As a few shoppers got started with their holiday shopping on Saturday morning, business owners at a pop-up marketplace near Northeastern University's campus were anticipating a busy day ahead.
Now in its fourth year, the Buy Black. Buy Local. Holiday Marketplace, a yearly pop-up series hosted by Black Owned Bos., has established itself as a place for both shopping and community. Some vendors have returned year after year to test out offerings, connect with other entrepreneurs, and meet new customers.
The marketplace kicks off on Small Business Saturday on purpose, explained Black Owned Bos. founder Jae’da Turner: “It’s about being intentional around purchasing thoughtful gifts that are local.”
Over the next five Saturdays, the market will feature more than 20 local, Black-owned businesses.
“I love showing up at the market. Nobody has more energy about my brand than I do,” Elorm Dela-Seshie, founder of Adorn Me Africa, said at the marketplace's kickoff event.
She said the seasonal pop-up is an opportunity to show off and diversify her product offerings, which range from clothing to jewelry to tea from brands across several African countries.
Dela-Seshie opened her own storefront after getting started at pop-ups — and she wasn’t the only one. Several other vendors who attended that same 2020 Black Owned Bos. market have also opened storefronts since.
“It’s almost like an incubator space to test the idea,” explained Quontay Turner.
She started out vending upcycled art, clothing and accessories at pop-ups. Then, in 2020, she used Black Owned Bos.’s holiday marketplace series to try something a little bit different.
“Let me try to go all in with plants. I pretty much sold out every weekend,” she recalled. The next year, she opened Emerald City Plant Shop in Norwood.
Emerald City Plant Shop will attend three of Black Owned Bos.’s December marketplaces, which Quontay Turner said have been a space for connection among local business owners.
“As Black Friday turns into Black November, it’s really important to call in local businesses,” she said. “I’m really excited to vend in that area and see what that brings. It’s always interesting to see the different customers that come through.”
Jae’da Turner said this year’s marketplace is a collaboration with The Underground Cafe + Lounge, a Black-owned restaurant.
"It's a community effort," she said, for businesses to come together.
Many of the market’s vendors have worked with Black Owned Bos. for years, but the event was a first for Dub This! creator Desireé Vaughn.
A teacher-turned-business owner, Vaughn was named a Game Manufacturers Association Horizons Fellow in 2021, which provided her with the mentoring and resources she needed to build her brand, a card game based on mixing and matching song lyrics. She’s since attended small conventions and pop ups, hosted game nights at local bookstores and landed on Black Owned Bos.’ 2023 holiday gift guide.
“I feel like I’m growing and progressing in a way that’s going up and up,” Vaughn said. “It’s still mind-blowing that I’m here selling something that I created.”
Black Owned Bos. will hold holiday marketplace events at The Underground Cafe + Lounge from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Saturday until Christmas.