Black in Business 2021

These Philly Black and Brown businesses didn’t let COVID stop them

Teresa Lundy

Between city-wide shutdowns and stay-at-home orders, it’s been a hell of a year for small businesses.

But in Philly, we’re no stranger to grit, hard-work, and our ability to weather a storm (insert any post-Super Bowl Eagles season). 

That’s why this Black History Month, Philadelphia Weekly is tipping its cap to all the Black-owned small businesses that have been holding it down for their communities all year-round. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, but here are some of our faves: 

Renee Harris works with her Esteem Girls at STEM Lab. The mission of Esteem Girls is to empower young women by building their self-esteem and confidence to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). | Image: Courtesy of Renee Harris

Esteem Girls STEM Lab

STEM fields (shorthand for the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), historically have a gender and diversity problem – and Renee Harris is out to change that. Harris started Esteem Girls from a church basement in 2016, and has since grown her Fishtown-based business into a citywide network of learning services. Esteem Girls empowers Black and Brown girls to pursue STEM through after-school workshops, virtual tutoring programs, and summer camps. Harris has even taken her mission global with an interactive children’s book, “Look What I Can Be” – proving the future really is female. | 602 East Girard Ave. esteemgirls.org

Darlene and Lambert Walker of Sippin Pics have gotten all five-star reviews on Facebook. | Image: Courtesy of Sippin Pics

Sippin’ Pics

Want to unleash your inner artist? Darlene and Lambert Walker’s Wynnefield Heights art studio has the perfect remedy for these stressful times – socially-distanced paint and sip parties. Grab your friends (masked, of course) and your favorite bottle of red – Sippin’ Pics provides the music, art supplies and refreshments. After a couple drinks, you might even feel confident enough to give their karaoke machine a shot. And if you’re staying home, Sippin’ Pics will bring the fun to you with virtual paint parties. | 3901 Conshohocken Ave. sippinpic.com 

Rage Philly 

Let a year’s worth of pandemic frustration out at Rage Philly in Cedarbrook. Started by mother-daughter team Kea Tull and Nyerera Jordan, Rage Philly offers you a controlled space to destroy your old junk with baseball bats, sledgehammers, crowbars, and even frying pans. Lying waste to your junk is a good emotional release says Tull – and also a workout. You can bet their two rage rooms are cleaned thoroughly after each session for safety. Oh, and if you’ve got an old clunker laying around, ask about the “Car Smash.” Rage on, Philly. | 1101 Ivy Hill Rd. Unit 2 rageroomphiladelphia.com 

Phil Clark owns The Training Station Gym in Northern Liberties, where members have access to cutting edge equipment, trainers and classes. | Image: Courtesy of Phil Clark

The Training Station Gym

Individually focused training is front and center at this Northern Liberties gym. Started in 2010, The Training Station stands out not only for its stacked supply of workout equipment, but its excellent sneaker shop attached next door. Keeping gym-goers active and safe during lockdown is their top priority, and they’ve pulled it off with a staggered visitation, an updated cleaning plan, and a brand new ventilation system – meaning there’s no more excuses to skip leg day. | 533 Spring Garden St. D1. phillytrainingstation.com

Angelo Perryman and Angelina Perryman go over construction plans at Perryman Construction. | Image: Martin Regusters, Leaping Lion Photography & Digital Fuzzion Art

Perryman Construction

After serving our country in the Korean War, Jimmie Lee Perryman, Sr. returned to open up Perryman Construction in 1954. Headquartered in Callowhill, the firm specializes in taking commercial building projects from blueprint pages to city skylines. Perryman’s guiding philosophy mixes quality work with quality people, making it a no-brainer that his business has been in the game for more than half a century. | 475 N. 5th Street, Ste 2B PerrymanBC.com

Keisha Whatley poses with an art palette outside her Custom Arts Studio in Germantown. | Image: Courtesy of Custom Arts Studio

Custom Arts Studio 

“How can we make a difference in our community and the world through the arts?” That’s the question owner Keisha Whatley asks herself daily at Custom Arts Studio in Germantown. Apart from offering custom design services, Whatley’s studio features stunning work from Philly’s creative scene – three of the studio’s works hang in museums. The pandemic forced Whatley to put art fairs on hold, but luckily you can browse from the safety of home. Their online collection features paintings inspired by icons like Erykah Badu, Alicia Keys and even The Black Panther. | 438 East Hortter St. customartsstudio.com

Team Clean 

You might not notice, but keeping Philly clean is a big job. Team Clean’s been in the biz for 40 years, making sure everywhere from City Hall to the art museum stays sanitary. CEO Donna Allie is all about community, and frequently hires new immigrants, those who were formerly incarcerated, people with disabilities and stay-at-home mothers looking for extra cash. 

“Over the years, we’ve hired thousands of people – people who were down on their luck and maybe who would never have had an opportunity to work and we’ve given them good union jobs,” she said. 

Allie and her 500-member staff took a hit when the pandemic closed office buildings, but another revenue stream quickly opened up – COVID cleaning. Armed with electrostatic sprayers, Team Clean has been busy working with city government to disinfect Philly’s recreation buildings and rec centers to keep us safe. | 104 N 63rd St. team-clean.com

Candice Moore of The Styled Stem | Image: Tom Leung Photography

The Styled Stem 

Wedding season may be postponed, but The Styled Stem will be ready for action when couples start exchanging “I do’s” again. This wedding planning and floral design company was started by Candice Moore in 2019, who’s also the lead designer. Even if you’re not tying the knot, Moore’s floral bouquets are a great gift year-round. Head over to their Stem Shoppe web page and check out their gorgeous custom bouquets, or sign up for their subscription service to receive a new floral surprise every month. | thestyledstem.com/shop 

Our House Culture Center

Book signings, art exhibitions and jazz concerts are just some of the events hosted at this Mt. Airy creative space. Founded by Courtney Childs in 2017, Our House Culture Center is a hub for all things expressive in the community. With two open spaces totally 2,000 square feet, the Center can handle just about any event – they’ve hosted more than 300 of them. While the pandemic has put a hold on gatherings, Childs and the team haven’t stopped putting community first. Lately, they’ve hosted Victoria’s Virtual Learning Center, a tutoring service for Philly’s kids. | 6376-6380 Germantown Ave. iloveourhouse.org/home 

Black Men Heal

Zakia Williams knows it’s hard for some men to open up about their feelings. That’s why she started Black Men Heal in 2018, a nonprofit mental health organization that matches Black men with local therapists who understand them on a cultural level. Williams began the project with 10 clients and a group of volunteer therapists, but has now reached more than 1,000 men in multiple states through virtual sessions. Black Men Heal has been a safe-haven for those struggling with pandemic anxieties – their “Kings Corner” weekly video meeting allows men to share their stories in a supportive environment. blackmenheal.org 

African People’s Education and Defense Fund Board President Ona Zene’ Yeshitela (seated center) poses with Uhuru Furniture staff and volunteers upstairs at Uhuru Furniture. | Image: Courtesy of Uhuru

Uhuru Furniture 

This North Philly furniture store has been in business for 27 years, making good on its mission of economic-self determination for the Black community – Uhuru means “freedom” in Swahili. Started as a nonprofit by the African People’s Education and Defense Fund, the store gives back by creating job opportunities for the community. Inside, you’ll find hand-painted African furniture, contemporary and vintage pieces, antiques, home decor, jewelry and much more. They’ll even refurbish your old furniture and save it from sitting in a landfill. They’ve adopted safety measures like mask wearing and ventilation to keep you safe while you shop, but if you’re staying home, check out their virtual furniture showcase on Saturdays via Instagram. | 832. N. Broad St. uhurufurniturephilly.blogspot.com 

Potted Perfection

This family-owned green design business takes ordinary outdoor spaces and transforms them into something magical. Founders Mindy and Brandon focus on sustainability in their designs, installing plants, flowers, and trees to create spaces that aren’t just beautiful, but also highly functional. You’ve probably walked past one of their urban projects in Spring Garden or Queen Village, though they also add their natural touch to small-businesses and schools. Thanks for keeping Philly green! | pottedperfectionllc.com 

TML Communications 

Launched in 2015, this Center City public relations firm is both minority and women-owned. TML Communications represents some of the biggest brands around, from Doordash and Lyft to local politicians and the Reform Alliance. Founder Teresa M. Lundy is a strategic public relations, crisis communications and community engagement manager who has worked in and with government for years. 

“I am proud of the projects and campaigns we have worked on that have resulted in real meaningful change,” she said.

Some of TML’s notable campaigns have helped pass legislation and registered people to vote, proving that press equals power. | 1500 Walnut St., Suite 409 tmlfirm.com 

@JesseBunch_

Jenny DeHuff contributed to this story. 

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