There’s a new way to support local brands from Black makers and artisans: The Black-Owned Box. The online gifting service launched January 30 as a way to promote small, Black-owned businesses in the DC area, and provides curated gift boxes filled with clothing, home goods, jewelry, and more.
The gift boxes are the brainchild of Street Smart Collaborative, a local nonprofit that supports Black-owned businesses by providing communications and brand consulting services, as well as entrepreneurial resources. Prince George’s County natives Kyndra Jones and Khloe Washington founded the group in June, as national protests erupted after the killing of George Floyd. As conversations about systemic racism unfolded and many searched for ways to support Black-owned businesses, Jones and Washington, both 28, found themselves thinking about how they could help.
“Sparked by the emotional trauma of this death and many others like it, we started to asked ourselves some questions,” says Jones, who met Washington when the two attended Dr. Henry A. Wise, Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro. “Why is this happening? What can we do to help? And how can we establish long-lasting change? We started to do research and realized that there was really a lack of centralized resources to support education and economics in the Black community. And we wanted to come up with a solution for this.”
Street Smart Collaborative offers services like social media management and business coaching at below-market-rate prices, and offers some pro-bono services to community-focused organizations. The duo also provides free resources such as directories of Black-owned businesses in the greater DC area, and information on local grants and incubators.
Its latest venture, the Black-Owned Box, is a way to ensure that small businesses are getting exposure and income. “Our clients need a platform to amplify their brands and it can be difficult to convince people to try new products,” says Jones.”We wanted to offer something that is [a] low-risk item that could be fun and interactive.”
The group currently offers three gift boxes: a wellness box designed for women, an essentials box for men (both $49.47) and a “Black Love” gift box ($81.99). Inside, customers will find items like hats, candles, beard oil, shea butter, socks, face masks, and tote bags. Individual items are available for purchase, too.
The group is looking into expanding its product line, says Jones. While they’re currently only featuring DC-area brands, the group would like to eventually include national ones. They plan to offer boxes centered on themes and events like baby showers, book clubs, bridal parties, astrology, and spirituality.
Also down the line for Street Smart Collaborative: an app to help folks locate Black-owned businesses. They’re also planning an event this summer called Jun-Con in honor of Juneteenth, which will combine a celebration and a Walk for Black Lives.
Of course, all this means that Washington and Jones—who work full-time in communications and local government—are incredibly busy. Along with three interns, they’re hustling on the side to serve their clients.
“As is the plight of many small and Black-owned businesses, I take it on myself,” says Jones of their around-the-clock work schedule. “It’s economic. It’s insufficient funds. It’s [managing and juggling] what is going on in your life and your competing priorities, just as a Black woman. So that’s what I’m doing, that’s what [Washington’s] doing.”
Eventually, the co-founders want Street Smart Collaborative to be a fully operational foundation with full-time staff, says Jones. “I believe the more we create business, the more job opportunities we create for ourselves, [and] the more wealth opportunities we create for ourselves—the more comfortable and safe spaces we can create, as well, just by having more of that diverse representation and leadership for organizations.”