Collective marketplace "In The Black" aims to empower Black business owners in SF

ByKumasi Aaron and Jason Beal Localish logo
Thursday, March 9, 2023
"In The Black" aims to empower Black business owners in SF
"In The Black" in San Francisco is empowering local Black-owned businesses by giving them the tools they need to succeed.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Like every neighborhood in San Francisco, The Fillmore has changed over the years. Known as Harlem of the West with its vibrant black community, urban renewal in the 1950's and 60's decimated it. Inside this building is an effort to bring it back.

"We've got the Free Play merchandise, we're just trying to make it a lifestyle," says Troy Mathews of Free Play music group.

"Dreamer Boyz consists of hustle, drive, ambition, and consciousness," says CEO of Dreamer Boyz Joseph Broussard.

"I feel like I'm partaking in my family's legacy here in the Fillmore," owner/operator RedBone of Glam Jam adds.

"This is a great experience and I'm happy that I'm here," said Vickie Brown of Ice Body Skincare.

These are some of the businesses owners who make up In The Black, a creative and entrepreneurial marketplace providing black owned businesses access to affordable retail space in San Francisco's Fillmore district.

"We ran across this, which was the old check cashing place that kind of preyed upon the African American community with those really aggressive loans. So, we thought of what a perfect fit to turn this into a shared retail space that will actually help the African American community thrive with their businesses," says Pia Harris, Program Director of Economic Development Team San Francisco Housing and Development Corporation.

The 18 businesses here are a part of the city of San Francisco's program called Minding my Black Own Businesses, a 12-week business development program to support start-ups with everything from concept development, business planning, financial planning and marketing.

Kelsey Tanksley started Traptronix with her parents, and one product an LED mask.

"It's really cool," says Kelsey, "It's kind of crazy to realize a little thing I thought of when I was like eight could be such a big thing."

Now 11, Kelsey sells backpacks, lunch pails, pencil cases and notebooks.

"In my class, I noticed I knew these two people, and they both have disabilities. And so, I was like, okay, since they were struggling, why not make something that's effective to help them focus better."

Kelsey's mom, who grew up in San Francisco, is happy to do it all in the Fillmore.

"My grandfather's from the Fillmore and we came down here all the time. So, it's just a lot of memories here," says Shalocmont Jacobs. "So, it's actually an honor to be in this area.

Charles Thomas grew up in the Fillmore, and now sells products from his fashion brand Urban Valley here.

"You put yourself in the right position, it's a chance for you to grow business wise and other opportunities."

Pia is excited about the impact In The Black is already making and what's to come.

"It means a lot, you know, coming from the Fillmore, where it used to be hundreds of black owned businesses, we were down prior to in the black to 15, from it being hundreds," says Harris. "So, with In The Black, we're able to double that, to more than 30 businesses, African American businesses on the corridor.

A new vision of what can be, inspired by what was.

You can shop in the black in person on Fillmore and Geary, or online here.