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Student businesses shine at Black Expo

Student entrepreneurs sell merchandise at the Black Expo held in the HU Student center.

(Hampton University)

(Hampton University)

Ania Cotton | Staff Writer

Hampton University hosted its annual Black Expo last Friday to support student businesses. The expo allowed for students and other community members to come and display their products and services. This was not only a great networking opportunity, but it also helped to promote Black small businesses in our community.

Several students had display tables set up that featured their merchandise and they allowed their peers the opportunity to purchase what they have. The tables featured hats, African art,  beauty products, African clothing, crewnecks, hoodies and more.

Chazz Owens, a senior, electrical engineering major from Chesapeake, Virginia, featured the his brand “TWOZZ” at the expo. Since the brand was created in April 2015, it has garnered attention from the media and many high profile celebrities.

When asked about his current success, Owens said, “2016 has been crazy ‘cause January 2nd Chris Brown started wearing all my hats… And ever since then other celebrities have hit me up like Shy Glizzy, Big Sean, Quinton Miller, and Playboi Carti, so it’s been lowkey getting viral since.”

His biggest challenge is making sure he is on top of all aspects that come with his business. “After the Chris Brown stuff, it went international,” shared Owens. He went on to say that he is now selling his products in eight different countries including London, France, Australia, Canada, Italy, and Korea.

As far as design and marketing are concerned, Owens is in charge of it all; he outsources his product to be manufactured elsewhere. His hats usually run for $45, however he had them on sale for $40 in honor of the Black Expo.

In the future, Owens is looking to establish his brand to be, “half high fashion and something like a sports line… that can be recognized along the line as like a Gucci or Balenciaga type thing.” He is also looking to tap into the markets that include Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner stating, “once I tap into that I feel like that’s a whole new demographic, a whole different level.”

TWOZZ released a hat on February 2 in honor of Trayvon Martin, which features an “AriZZona” bottle, Skittles, pens on the sides of the hat, and a hooded outline of Trayvon on the front. Owens said to expect two more releases this month: Valentine’s Day hat on February 22 and another during an undisclosed date. All orders can be placed on yearofthe2.com.

Representing College Girls, Inc. was Lauren Hill, a senior, psychology major from Oakland, California who serves as the Senior Ambassador for the brand. Their table featured various merchandise such as sweatshirts, shirts, hats, exercise pants and sports bras.

The clothing line, which was started two years ago by Hampton alum Montiera Straughter, has grown into an organization for girls to “socialize, build their self-esteem, meet people, have fun, and have bonds with each other,” said Hill.

When asked about how College Girls, Inc. reaches its goals, Hill replied that, “We do social bonding, community service, fashion, health and fitness, promote healthy living, and positive fun for girls.”

Since becoming an official organization on campus, their plans have included expanding the company to other universities such as Tuskegee and Prairie View A&M.

Another Hamptonian vending at the expo was Rawkwon “Rocky” Hanes, a senior, accounting major from Freehold, New Jersey with his brand DMNT. DMNT stands for: Desire Money and New Things. He sells jackets, t-shirts, hats, and other apparel. He created the brand in 2012 during his senior year of high school.

Hanes promotes his brand by giving free merchandise to his promotion team to wear to increase the brand’s presence. All clothing is made by him and his younger brother in New Jersey.

Makeup artist Alayah Wood, a second-year in the 5-year MBA program from Northern Virginia debuted her services, #SlayMovement, by doing make up during the 12-2. Wood has been a licensed cosmetologist since the eighth grade and has continued her success in Hampton. She shared that, “This is the first event that I’ve advertised to everybody on campus.”

Wood’s services include washing, styling, cutting, conditioning, and perming hair, make up, photoshoots, and styling. Her prices vary for the hair services, but all make-up services are $20.

One of her biggest challenges has been finding a way to stand out in an industry that has so many people in it. “One way I stand out is that I am all about natural beauty, skin, and hair care,” shared Wood, “The reason why clients come back to me is I’m all about healthy and keeping them up so you don’t have to come to me every time, but I’m gonna give you tips on how to keep your hair up, how to get trims, deep conditioning, everything like that.”

When asked about her inspiration, Wood shared a story of how a client told her to “Slay Lay!” while she was doing her hair, and the name stuck. The #SlayLay movement was inspired by a friend of hers, James Hooper. She can be contacted for her services via Instagram @slaylayy.

Fourth year, 5-Year MBA major Aaron “AP” Peters advertised his clothing brand Another Perspective Clothing. The brand features hoodies, crewnecks, sweatshirts, t-shirts, and hats, and was launched during his freshman year at Hampton.

His inspiration came from his friends in James Hall who encouraged him to start his own brand. When asked about how he does promotion, Peters expressed that “I utilize my resources and I created a promo team where people will get free stuff for promoting my clothes.”

He also uses the @hu.cam account on Instagram to get his brand out there even more.

When he first developed his brand, Peters made the clothes himself in his dorm room, but he was dissatisfied with the quality. He now outsources his product to a manufacturer, however, all design ideas are original.

Senior, journalism major, Quieanu Huff, debuted her brand Everybody Eats at the Black Expo. The clothing brand that donates all its proceeds to feeding the homeless in her hometown of Atlanta.

Huff described the phrase ‘everybody eats’ to mean diligent perseverance and as “a play on words.” In one of Huff’s favorite movies “Paid In Full,” the phrase is used throughout the film to express how more than one people in a group can prosper. This combined with her ultimate goal to feed the homeless is how she came up with the name Everybody Eats.

When asked about her inspiration for the brand, Huff shared that, “Homelessness is a major issue in Atlanta, and a lot of people they see the beauty of the city, and they come, and they move and they think that ‘Oh this is the city of dreams, lights everything else’ but they don’t see that right where they’re moving to, just a couple of blocks away there’s families sleeping under bridges.”

Her brand features baseball tees, crew necks, stickers, shirts and more, and all proceeds go toward feeding the homeless. Huff has big plans for her brand including building a team of young entrepreneurs to work with her, as well as expanding to new areas.

She shared that her biggest challenge is “remaining self-motivated” despite what nay-sayers have to say, and moving forward even if she does not have support from those who she believed would give it to her.

When asked about her driving force, Huff simply replied, “The goal. Knowing that there are issues bigger than those we complain about and I want to shed light on that rather than the negativity.” Virginia, shares that she enjoyed attending this event for the first time. Due to the beautiful set up and guest speakers “it’s something I plan to put on my calendar for next year”.

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