This year, we did something different for THE PITCH. Not only did we triple the prize money, but we split applicants into two categories: High Growth Companies and Main Street Businesses. The former encompassed startups in healthcare and tech, and the latter included small businesses in retail, transportation, and consumer services.
The Grand Prize Winner of THE PITCH in the Main Street Businesses category and the winner of the Five Star Bank People’s Choice Minority and Women Small Business Award was Black Monarchy, a clothing and jewelry boutique on the West Side. They source items from all over the world, including India, Africa, Mexico, Thailand, and many other countries.
Black Monarchy’s founder, Phylicia Dove, is fulfilling her lifelong dream of owning a business, while also giving back to the local refugee and immigrant community. Learn more about her in today’s Founder Friday!
How did Black Monarchy start?
It’s really crazy how Black Monarchy started actually. My business, IamPhyNomenal, is a personal styling and wardrobe consulting company that aims to enhance ones personal and professional appearance through fashion and lifestyle enhancements. In March 2016, I was creative directing a photo shoot in which I dressed the models in some of the pieces I had created. Once the pictures were published on Facebook, my inquiry inbox doubled. I began making pieces for clients until I garnered the courage to begin vending. Black Monarchy was eventually invited to every major event within the city. Once we partnered with PUSH Buffalo to open our flagship location, the rest is history.
What do you do? Your company?
I am the Creative Director and Lead Stylist for Black Monarchy. Black Monarchy is a global fashion and artisan boutique specializing in ready-to-wear and custom garments made of materials representing 6 countries in Africa and 3 continents globally. Black Monarchy also has a non-profit organization, Black Monarchy Foundation Inc., in which we work with the local refugee community on sewing and consigning, as well as partner with an organization called Let Their Be Light, providing solar energy to families in Bulenga, Uganda. We also have Alabaster Box (homeless outreach) on December 16, 2017 at 1pm at the Buffalo and Erie County Library downtown.
When was the ‘aha’ moment when you realized this could actually work?
The first vending event I participated in, I was nervous! I was practically petrified. Here I was known from an ability to work in the local fashion industry of Buffalo, but never as a merchant. It was an obvious progressive step, but nonetheless it was nerve-wracking. I had been curating quite the international jewelry collection for sometime, and it was time to present this collection to the world – or at least to the events’ attendees. The feedback was incredible! The conversations I had were incredible. And on several interactions I was asked if I had a store. At the time, I had just mustered up enough courage to begin on my 6ft. table. But it was after I had packed up my table that I realized I could really push forward with this. So I did.
What has been the biggest accomplishment for Black Monarchy to-date?
Being on the cover of The Challenger News has been the greatest accomplishment for Black Monarchy to-date. This specific newspaper has very close ties in the intercity community and specifically was/is a newspaper I seek out to find the best collegiate job postings and current, unbiased local and international news as well as announcements for upcoming community events. My father-in-law used to deliver this particular publication. To be featured on the front cover is one of the most humbling experiences I’ve had.
Goals for the next year? Three years?
Within the next year, I would like to double our store’s inventory with global fashion and artisan jewelry. We see ourselves as being one of the innovators of the cultural explosions in Buffalo. We will be partnering with other innovators to spread the oneness of culture. In three years, we will be one of the leading global fashion and artisan jewelry boutiques within Buffalo, NY. We hope to expand the business as well as continue to hire local refugees and the Mayor’s Summer Youth Program participants.
Why not Buffalo! There are some amazing things happening in Buffalo. A resurgence of energy, millennial retention, employment, emerging foodie locations, and, of course, entrepreneurship has hit Buffalo in a magnificent way. Being a part of the Buffalo Billion also means a great deal for a very deserving city. I moved to Buffalo immediately following college. I’ve spent most of my adult and professional life here. It was only fitting that as I exited from the white collar job force that I began planting seeds for my creativity in the same soil.
How do you do it? What drives you?
God. And my amazing husband. Very simple, because I know factually I could not do this on my own. Some days I have no idea how I do it. I am a mom of two boys, Isaac and Nicholas, who are 14.5 months apart. While building this brand, I was either holding a crying child on my hip or pregnant with the other. My drive pushed me and my accountability to my husband kept me going. Knowing that I am being given the opportunity to live and chase my dreams is something I had given up on and disassociated myself from years prior. Faith drives me to try one last time. And each last time, faith pushed me to try once more. I am so happy that I did.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
JUMP. The greatest thing I did was go for it. Social media and this new euphoric view of entrepreneurship is very misleading. And unfortunately, many of those who seek to have the same results and fail to reach those goals give up. Entrepreneurship isn’t always glamorous. In fact it’s hard work. Sometimes you will want to completely give up, but don’t. The greatest thing I have ever done was to not give up.
Phylicia’s reaction to winning both a $15,000 grand prize and the $10,000 People’s Choice Award was nothing short of heartwarming and truly priceless. Thankfully, we were there to catch it on video – check it out.