Oakland welcomes new hub for Black-owned businesses

In Oakland, folks can now make one stop to shop at about a dozen black-owned businesses all under the same roof.

Organizers cut the red ribbon Saturday to mark the official opening of a new black-business collective called "Loyal to the Soil" on Broadway and 17th in downtown Oakland.

Rather than finding one store inside, there are about a dozen micro ventures. The anchor store is The Collective Oakland Bookstore.

The owners came up with the concept of a collective after being inspired by something similar in Atlanta and learning to run a business through the school of hard knocks.

"As an entrepreneur, I learned quickly about a lot of pitfalls. and we made a lot of mistakes," said Michelle Walton, co-founder of Loyal to the Soil Collective. "So, Loyal to the Soil came about because I felt if we gave people a chance and they didn’t have all the red tape that we had, it would go a lot faster, a lot quicker, and we could go further together."  

Each business pays a nominal fee for its space. The creators wanted variety, so you’ll see everything from artwork, to candles, clothes, and more.

JadenMoon Natural Soaps and Skincare is run by Adrienne Spellman.

"It’s absolutely amazing to have a space with all these black-owned businesses, lots of black women in business, and just everybody coming together," said Spellman.

Denisha DeLane owns Melanin Meanings and makes African-inspired stationery and accessories.

"This space creates the opportunity for us to have a storefront experience without breaking the bank," said DeLane.

Oakstop, a for-profit business, rents out the space, while its nonprofit Oakstop Alliance provides business services and training to ensure these entrepreneurs become self-sufficient.

"All the things that they need if they're looking for other support or funding or grants, things like that. They have to have all of these things in order," said Damon Johnson, executive director of Oakstop Alliance.

The ventures are the first of a 12-week cohort. Over time, the brands and offerings will change, but the goal is to continue the collective as a sort of black business incubator.

"This allows them a transition period to say, ok, I’m in a storefront, I’m getting ready. And now with some of the relationships, they have here, maybe even two or three of them may get together and start their own store," said Wesley Dawan, co-owner of The Collective Oakland Bookstore.