Black Owned Bos. Helps Black Businesses Thrive & Gain Visibility

By: Alyssa Wilson

Black Business Month is a time when shoppers are encouraged to support Black-owned businesses, but one organization in the Boston area is helping them thrive all year long.   

Black Owned Bos. launched in March 2019 as a platform to highlight and uplift Black-owned businesses, places and spaces in the state of Massachusetts. Jae’da Turner, the organization’s founder, says she was inspired to create the group from her own experiences as a business owner. “As a Boston native and an entrepreneur myself, I was inspired to create Black Owned Bos. as an opportunity for visibility for other local Black-owned businesses in the Greater Boston area,” she said. “I wanted to create a platform to further their network, to further their customers, to grow their customer base and diversify it and just really change the way we are spending our money and how that money is allocated in different neighborhoods and communities in the Greater Boston area.”  

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For Aaron Spencer and Quontay Turner, the visibility Black Owned Bos. garners was key to helping their businesses thrive and grow. The two initially met through the Fairmount Innovation Lab, an organization that helps create entrepreneurs with a 12-week Launchpad program. 

Quontay Turner began her entrepreneurship journey with an apparel business called Q Made It, which she called a “creative interpretation” of her life. When approached to be a vendor at a Black Owned Bos. pop-up shop in Dedham’s Legacy Place, Quontay decided to take her booth in a different direction. After working in a plant shop, she realized plants were in high demand, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She began selling plant products and sold out every weekend she attended the pop-up shop. This success helped her realize there was a need in the community and it propelled her to open up New England’s first Black-owned plant shop, Emerald City Plant Shop 

Customer purchasing from Emerald City Plant Shop at a Black Owned Bos. pop up shop. (Photo: Black Owned Bos.)

Spencer’s journey began with the impact of healthy eating. The Brooklyn-native did not have healthy eating habits growing up, but as he expanded his horizons and moved out of a food desert, he learned about the importance of nutrition. In 2018, Spencer began his journey as a vegan and launched A-Butter. It started as something he created to have more affordable and healthy nut butter options, but it turned into a push to promote healthy eating.  

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Both Aaron Spencer and Quontay Turner value the exposure they’ve gained. “I think visibility is the number one thing, right. We always say sometimes you can’t be something unless you see it,” Quontay said. “You know, we’ve seen so many white versions of our businesses and beyond, and it doesn’t really hit home until you see someone that looks like you.” 

The pandemic altered their lives and their businesses. Spencer first sold his products at farmers’ markets and he had to pivot his strategy to begin selling products online. For Quontay, the pandemic affected her in more ways than one. “If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I wouldn’t have a plant shop,” she said. She lost her job during the pandemic and it forced her to reevaluate entrepreneurship and try new things.  

The success of Black Owned Bos. and the exposure it’s giving Black businesses is a testament to how strong the Black communities in Boston and Massachusetts are. “If you’re a Black-owned business in Boston, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be reaching out and getting that support from them.”  

 

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A post shared by Emerald City (@emeraldcityplantshop)

Communities outside of Massachusetts can support Emerald City Plant Shop, A-Butter and Black Owned Bos. While Quontay Turner does not ship plants, consumers can purchase plant-themed merchandise and attend workshops. Spencer’s business can be supported through e-Commerce by online shopping.  

 

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A post shared by Aaron Spencer (@abutterbyaaron)

Both business owners agree that visibility is important, but financial support is even more critical. Citing finances as one of the most difficult barriers to overcome for Black business owners, they say corporate funding and donations help. It was crowdfunding campaigns that helped Quontay Turner afford to open her plant hop.  

 

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A post shared by Emerald City (@emeraldcityplantshop)

“For Black people in general, as you’re starting a business, as a small business, the first place that you go to is your friends and family, so that kind of limits the cap generally of Black businesses as they’re kind of seeking how they’re funding their businesses,” Jae’da Turner said. “So even with loans, Black businesses are disproportionately receiving loans at higher interest rates or being rejected at higher rates than their counterparts.”  

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Their advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to do the work. “A lot of people kind of romanticize entrepreneurship, but you’re giving up your nine-to-five to work 24/7 and you have to kind of build some barriers around that, but anything that you can envision you can bring to life,” Quontay Turner said. Spencer encourages people to ask for what they need. “I think asking for help is definitely the biggest piece and it doesn’t have to necessarily be with money. It can be with people who might have backgrounds that you might not be the strongest in.” 

 

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A post shared by Black Owned Bos. (@blackownedbos)

Jae’da Turner is encouraging everyone to offer support to Black businesses. “Black owned businesses can be better supported by kind of shifting our focus and priorities around what businesses and small businesses need,” she said. “A lot of times these businesses are over-mentored, pushed to kind of accelerators and education, but a lot of times the issues that they’re facing could be solved with access to capital. With more capital into just growing that base of the funds and the support that they have behind their business. Because that’s really what sets back Black businesses in general.”  

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