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Starting at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov.27, more than 50 Black women-owned businesses will be featured at the For the Culture (FTC) online holiday market. 

Typically, holiday markets are a chance for small business owners to set up a booth displaying a diverse array of local products to attract new customers, as well as explore new business opportunities. Some larger markets require applications and have a jury process for selection.

But after Kamilah Richardson, co-founder of For the Culture (FTC) Market, and a few other makers discussed how their applications to holiday markets in San Francisco were not accepted, they decided to investigate. 

“(A) lot of us actually went to several holiday shows and what we saw was that a lot of the products looked very similar and the entrepreneurs did as well,” said Richardson.

Looking to create a more diverse marketplace that empowered Black women creators and bolstered their businesses, Richardson launched FTC Market five years ago.

Normally a communial shopping experience, the two-day (Nov. 27-28) event will be completely virtual this year. Organizers and vendors hope the online version of the market will garner a larger audience compared to previous years. 

One vendor, Alyah Baker, owner of  Show and Tell Concept Shop, had a successful brick-and-mortar store in downtown Oakland selling local makers’ goods that included handmade collections of bold and colorful apparel, accessories and home goods.

In March of this year, when shelter-in-place orders were issued, Baker decided to move her business online. 

“The pandemic has forced us to get creative about how we reach our community,” Baker said. “We’ve also started to do more product collaborations with brands that we love and explore wholesale relationships with national online retailers.”

Candid Art is another featured vendor at the virtual holiday market. Influenced by the modern African diaspora and cosmic geometry, the artisanal jewelry and home decor brand significantly pivoted its business to stay afloat, with Founder Candice Cox promoting less expensive items in order to survive.

Though its been a steep learning curve moving business operations online for many, entrepreneurs like Evie Dondi, CEO of Urembo Asili skin care, have found a greater sense of community within the Bay Area through For the Culture.

“In March, sales had drastically stopped, and face masks were used as a way to introduce my brand to people, as well as generate income,” Cox said. “This pandemic has allowed me to reimagine … my business (as) actually … bigger than it was before.”

Organizers and vendors say the steep learning curve in enhancing their digital footprint at record speed has been challenging, but the silver lining is the potential for gaining more traffic and converting it into more sales. E-commerce spending between July and September of 2020 grew more than 30% compared to the same period last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As the pandemic continues, online shopping is expected to surge. 

Evie Dondi, CEO and chief formulator for Urembo Asili skin care, says that after attending a previous FTC Market she has gained regular customers and built a strong sisterhood of friends. 

“Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey, and I really longed for and yearned for community. I knew I wasn’t alone but I didn’t know where to find other makers like myself,” said Dondi. “It was at my first FTC Market that I was able to connect with other female and Black makers like me, here in the Bay Area.”

In light of the pandemic’s financial impact, especially on small and local businesses, Richardson hopes consumers will direct their spending where it can most help.

“I hope that we are able to sway a few dollars from the big box stores and over to small businesses, local businesses and Black women-owned businesses,” she said of this year’s goal. “At the end of this year’s market I want somebody to tell me that they made life-changing money.”

Reserve your ticket for the For the Culture Market here.