Shop Boho is carving out space in the Bohemian market and supporting Black business owners along the way
Stories build communities and celebrate cultures by bringing together ideas, emotions and experiences in a meaningful way. Some stories are told through books or movies, others are told through artifacts or products. At Shop Boho, each accessory paints a landscape and tells a story of a different culture from around the world.
Shop Boho is an e-commerce, Bohemian-inspired accessory and lifestyle brand that was launched in July 2020. Each jewelry is unique and handpicked from vendors by Shop Boho’s founder and McMaster alumna, Yosra Musa. The names of the pieces are inspired by cities whose landscape, aesthetic or culture is reflected in the design of the piece. It is how Musa integrates diversity and breathes life into all of her products.
“I don't want to be wearing what everybody else is wearing. I like to think of my pieces as a statement and as a talking point,” explained Musa.
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Musa started the brand because she noticed a lack of representation of people of colour in the market for bohemian lifestyle products.
Bohemian lifestyle describes an unconventional life often lived by constant travellers, artists or other creatives. Bohemian style captures this way of living through objects, colours and patterns from many different cultures. However, a quick Google search of “Bohemian style” yields results that are rather disappointing. Instead of the diversity that you would expect to see, the vast majority of the images are of white blonde women wearing colourful and patterned dresses.
So undeterred by the current pandemic, Musa decided to use her strong background in supply chain management and her interest in alternative lifestyles to address this gap in the market.
Support from the community was a significant factor in successfully opening Shop Boho. Musa was promoted by local platforms such as Blk-Owned Hamont and received a microgrant from Black Artists Union, an art collective that showcases work by Black creators. The microgrant allowed her to expand her resources and have more creative freedom.
As a way to give back to the community, Musa is planning workshops and sharing YouTube videos documenting the challenges she faces as a small business owner and how she overcomes them. She is also sharing other lessons from her supply chain management experience. Musa understands that the initial learning curve of opening a business can be a financial burden and setback for many new business owners or discourage people from pursuing their entrepreneurial goals altogether.
“There's so many people that want to start an online business and anybody can do it. But I'm hoping that people can bypass a lot of the challenges that I faced by sharing that information,” said Musa.
One of the critical values of Shop Boho is representing and supporting Black women-owned businesses. Musa has always been an advocate for anti-racism movements. When she was a student at McMaster, she received the Lincoln M. Alexander Award for her contributions toward removing racial barriers in the community. She helped to establish McMaster’s African and African Diaspora Studies minor and co-founded Nu Omega Zeta, the second Black-focused sorority in Canada.
Musa realized early that it wasn’t enough for her as a Black woman entrepreneur to support and celebrate Black Girl Magic, a movement that highlights the beauty, power and resilience of Black women. She realized that she had to support an entire ecosystem of Black business owners. For example, for her upcoming winter collection, she purchased from women and/or Black-owned vendors.
“It's time for people, especially during this Black Lives Matter movement, to really think about their purchasing decisions. Purchasing from a small Black-owned business shouldn't feel like charity. They should be products that you genuinely enjoy and love. But as a consumer, you just need to be aware of where you're really putting your dollars and who you're supporting,” said Musa.
Currently, Musa is most looking forward to her winter collection, which will feature gold-plated, minimalist and classic jewelry pieces as well as staple everyday accessories such as tote bags and travel mugs. In the future, she hopes to host in-person pop-up shops in the Hamilton and Toronto areas.
Internationally and locally, non-profit organizations are looking for assistance, but often it is difficult to cut through the clutter of the many fundraising projects fighting for attention.
Audrey Tan, a third-year student in the Health, Aging, and Society program decided to take a unique approach to fundraising for two organizations, by starting her own used jewelry sale called All that Glitters.
“I got the idea because my friend in Ottawa held a similar [project] last year called All that Glam, which was in support of a children’s breakfast program up north. She raised $9,000 in one morning,” said Tan. “I thought, wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for us to replicate something like this in Hamilton.”
In partnership with the McMaster Campus Ministries Council and McMaster University’s Anti-Violence Network, All that Glitters will collect jewelry, scarves, and hand bags in support of two organizations, one international and one local.
Internationally, All that Glitters supports Atzin, a non-profit humanitarian group founded by Dr. Susan Smith, who was formerly involved in McMaster’s nursing department. Atzin supports people in rural Mexico and aims to help citizens obtain better life opportunities.
In particular, the scholarship program that provides financial support to young girls who would otherwise be unable to attend middle school is in need of assistance.
“They’ve lost their major sponsor,” said Tan. “This program is in a very precarious position right now, which makes the fundraiser all the more important.”
Locally, proceeds from the sale will support the Native Women’s Shelter in Hamilton.
“November is also Women’s Abuse Awareness and Prevention month, so we want to use this fundraiser not only to raise funds for these two great organizations but raise awareness about the issue of women abuse in Canada,” said Tan.
Donations will be collected until Nov. 11 at various locations across McMaster’s campus and downtown Hamilton. On Nov. 22, the items will be sold at Freeway Coffee House, with all proceeds donated to the two organizations.
“It’s been really positive so far,” said Tan. “We’ve got some momentum going and hopefully it just keeps on going through until November.”