businesses from their storefront on James St. N. The collective aims to help expose the community to the variety of these small businesses and their products.   

Ayodele Adefala, the founder of Ark Collective, worked in retail for over 10 years before launching her online clothing boutique, Liza and Grace, focused on selling women’s clothing and accessories. However, Adefala realized customers were more willing to trust and purchase from a brick-and-mortar store because they could physically see and try the product.

“Small business owners struggle with having to pay for Facebook ads, which cost a lot of money for people to even realize your store exists. And . . . sometimes customers are a bit apprehensive and conscious about online shopping with new businesses, like “Will I get my product or not?”, that sort of thing,” explainedAdefala. 

Adefala decided to sell some of her products in a collective store in Toronto. Being a part of a collective can be a incredibly valuable opportunity to a business and it provides every brand with the same amount of exposure and recognition. 

Seeing a lack of similar collective store in Hamilton, Adefala decided to open her own in the steel city this past April. Recognizing the difficulties local BIPOC businesses can face, she chose to focus her work on supporting them. 

“The sad reality of this life is we don’t have as many opportunities as some of our counterparts. In the GTA, there are about six or seven Black-owned businesses with a similar business model. But the prerequisite is you have to be Black, but I was like, ‘What about the Spanish girl? What about the Ecuador girl? What about the Asian girl?’. . . We all suffer with similar issues,” said Adefala. 

“The sad reality of this life is we don’t have as many opportunities as some of our counterparts. In the GTA, there are about six or seven Black-owned businesses with a similar business model. But the prerequisite is you have to be Black, but I was like, ‘What about the Spanish girl? What about the Ecuador girl? What about the Asian girl?’. . . We all suffer with similar issues.”

Ayodele Adefala, founder of ark collective

Her business approach has broadened her search for brands to collaborate with while also keepingt the products in the collective diverse. 

Right now, Ark Collective has over 20 brands with various products such as clothing, jewellery, accessories, skincare, health and wellness and home decor.  

“You get to see the vendors in person who can tell you more about the product. I feel like [a storefront has] a more genuine approach to it and that’s what makes us unique,” explained Adefala. 

She plans to add food items to the collective soon and hopes to make the Ark Collective a one-stop shop where customers can purchase anything they might need. 

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Adefala also rotates through vendors every three months and she hopes this system will help keep the store seeming fresh and different every time a customer steps in. 

Moving forward, the Ark Collective aims to expand the variety of products they carry and continue to participate in more pop-up markets to bring more exposure to the brands in their store. 

“I want them to walk away with that ‘do good, feel good’ mindset and feeling when they are coming in,” said Adefala. 

C/O Icarus Apparel

Kiona Harrison shares how she kick-started her handmade apparel and alteration business

Opportunities can strike at the most unexpected times. For Kiona Harrison, the opportunity to open her dream business, Icarus Apparel & Alterations, turned up during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The business started in April 2020 in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and began by only selling cloth masks. Today, it offers everything from handmade cloth masks, tote bags and scrunchies to various clothing alterations.  

Harrison’s love for sewing and fashion can be traced back to her childhood. She was first introduced to sewing as a child by her grandmother. It wasn’t until she was in grade 12 that she revisited this hobby and expanded on her sewing skills by watching YouTube tutorials. In university, she pursued a bachelor of commerce in fashion management at Humber College to combine her hobby with her interest in business.  

The opportunity to grow her sewing hobby into Icarus Apparel & Alterations slowly grew from the first order of cloth masks Harrison’s aunt had requested her in the beginning of the pandemic. As more and more people requested cloth masks, her dad suggested she turn it into a business. She had been wanting to start her sewing and handmade apparel business for a while but making and selling cloth masks was the kick-start she needed to turn it into a reality.  

The name Icarus was inspired by Greek mythology. It is the name of the son of Daedalus, an accomplished craftsman and creator of the Labyrinth. As the story of Icarus goes, he flew too high and too close to the Sun with his wings made of wax and feathers to escape the Labyrinth and ultimately fell from the sky to his death.  

However, the message from the story Harrison wanted to include in her business name was perseverance and determination. 

“The point I take away from [the story of Icarus] is to always keep on pushing and rising above. You keep going and do the best you can, especially in new situations you don’t know about. Always push yourself to your limit and try your best,” said Harrison. 

"The point I take away from [the story of Icarus] is to always keep on pushing and rising above. You keep going and do the best you can, especially in new situations you don't know about. Always push yourself to the limit and try your best,"

Kiona Harrison, Owner of Icarus Apparel & Alterations

As the sole owner of the shop, Harrison faces many challenges, the most difficult one being marketing. However, she found her audience and support through attending small business markets and pop-ups. Her first market was Black Owned Hamont’s The Durand and BIPOC Pop-up Market in October and since then she has also been part of the organization’s BIPOC Holiday Market in November which attracted over 750 customers to the venue.  

“The markets are really helpful. You just make a bunch of stuff and set up — mind you it’s kind of crazy because you have to do a lot…But they are really fun and you get your name out there way easier than trying to market online,” explained Harrison. 

Harrison notes networking and community building was another great benefit to attending the small business markets. In fact, connecting with other people, whether it be consumers or other small business owners, is one of her favourite parts of directing the shop.  

“Connecting with other people…or even creating stuff for other people who feel they can’t do it themselves are the most amazing parts about [running Icarus],” said Harrison. 

"Connecting with other people...or even creating stuff for other people who feel they can't do it themselves are the most amazing parts about [running Icarus],"

Kiona Harrison, Owner of Icarus Apparel & Alterations

Although it may not have been long since Icarus Apparel & Alteration was launched, Harrison already has big goals and visions for her business. She is interested in venturing into more apparels, finding her own niche product, taking on more creative projects and collaborating with other vendors. Eventually, she would love to open a brick-and-mortar as well.  

In the spring, she is also looking forward to attending more small business markets with Black Owned Hamont.  

To manifest the small window of opportunity into a reality takes hard work, perseverance and commitment — more importantly, it requires those who can rise above. The name of the business may have been inspired by a tragedy, but the story of Icarus Apparel & Alterations is a positive one full of hope, community and passion.

Fourth-year student Abi Oladesu is beautifying clients through her business Desu Beauty

Abi Oladesu has been doing makeup for most of her life. She started having fun with her mother’s makeup from the age of 10 and decided a few years later to challenge herself to increase her skills. She did someone else’s makeup for the first time when she was about 16.

During her second year at McMaster University, the biochemistry student started thinking about taking makeup more seriously. However, it wasn’t until she was quarantining during the COVID-19 pandemic that she decided to take the leap and start her business, Desu Beauty on Oct. 30, 2020.

There are three components to Oladesu’s business. As she has received many requests for makeup tutorials and enjoys teaching, she decided that she would post makeup tutorials on Instagram and offer beginner and intermediate lessons.

The second part of her business involves posting her own makeup looks in order to improve her skills and show clients what she can do. Lastly, she does makeup for clients’ weddings, photoshoots, proms, graduations and other events.

 

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It is important to Oladesu that when she does clients’ makeup, she isn’t turning them into a different person but highlighting the best parts of them. This goal stems in part from her own experience with makeup. When Oladesu was a preteen and early teenager, she used makeup as a way of hiding her face. Now she uses makeup to accentuate her features and seeks to do the same for her clients.

“Obviously nobody wants that for themselves, but I don't think there's anything necessarily bad about [being self-conscious] in the sense that we all feel self-conscious once in a while. We're in a society where the beauty standards are very high and they change all the time, but it's important to remember . . . you're the one that at the end of the day determines your worth to other people,” said Oladesu.

"We're in a society where the beauty standards are very high and they change all the time, but it's important to remember . . . you're the one that at the end of the day determines your worth to other people," said Oladesu.

This mission is embedded in the name of Oladesu’s business. While she originally called it Desu Beauty as a reference to the last four letters of her last name, she realized upon reflection that it had a deeper meaning for her.

“I'm a very large fan of anime and so desu . . . basically means “to be” . . . I am [also] Christian [and] in the Bible, it's like “we are beautifully and wonderfully made” . . . So to be that beautifully and wonderfully creative person, you have to love yourself in every aspect, whether that's with wearing your natural face out and being super proud of it or getting the skills to do your makeup really well so that every time you look in the mirror . . . you’re like, “wow, I feel beautiful, I know I'm beautiful.” . . . I want you to be the best version of yourself or at least to look at yourself and be like "wow, I feel like that beautifully and wonderfully made person,"” explained Oladesu.

Since she started, Oladesu has received positive reception and a lot of support from family and friends. Unfortunately, the ongoing pandemic has decreased the number of events for which people would get their makeup done. At the same time, Oladesu credits the pandemic with giving her the time to start her business.

 

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A post shared by Desu Beauty (@desubeauty)

Oladesu also sees online classes as a blessing for her since she started her business. Instead of spending all day on campus and then doing makeup appointments, she can better make her own schedule by doing makeup during the day and watching recorded lectures afterwards. Managing the business alongside her demanding degree and other commitments has also encouraged her to better prioritize her time.

Oladesu looks forward to continuing to grow her following and reach more people through her business. As she will be graduating soon, she is considering how she might integrate her love of makeup into her career.

“I'm definitely a cautious person so . . . right now, I definitely am going to finish my biochemistry degree and I'm going to see if I could get a job with that. But working with makeup has gotten me interested in cosmetics in general so [maybe] I can mix my biochemistry major with cosmetics and then possibly go into formulation or something along those lines,” said Oladesu.

"I definitely am going to finish my biochemistry degree and I'm going to see if I could get a job with that. But working with makeup has gotten me interested in cosmetics in general."

To other students with a skill they are considering turning into a business, Oladesu says to just start. She recalls that she felt the need to have high-quality foundations in every colour before she began her business. However, since she started, all her clients have used colours that she had already had.

“There's nothing wrong with humble beginnings. You don't have to have everything, you don't have to have the best of everything," Oladesu said. "It's better to just start because honestly, I feel like people appreciate watching you grow and watching you improve.”

Ashantae Handcrafted promotes self-care while empowering the Black community

When much of the world came to a standstill during the early months of the pandemic many people looked for new ways to fill their days. Some took advantage of their newfound time to learn new skills or tackle various projects. 

McMaster University student Alethea Clarke and her mother, Sacha Clarke, decided to use their time to start a business. Their online natural health and beauty business, Ashantae Handcrafted, will officially launch in early October. Currently, their main products are soy candles and natural soap bars.

“[Ashantae Handcrafted] came about as an idea during COVID, sitting around being bored, seeing other people getting their business[es] started . . .  and us ourselves trying to figure out self-care . . . We just decided "let’s start a business",” said Alethea.

[/media-credit] One of the various handcrafted scented candles that Ashantae Handcrafted creates

Described as artsy by her mother, Alethea is currently a second-year student in the life sciences program at McMaster. She is passionate about healthcare and finding ways to better people’s health. Collaborating with her mother, she created a business that merges her interests, using handcrafted goods to promote health, wellness and self-care.

“Just finding that time for yourself and to feel empowered to take that break . . . it could be sitting at home reading a book and having a candle lit. There's just a sense of peace that it gives you,” said Sacha.

“Just finding that time for yourself and to feel empowered to take that break . . . it could be sitting at home reading a book and having a candle lit. There's just a sense of peace that it gives you,” said Sacha.

Currently based in Oshawa, Ashantae Handcrafted offers delivery only within the Greater Toronto Area, but they will also do regular trips to Hamilton to drop off orders at a designated pick up location.

Alethea and Sacha are aware of the impact the products we use every day can have on our environment. All their products are made by them and use environmentally friendly ingredients, such as soy wax derived from soybeans, activated charcoal and essential oils. They want to do what they can to reduce their own carbon footprints and help others do the same.

Additionally, as a small Black business, it’s very important to them to use their platform to encourage and empower their community as well.

“I feel like it's important that we address that we are a small Black business . . . and it's important for our community to just uplift [the] community as well . . . nothing is too out of reach for us,” said Alethea.

“Also, just to empower young people as well . . . to think outside the box and maybe create something and do something that you’re good with. Like if you're good with your hands, start building stuff and something like that [can] change your direction. Like instead of you now looking for a summer job or job over the holidays, you can create your own,” Sacha added.

While their journey as business owners is only just beginning, both women are happy with the work they’re doing. Undertaking this project together has made the journey even better.

“In terms of what's been the best part for us so far, I think it's just working with my mom. It's pretty cool . . .  having this amazing idea to bring to the community and just to carry that out,” said Alethea, both her and her mother smiling widely.

Going forward, they plan to introduce customizable gift baskets for the holidays. They are also considering adding more products eventually, such as bath bombs or body scrubs. They’ll continue to expand their selection as long as it’s possible for them to make the products themselves and ensure that they’re conscious of both human and environmental wellbeing.  

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