Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Pop-up shop highlights local Black entrepreneurs

Students browse and talk with the owners of the small businesses that set up in Armstrong’s atrium on Thursday.
Students browse and talk with the owners of the small businesses that set up in Armstrong’s atrium on Thursday.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 23, the atrium in Armstrong Student Center was lined with vendor booths selling clothes, baked goods, art, jewelry and more, while music echoed throughout the building.

This was the second Black-Owned Pop Up Shop at Miami University, organized by Miami Activities and Programming (MAP) and the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion (CSDI).

Sophia Wine, a junior supply chain and operations management major and MAP’s director for inclusive outreach, said the event was held for the first time last year, and due to its success, MAP decided to bring it back.

“This event happened last year, and it was a really big hit,” Wine said. “And since it is Black History Month, we wanted to make sure that we were getting the awareness that … all these businesses deserve.”

The pop-up showcased local Black-owned businesses. Wine said each vendor sold products at the pop-up individually, meaning they could take home all their profits.

Most participating vendors came from Cincinnati-based businesses, but some student businesses were also featured. Wine said MAP tried to invite a variety of businesses, so the shop wouldn’t be all clothes or all food.

VaLanDria Smith-Lash, a senior speech pathology and audiology major, was one of the students who participated in the event with her business, Coarse Culture. Coarse Culture is a skincare business that specializes in shea butter products, which Smith-Lash created when her mom was diagnosed with Lupus.

“In efforts to ease her discomfort from skin irritation and hair loss, I developed a solution to her problem, which was the issue with chemical ingredients,” Smith-Lash said. “So Coarse Culture products are completely chemical free and they only are comprised of about six ingredients, which makes it really cool and it gives it a lot of versatility to be used from hair to toe.”

Smith-Lash, who sells products on her online store and Amazon, said she wanted to participate in the pop-up to bring more attention to her business and build relationships with other Black business owners.

“I felt like it was a really good opportunity to connect with other black entrepreneurs such as myself, as well as a good chance to get more exposure to my brand to Miami students,” Smith-Lash said.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

Another business at the pop-up was the Most OutGROWING LLC, a Cincinnati-based apparel and art instruction company. Adoria Maxberry, founder of Most OutGROWING, said its main goal is to inspire people through art.

Maxberry’s booth sold Most OutGROWING shirts, buttons and an art book. She decided to accept the invitation to participate in the pop-up shop because she’s had good experiences at Miami before, having hosted a paint party on campus.

“I've been to campus before, and it was always a great experience, so I wanted to come out to be able to speak to the students here and to experience being amongst other vendors and supporting them especially during Black History Month,” Maxberry said.

Catherine Madden, a senior music composition major, purchased a sequined jacket and a cheesecake brownie from the pop-up shop. She said she decided to stop by after seeing a poster for the event, and people from her class encouraged others to go.

“I think it’s a great event, both as a way to celebrate Black History Month and as a way to expose students to local businesses, so it kind of serves a double purpose,” Madden said.

Buike Nduaguba, a senior computer science major, came to the shop in Armstrong because he knew some of the participating vendors, like Smith-Lash. He was glad to see an event being held to support Black entrepreneurs and bought some clothes, shea butter and a necklace.

“It is definitely a benefit to such a small community like ours,” Nduagaba said. “It’s a way to give a voice [and] a platform for such a small community but such a powerful and innovative and influential community.”

To customers, MAP and the business owners, the pop-up shop was a success for the second year in a row. Maxberry said she sold lots of clothes and books, but more importantly, made plenty of connections with people on campus.

“We've been inspired by those that have stopped by,” Maxberry said. “Just as we're trying to inspire others through our story, we're also being blessed by the presence of all the students and faculty.”

Smith-Lash also had a successful sales day and was thankful for the opportunities Miami has given her. Coarse Culture is one of the first businesses to have a space in the new College@Elm innovation center.

“One thing that I wish other students knew about Miami, the help is there. You just have to find it and be willing to put in a little bit of effort to access it,” Smith-Lash said. “Since introducing Coarse Culture to the campus community … I get opportunities like this to get more brand exposure. And there's just so many people willing to help you but a lot of students don't know that.”