Ms. Tee, owner of Tastefully Tee’s Catering, is determined to create bigger platforms for Black business owners, as she encourages entrepreneurship and a recreation of Black Wall Street in the D.C. metropolitan region.
The Black Excellence Vendors Bazaar, hosted Saturday by Ms. Tee at the Hilton Garden Inn in Northeast, welcomed 23 Black businesses from the region. Vendors in attendance sold and promoted locally made products ranging from apparel and art paintings to Black anime and skin products.
“I really wanted to do something where I could showcase entrepreneurs, and I can network and put people together, because even [though] the people here might not have known each other, they know each other now, so they can connect and have each other’s contacts,” Ms. Tee said.
Ms. Tee birthed her business while in transition from the downturn of her previous corporate career. Finding a mentor with a similar working experience, Tee was able to garner the resources and faith to invest in herself — a major catalyst behind her pop-up initiative.
“I literally transitioned from working a government job of 10 years to doing what I wanted to do,” Ms. Tee said.
Raised property rents, change in neighborhood demographics, and lack of support within the Black community are just a few of the financial perils affecting many local Black businesses. Ms. Tee recalled watching an the Netflix docuseries “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike,” which spurred her to build a network of functioning business and wealth within the Black community, similar to the historic Black Wall Street.
“Watching [“Trigger Warning”] was a big eye-opener for me, not knowing about Black Wall Street,” she said. “That motivated me to do this, regardless of how it turns out the first time.”
Ms. Tee, having researched for various funding opportunities, submitted her business as an applicant for the Dream Grant, funded by the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development. She found out this month that her business was chosen as one of the grantees — a major feat for her entrepreneurial endeavors, and added fuel behind her Black Excellence Bazaar initiative.
Ms. Tee encourages Black business owners to be well-researched, stressing that there are numerous business resources available in the District, although they are not openly advertised.
For her event, marketed heavily via Instagram and Eventbrite, Ms. Tee found numerous businesses interested in participating, and she hopes to hold several other bazaars before the year ends. She is donating a percentage of money collected from the event to Santa’s Cause, a D.C. organization founded to provide gifts to D.C.-based youth in the foster system.
The inaugural bazaar’s vendors included Undefined Drip, owned by Takiyah Roberts; Kaycee Love, a business and music consultant; Waisted By Kee, a beaded jewelry designer; and EdAnime Productions, co-founded by Isaiah Lewis.
Ms. Tee and attending vendors look forward to her continued journey in helping Black businesses connect and thrive.
“I think it’s just a matter of educating yourself, having followers, and having a brand where people are going to support you no matter what,” she said.