by Chamidae Ford
As the holiday season approaches, many are looking to put their money where it is most needed. One of those places: small, Black-owned businesses.
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the small businesses that make up the heart of our communities. While massive corporations like Amazon have flourished during these times, small retailers, which often rely on in-person sales, have taken a huge hit.
If you’d like a way to support small, local businesses this season, Olu Productions has crafted a cheat sheet for you. The company’s annual Holiday Catalog features the work of many young, Black entrepreneurs who are hoping to create a successful business selling everything from clothing and body products to snacks and performance skills.
Olu Productions was founded by Olu Dixon, a 16-year-old from Seattle who started his clothing line at the age of 10 with the sole desire to travel to Kenya. After making enough money to travel to Kenya and back, Dixon decided to create a supportive networking space for young, Black entrepreneurs like himself.
“[I was] trying to get everybody’s brain working on how they can make money doing what they love,” Dixon says.
For Dixon, Olu Productions works to help young people take their passions and ideas and turn them into a sustainable and functional business. “You can make endless amounts of businesses and endless amounts of ideas that can help change the world,” he says.
One of the people that Olu Productions has helped so far is Cipher Goings, a tap dancer and instructor. Dixon and Goings are longtime friends, having done tap together for many years at Northwest Tap Connection. This year, with Dixon’s help, Goings turned his love and talent for dance into something more.
In times when joy is hard to find, dance has provided comfort for Goings. “Dance has always been my main passion and drive,” Goings says “[It’s] the thing that I felt like I can express myself the most creatively.”
So after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Goings saw a void in the community that he could fill. He started posting videos of himself tapping. So many people responded to the videos saying things like, “I wish I had stuck with tap” or “I wish I would have kept dancing” that Goings decided to create his own dance school. It’s called The Divine Legacy and provides both virtual and socially-distanced, in-person tap lessons.
“I wanted to create a way to meet new people, to keep dancing myself,” Goings says, “and to also let people know [they can keep dancing too].”
Thanks to Olu Productions, Goings has been able to develop and promote his new business as well as connect with and learn from other young entrepreneurs.
“You’re going to build a network of people. You’re going to be able to promote what you do as an artist and as a teacher,” Goings says. “It’s just a great way to help make a community and to learn real skills and create a business.”
To that end, on Nov. 27, Olu Productions held a virtual marketplace event, “It’s Never 2 Early 2 Create & Innovate,” where all the entrepreneurs could showcase their work. You can still watch the full event, which features live performances by Goings and others, here.
By encouraging driven and inspired Black youth, Dixon is hoping to blow through stereotypes around entrepreneurship. He hopes this kind of supportive space, where these youth can discuss and grow their businesses, will lead to a plethora of Black-owned businesses that can go on to inspire generations to come.
“Black people don’t just inspire Black people,” Goings said. “We inspire the world.”
Chamidae Ford is currently a senior journalism major at the University of Washington. Born and raised in Western Washington, she has a passion for providing a voice to the communities around her. She has written for The Daily, GRAY Magazine, and Capitol Hill Seattle.
Featured image: Two young entrepreneurs sell jewelry at the second-annual AfroBite held in Skyway Aug. 9, 2020. (Photo: Susan Fried)