Culture and values play key roles in a person’s outlook on business. Black entrepreneurship isn't highlighted enough in the national media because of perception. However, there are hidden gems that come in the form of black-owned businesses. Alfred’s two campuses have multiple Black students that are making a change in the business world. Young African American entrepreneurs are expressing themselves through their intellect and skillset.
Unfortunately, the majority of college kids struggle financially. The background a student comes from ultimately determines one’s financial situation. These students found a way to support themselves while maintaining cultural values.
These students exemplify black enterprise. There are multiple clothing designers, cooks, hairdressers, audio technicians, investors, etc. They all have found a safe and productive way of producing products through the pandemic.
5 is Live is an Alfred-based entertainment company established in early 2020. It's run by a collective of students who attend either AU or Alfred State. Their talents vary, but they all play a key role in the operation. The group consists of party promoters, musicians, designers, athletes and investors. Their original objective was to have a good time in a controlled environment. Luckily for them, they’ve expanded and found ways to stay relevant through the pandemic.
According to members of the company, 5 is Live is an elaborate operating business. Currently, they generate funds through booking and merchandising. Over one hundred of their T-shirts and masks were sold during the Fall 2020 semester. Pre-pandemic, the group was known for throwing the best parties. There were always multiple live DJs on hand and good vibes for any student.
Criminal Justice major ‘Dj M Live’ Etienne offered his thoughts on black-owned businesses.
“I love the idea of black-owned business because we have an opportunity to support our own. Today, there is comfortable, affordable gear made from people that look like us. You’ll always see me support black business,” said Etienne.
Etienne then gave insight on the way Black entrepreneurship is perceived.
“It surprises me sometimes how people mature and step up. Black people start off with less chances. It’s time people start looking at these young black owners at top bosses," said Etienne. Seeing everyone as a valuable piece and a leader is how 5 is Live thrives.
During quarantine, 5 is Live took to Instagram live, hosting live dance battles and virtual parties. Due to the pandemic, there have been no parties on the campuses during the Fall 2020 semseter. When and if order returns, the group will be back operating at a more satisfying capacity.
LayedbyHawa (@layedbyhawa on Instagram) is the face of Alfred’s hairdressing scene. Owner Hawa Gakou is a one-woman force. Gakou found a way to hone in on her talent of hairdressing. She is based in Manhattan, NY but attends Alfred University and has a number of clients in Alfred.
Gakou makes wigs and installs them. She has the leisure of traveling to her clients or vice versa. She takes the proper safety measures to remain successful as well. She makes sure to keep a catalog of her clients, as well as their contact information.
Throughout the interview, Hawa expressed her pride in being a black business owner. She also acknowledged the hurdles that these owners face. Due to a lack of resources, black-owned start-ups tend to struggle early.
“It takes a lot of courage and money to build your own business. Being a person of color, things are harder for us to achieve because people already have their opinion on Black people,” said Gakou.
Hawa regarded black-owned businesses as being unique and community-based. Hair is a large part of African-American culture, it’s used as a vessel for unity. Usually, you see people gather in salons; even if to have casual conversation. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, Hawa isn’t able to create that community aspect.
To stay relevant, she’s done raffles to her Instagram account. On her way to the 500 follower mark, she gives away a wig made by her. She is well on her way to be successful because of her determination.
“Hard work and dedication will get me where I want to be. The more I practice different techniques I see growth,” said Gakou.
A huge part of being a successful entrepreneur is being marketable. How well you represent yourself can determine the business thriving or flopping. These specific African American students are creating functioning businesses without assistance from their school. They are making a healthy difference in the social dynamic of Alfred.
Kayeef Kelly is an Alfred State senior and a well-known cook. He is the owner of Kayeef’s Kitchen, specializing in Curry dishes. He produces quality food for both campuses. His Sunday menu consists of chicken or shrimp curry with sides of white rice, mac & cheese or roti.
Kelly gave an in-depth and insightful perspective on black entrepreneurship. He explained why black people should take their share of America's markets. Doing so helps with financial gain and economic stance. Kelly also offered what could be achieved morally through business.
When asked about the importance of black ownership, Kelly had a sharp response.
“I think that black-owned businesses are an excellent way for African-Americans to change their financial situation and get in tuned with America's capitalistic infrastructure," said Kelly
"In order to make a change, you have to start with a plan. Will what you produce get you where you want to be? The investments a person is willing to make is important. Black entrepreneurs start with slimmer chances and less opportunities to enter that infrastructure."
Kelly feels that there are lessons to be learned along the way to success.
“Owning a business will teach you all types of different things that will help you. Everything has to click and the functionality of the business to make sense in order for it to be successful," said Kelly.
Anything that takes time and effort away from a student’s college schedule entails sacrifice. These black entrepreneurs are making a change in the business world. By starting now they are structuring their future in a successful direction. It is important to know how you were perceived to the world. These students are breaking barriers and establishing new relationships daily. Despite the pandemic, they found a way to make their mark.
By Jamall Lewis