8 Black Owned Student Start-Up Businesses to Watch

The Business Start-Up Journey (BSUJ) is an inspirational programme which brings student business start-up ideas to life and develops your entrepreneurial skills. These black-owned start-up businesses from students at the University of Kent have been brought to life through the BSUJ.

1. Esther Asaolu – SHADY

Originally, the creators behind Shady‘s love for makeup began out of insecurity, however, over time it blossomed into a form of artistic expression and inner confidence. They currently sell a range of highlighters, lip glosses and lashes, each of which represents a type of persona to help their customers develop or explore their inner egos.

“SHADY is a cosmetics brand started out of our love for makeup and all things beauty.”

Shady aim to be more than just a beauty brand. For too long the beauty industry has helped create, in the minds of young women, many insecurities in order to make profits. For Shady, makeup is about expression and not repression!

Shady would like to grow and create an entertaining yet innovative online platform for beauty lovers. They also hope to transition into a more lifestyle beauty brand and own our own physical store which will offer a range of beauty services such as hair, nails, and makeup whilst offering a beautifully designed space.

2. Jehu-cal – Emay Emenowuku 

Jehu-cal is a brand inspired by the challenges Emay faced when growing up in a predominantly white area where he was mocked for his race, appearance and inability to afford the clothes his classmates were wearing.

In addition to Jehu-cal’s focus on quality and producing responsibly as well as transparently, they openly show their support for real-life situations.

The most recent example being the Black Lives Matter movement, the first tee shirt released by Jehu-cal was the ‘Never Been Safe’ tee in 2016 featuring an image of MLK Jnr being arrested by police.

“Since day 1 I have wanted Jehu-cal to stand for more than simply being another cool brand that sells nice clothes.”

3. Nadia Esi – Nadia Simpson 

Nadia Esi specialises in creating 100% natural products that are used to promote hair growth and glowing skin. The brand was established in August 2019 by Nadia Ewura-Esi Simpson. However, the story with product making began in 2017 because of a salon horror experience.

“In 2017 I took a trip to Ghana and to end the trip, of course, I had to get my hair done. I could feel my baby hair being pulled on, as the hairstylist was doing my hair. When it was time to take these braids out, I wasn’t surprised by the amount shedding I had, due to how tight the braids were. Fortunately, before I left Ghana I bought an array of oils which lead to the creation of the first Nadia Esi product, The Hair Growth Elixir.”

Nadia Esi currently has four natural products:

  • The Hair Growth Elixir
  • Beard Oil
  • African Black Soap
  • Ayurvedic hair Gloss.
  • As well as African Style satin-lined hair bonnets

“As Nadia Esi grows I would like to make it more accessible to anyone anywhere by having my products in stores.”

4. JMapparel/ Jmart Space – Joseph Aina

Jmart Space was previously doing events, an interesting industry which Joseph enjoyed running, however, his plan is now to focus on e-commerce. Recently he has been producing luxury masks (pictured) which have been very popular!

He has currently started a masters in fine art at the royal college of arts, as art has always been his most prominent skillset. He thought it made sense to nurture these skills to improve his creative ideas.

“Discover your greatest asset, then grow that asset.”

5. RichRags – Devonté Richards

RichRags is a luxury haircare company, founded by Devonte Richards. The purpose of RichRags is to reinforce the beauty of black hair. Their products aim to nourish, enrich and enhance the texture of black hair. they seek to create a market and industry for luxury hair care in the black community.

“Our hair is beautiful and must be protected at all costs!”

Using RichRags haircare products, you can elevate your hair pattern, keep them extra laid and silky smooth. Their products are the perfect materials to use when protecting hair as the silk material keeps your hair laid and will also retain moisture!

“As a company, having an impact on our communities is imperative, we support and donate to Cancer Research UK through every pink product sold.”

“We are set to launch later this year!”

6. SOROTTEN – Elizabeth Simpson

Everyone complains and always tell me I had a “rotten mouth”. When Elizabeth first started her brand she wanted to create female clothing and build it around Spinelli from Recess (her favourite character). She changed the idea as it didn’t click and built it around herself. She came up with a few dark names, and kept on thing about rotten… very rotten, totally rotten and SOROTTEN was just it!

“SOROTTEN is all about you, the individual and how the clothing represents you.”

Elizabeth has dropped so many styles in different colours and someone always finds a piece for them. SOROTTEN is about colour, fun and you! Everything down to the logo is about your interpretation, some may say it’s a rotten apple and some may say it’s a skull.

The future of Sorotten is to grow into an international brand and enter some of your favourite fashion stores.

7. Do You – Tomiwa Sosanya 

Do you. If there is one thing Tomiwa learnt from growing up, it is that it is exhausting trying to please everyone.

“There’s always someone more important to look out for and that person is you. Get to know yourself, learn new skills, take yourself out on a date for all I care but just do it because you want too.”

Do you specialise in making bespoke clothing pieces, originally Tomiwa started with shoes but quarantine forced him to get more creative and venture into jackets and denim.

“When I was younger I’d see my dad breaking down computers to reuse parts or see my mum selling cut and sew clothing. so one day I got bored of sitting in my room all day playing league of legends and decided to paint a pair of shoes (mainly because it was cheaper than all the shoes I wanted), but after making my second pair word of mouth travelled and somebody wanted their own. After that something sparked in my head that I could get paid for my hobby and I haven’t looked back since.”

8. Revival & Resurrection Collective – Tobi Olutade 

Revival & Resurrection Collective (@RRCollective_) is a sustainable British-Nigerian cyber boutique; using a holistic approach to tackle waste and empower the voices of women & non-binary people through colours & textures.

“When you are intentional with your surroundings, you are more intentional with yourself.”

Find out more about the Business Start-Up Journey 2020-21

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