PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sometimes all you need in life to be successful is to have your foot in the door and a local entrepreneur is leading the way.
In 2019, Alyse Fowlks decided she would use her father’s hair salon in Monroeville to host a pop-up event and give black business owners a space to sell their goods and services.
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“Everyone should have the opportunity to start their business,” Fowlks said. “I had about four or five suppliers. So it was really small, but it worked.
But things would soon turn out better than she could have ever expected.
In November, she turned that one-time event into a full-time career, opening a new store in the Monroeville mall called Colab, a market for small businesses.
“We have essential oils, we have candles, CBD, crochet, we have clothing lines,” Fowlks said.
Sellers can rent a space there for the duration of their choice. About 19 are there at the moment. Most are local and black-owned.
Eighteen-year-old Antonio Pitts, a high school student from Central Catholic, has a space there where he sells items from his activewear line called God First.
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“I had it prayed and blessed by Brother Charles, who is a brother from Central Catholic High School and it’s not just clothes. It is the armor of God. Anyone facing depression or spiritual attacks is now protected,” Pitts explained of the meaning of his mark.
Pitts said this platform has helped him grow his business, which is an experience shared by other business owners at Colab.
Ashleigh Abrams, owner of A&J Scents, said: “At first it was something that was going to be a hobby, but once I was in a storefront it took on another dimension because that I was doing pop-ups with Alyse. But it’s seasonal, it’s given me consistent sales,” Abrams said.
Timothy Doner, the owner of Scoop TV, said his fashion line has really grown in popularity since being in the store.
“Now they know who I am. They might not buy anything, but they see it and it’s something that will stick in their head forever,” Doner said.
As for Fowlks, she told KDKA that her dream is to open her own mall with black-owned businesses filling the windows, a dream she hopes to turn into a reality within the next five years.
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Colab is open during normal mall hours. On weekends, Colab features even more black-owned businesses where up to 19 additional vendors are present.