A flea market for Black-owned businesses and vendors to showcase their products to the community.
By Megan Reed
It can be difficult to find merchandise that is made specifically for African Americans. Most retail stores have a small inventory of products that have Black faces or incorporate Black culture. And for entrepreneurs who do not have a brick and mortar store, it can be difficult to get their products to African American consumers.
Kris Hilbler-Smith and Jay Funtila have created a way to satisfy the needs of both Black consumers and entrepreneurs. They created Melanin Market in January of 2019, which is a flea market for Black-owned businesses and vendors to showcase their products and services. The next market will be Saturday, January 25, 10 AM - 5 PM, at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.
“We have all type of vendors at our market,” Hilbler-Smith said. “We have food vendors and food trucks. We have body care, local clothing designers, t-shirts, children’s clothing. There’s a plethora of things that our people are talented at, and that’s what we want to portray at our market.”
The markets are held monthly, and have been held at various locations in South Los Angeles and Inglewood, such as the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza and Century Community Charter School in Inglewood.
“We decided that it was best to do it in Inglewood and the South Central areas just because of the gentrification and changes that were going on in the city,” Hilbler-Smith said. “We wanted something that the Black community could still have.”
This market also gives people who are just starting out in entrepreneurship an opportunity to learn proper business practices.
“There are businesses that are up and coming just like we were,” Funtila said. “We work together with those businesses to figure out the process of what is needed to be able to present at one of the markets. There were certifications that we weren’t aware of that we had to do research on. Many people who wanted to participate did not have that knowledge, so we shared that with them. So we’re all growing together.”
Some of the vendors have well established businesses that is their main source of income, and some of the vendors have full-time jobs while they are getting their businesses off the ground.
“We are products of that,” Hilbler-Smith said. “We are currently working on Melanin Market full time now, but before that we both had full-time jobs and Melanin Market was our side hustle. We want the entrepreneur that’s ready to go full steam ahead and is already prepared for everything. But we’re also looking for those that are still learning and still working their 9-to-5s Monday through Friday. We want our people to have that opportunity.”
There is also a youth mentoring component to this market where children who are interested in business can learn from the vendors at the market.
“We wanted to figure out a way that not only would we be that positive role model and environment for the youth, but also educate them on something that is essentially missing from the education system,” Funtila said. “They can get that mentorship and they can see what it actually means to be an entrepreneur. They can find out the process of how to start their own business.”