Runway Oakland serves as a model city for economic equity, and we created an innovative collaboration of place-based organizations working together to create a pathway specifically designed to support black businesses from early to expansion stages.
+ Nubian's Story
At sixteen Nubian’s father, like so many during the 90s, died from complications of the AIDS drug AZT. During his last days, she watched in horror as he wasted away. She could not save his life, but she was convinced that there had to be better alternatives to foster a smoother transition. Thus, began her passion for holistic medicine and determination to find natural alternatives for the demands of daily modern life. She received her masters’ degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine and opened a private practice specializing in pain relief, women’s health, and skin disorders. After becoming a single mother in 2010, she realized she needed more flexibility in her work to be present for her son. The Healing Place Apothecary provided her the opportunity to do that – to be able to work from home and create a product line that could be sold locally and online.
THE HEALING PLACE APOTHECARY The Healing Place Apothecary is an Oakland‐based provider of natural skin care, hair care, and deodorant products. The formulations draw on Nubian’s 20+ years of experience as an herbalist, holistic educator, and acupuncturist, and are steeped in holistic principles from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Nubian has been selling her products online, at local pop‐ups, and more recently, wholesale through boutique retailers. She currently has six consistent retailers buying from her, including one outside the Bay Area. And, she has identified expansion of the wholesale channel as a more efficient way to generate a higher sales volume on a consistent basis.
BUSINESS SUPPORT & FUNDING Nubian came into Uptima Business Bootcamp in the accelerator’s first cohort and graduated from the full program in September 2015. She had been selling her products for several years before coming into the Uptima. Through the accelerator, she honed her product offering and refocused her marketing and sales efforts.
Nubian has primarily funded her business through income from her acupuncture practice and had received small amounts of outside funding through a grant and crowdfunding. In 2015, she was one of 30 recipients of a Whole Foods Small Producer grant, which provided her with approximately $5,000 in grant funding and more visibility to increase her wholesale business. Shortly after that, she attempted a rewards‐based crowdfunding that had very little yield. She regrouped, and a year later, she raised
$7,000 through a Kiva loan in less than two weeks.
RUNWAY PROJECT LOAN Bootstrapping had restricted Nubian’s ability to expand the business according to her plans. In October 2017, we made our first Runway Project loan to Nubian, funding $15,000 to support her in executing on her wholesale strategy and hiring assistance for production and shipping.
Read more about Nubian on Uptima’s blog.
+ Stevonne's Story
Stevonne started Beija‐Flor Naturals in 2009 with $500 from her unemployment savings that she used to purchase her beloved 8‐ quarter KitchenAid mixer and raw materials. Beija‐Flor Naturals quickly became one of the first “cult favorite” online‐only brands to gain popularity via social media, attracting both the rapidly growing green beauty and natural hair segments.
In 2013, the brand expanded its mission to support local artists and artisans with the founding of Concept Forty‐Seven by Beija‐Flor
Naturals, a lifestyle store in the trendy Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, CA. And in 2017, Stevonne took on a second location in the Lower Haight neighborhood of San Francisco, CA, to expand both Concept Forty‐Seven as a retailer and to serve as a larger production facility for Beija‐Flor Naturals.
BEIJA‐FLOR NATURALS & CONCEPT 47 Beija‐Flor Naturals offers a line of hair and skin care products that are free of harmful petrochemicals, made from raw vegetable based ingredients, preserved naturally, follow FDA standards, and are kind to the body and pocketbook.
Concept Forty‐Seven is a lifestyle shop in the San Francisco Bay Area that has supported 100+ local and independent makers, artists and artisans since 2013. Concept Forty‐Seven offers organic and eco‐ friendly beauty products, unique home goods, jewelry, candles, and select vintage. Concept Forty‐Seven has locations in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland and the Lower Haight in San Francisco.
BUSINESS SUPPORT & FUNDING Stevonne is a graduate of ICA Fund Good Jobs Growth Strategies program, and has received additional business assistance from Start Small Think Big and Mission Economic Development Agency.
Stevonne has primarily funded her business through earnings and savings in the business. She has raised outside funding through a high‐interest loan on OnDeck Capital and $10,000 through Kiva.
RUNWAY PROJECT LOAN Bootstrapping had restricted Stevonne’s ability to expand her Beija‐Flor Naturals brand. In November 2017, we made a Runway Project loan to Stevonne, funding $20,000 to support her in executing on her in beginning to outsource production and grow sales for Beija‐Flor Naturals.
With the Runway Project business advising, we are working with Stevonne to unlock an additional capital through another microlender to complete outsourcing her production and increase visibility of her products online and with larger wholesale accounts.
Read more about Stevonne in Diablo Magazine.
+ Ariana's Story
Ariana’s grandfather, who she considered to be more like a father, grew up on a farm. When she was younger, she asked him to help her start a garden. It was a significant experience for her to be with him and plant the garden, and then to see it come to life and see how others benefitted from it. While she enjoyed planting different greens and other vegetables, she became drawn to the beauty of flowers – their different textures and colors, and what she could do with the arrangements to brighten up a space. As the years passed, Ariana was exposed to real life experiences that encompassed the struggle to meet basic needs. She grew up in a predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhood where funding to community based programs was being slashed. Her business Esscents of Flowers combines her passion for providing the beauty of flowers with her desire to give back to the community through the kind of job training program she felt she could have benefitted from as a youth.
ESSCENTS OF FLOWERS Esscents of Flowers provides customized floral arrangements at its pop‐up locations as well as elegant floral arrangements for events (weddings, graduations, etc.). Taking the flower pop‐ups mobile is the next step for Esscents of Flowers. Having the name on a large truck driving through the streets of Oakland is a great marketing tool and will allow them to store a larger amount of inventory and sell more flowers. Esscents of Flowers differentiates itself by authentic and thoughtful engagement that builds strong relationships with clients. In addition, Esscents of Flowers is one of the few black‐owned florists doing flowers for special events in the Bay Area.
BUSINESS SUPPORT & FUNDING Ariana came into Uptima Business Bootcamp thinking she would take full year of the program, graduate and the start her business sometime within a couple years after graduating. Within the first few weeks of Uptima, she launched her business through pop‐ups. Throughout the first year of her business, Ariana funded her business through income from her full‐time job as well as business earnings from pop‐ups and events.
RUNWAY PROJECT LOAN Bootstrapping did not leave Ariana with enough cash to purchase a mobile floral truck, and she was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to receive a traditional loan to execute on her business plans. She needed a total of $30,000 to purchase and launch the mobile truck. In November 2017, we made a Runway Project loan to Ariana, funding $20,000. And in December 2017, we supported Ariana in unlocking another $10,000 through Kiva in less than one week.
In January 2018, Ariana purchased the mobile floral truck of her dreams. And, she held her first pop‐up in the truck on Valentine’s Day 2018.
Read more about Ariana in Uptima’s blog.
+ Asara's Story
Asara founded Ancient Treasure in 2013. She is an African Medicine Woman with over 35 years in the health and wellness field, and is also an author and healer. She has worked over ten years in the personal care industry and discovered how many chemicals are in our skincare products. She set out to change the way we have been conditioned to think about our skincare. Asara researched and developed the business’s flagship beauty formula, Ancient Treasure over a period of six years with much mindfulness. Ancient Treasure is an all‐in‐one natural anti‐aging moisturizer that is a facial moisturizer, an eye cream, a night cream, a day cream, and a body balm that is nontoxic and healing. Asara is committed to developing skincare products that “keep it simple” and that have both a beauty and healing component to it with myriad of uses. ANCIENT TREASURE Ancient Treasure currently offers in all‐in‐one moisturizing formula made with a proprietary blend of plant oils, natural antioxidants, and lots of mindfulness. It is a facial moisturizer, an eye cream, a night cream, a day cream, and a body balm. It is ideal for those that love simplicity. Ancient Treasure makes it easy to have radiant, healthy skin everywhere. It eliminates the need for a more complicated skin care regimen. BUSINESS SUPPORT & FUNDING Asara came into Uptima Business Bootcamp in the accelerator’s first cohort and graduated from the full program in September 2015. Though she had been selling her products for a little while, her sales were not enough to cover all her costs and to allow her to expand the business in a way that would allow her to work in it full‐time and be compensated for the work. Through the program, she refined her market opportunity and identified a mall kiosk as the appropriate strategy to grow the business. Even with a solid plan for the kiosk, funding was an issue for Asara as she was caught in a trap of having to purchase inventory on her credit cards and use earnings from her wellness training business to support her family, which took her away from fundraising and certain sales activities of Ancient Treasure.
RUNWAY PROJECT LOAN Asara needed $20,000 in bridge funding to help her purchase inventory and hire administrative support so she can focus on executing the kiosk plans. In January 2018, we made a Runway Project loan to Asara, funding $20,000.
With the Runway Project business advising, we are working with Asara to unlock an additional capital through another microlender or equity investors to open the mall kiosk by September 2018.
+ April's Story
April has demonstrated great persistence throughout her life. After high school, she found herself on and off drugs and in and out of prison. But after her last time in prison, she decided to change her narrative. She went back to school at age 30 while raising her son and working side jobs. Even when her partner of 14 years, her son's father passed away suddenly, she didn't drop out. After graduating from school, she drove down the busiest street in her city and wrote down names of all the business that she found interesting. Later, she sent intro emails to the managers / human resources departments of those businesses, and was eventually hired by one of those firms. In 2016, after moving back to the Bay Area, April started Piikup because she wanted to change the status quo for people that work in the service industry so that they can provide for their families without having to work multiple jobs. More so, she believes that everyone should have a stake in the company that goes beyond their paycheck.
PIIKUP Piikup is a delivery service hub. Their service area currently covers the 80 corridor between Hayward and Richmond and San Francisco. They offer delivery services targeted to small and medium sized businesses in the food and retail sectors. Since Piikup was founded, they have worked with 20 food and retail customers in the Bay Area, including Red Bay Coffee, Pinx Catering, The Town Kitchen and businesses housed in Kitchener commercial kitchen space in Oakland. They have delivered over 400 packages for food and retail customers. And, the received the Social Changemaker award at the Oakland Indie Awards
BUSINESS SUPPORT & FUNDING April came into Uptima in May 2015 and graduated from the full program in July 2016. Through the Uptima program, April began piloting her delivery services with local caterers, restaurants that do catering, and retail businesses. In 2017, Uptima supported April in raising a $10,000 Kiva loan to fund staffing. Through the delivery experiences with staff, April recognized that she needed to build out a fleet of delivery vehicles to make it safer for drivers to deliver goods and services. However, April was concerned about her ability to receive a traditional loan due to her history.
RUNWAY PROJECT LOAN April needed $20,000 for a down payment on a delivery services vehicle and for staffing. In January 2018, we made a Runway Project loan to April, funding $20,000.
With the Runway Project business advising, we are working with April to finance and purchase her first delivery vehicle.
Read more about April in Uptima’s blog.