Hope McGill (295921)
Credit: Contributed

“I believe our people are doing more research on our history,” said Hope McGill, 42. “We are taking so much more pride in our ancestry and seeking ways to show it off,” the owner of Beaded By Hope expressed. This Harlem based Black business has acquired consistent sales from customized jewelry for the past three years. As protests continue against injustices of all Black lives, Black-owned businesses are seizing opportunities to sell their products. The BB Plug, an online marketplace, exclusively caters to Black entrepreneurs and business owners.

“The BB Plug gives Black vendors a platform to be exactly who they are, as ‘Black’ as they want to be,” said Ashanti Surratt, 30, who is the owner and CEO of the BB Plug. This marketplace aims to conveniently provide services which include Beaded By Hope, other jewelry, clothing, hair, nails, and skin needs, as well as resources for social media content, podcasts and events. Their mission encourages healthy circulation of positivity within the Black community by networking and supporting one another. The company, based in Bellmawr, NJ, started as a directory and has transitioned into a unique, one-stop online shop for Black businesses. “The extras we provide is a pleasant bonus that separates us from sites like Amazon and eBay,” Surratt stated.

Last month’s Blackout Tuesday, which occurred on June 2nd, was an online joined initiative that signified solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Blackout Tuesday also served as an awakening for consumers to buy from Black companies. Many social media users shared posts and links, highlighting Black-owned businesses and services. Surratt is hoping to see more strengthening and uniting jesters like this in the Black community. “Black people must start understanding how important it is to use our money to invest in our own communities,” she expressed.

During the strongest Black Lives Matter movement in history, more African descendants are recognizing Juneteenth, the national holiday that celebrates emancipation of slaves in the United States. The power of the Black dollar was present during Juneteenth 2020. “I believe that people are searching for purpose driven, uniquely personal pieces of jewelry,” McGill affirmed. “This year I made custom Juneteenth necklaces, waist and wrist beads. They were sold out before the day was over.”

Ashanti Surratt designed her online marketplace as an inviting space for Black entrepreneurs to create a sense of belonging for Black buyers. She mentioned the creative freedom in expressing herself as a Black woman while running her own business. “It allows me to work under my own conditions, doing things that I am passionate about,” she shared.

“I honestly admire her passion and drive to create,” said Brenda Michelle, a vendor who has worked with Surratt for a year. “Unlike eBay or Amazon, the BB Plug brings light to Black-owned businesses.” Michelle was born and raised in the Bronx where she operates her company, Amazing Creations Products. The company offers bath salts, liquid baths, candles, incense and more products tailored to the customer’s needs. Michelle said she has always had an interest in spirituality and spiritual cleansing. She believes her products help people reveal their happiness to thrive, succeed, and to know their worth. “I am currently on a mission to get people into the habit of spiritually cleansing themselves,” she vocalized.

Michelle acknowledged the important relationship between customer sales and vendors keeping products available for purchase. She also said Black business owners deserve a chance to flourish. “Once we change our mindset and buy Black, Black ownerships and communities will begin to thrive,” said Michelle. “Generational wealth will be created.”

McGill conveyed her gratitude for shipping her custom jewelry domestically and internationally through social media and the BB Plug. “I have lived in Harlem my entire life,” McGill added. “I’m very grateful. Never in my life would I have ever thought this would be possible. It’s absolutely humbling.”