Black History is currently being written in Brooklyn as Black-owned businesses thrive.
The most persistent piece of advice for Black entrepreneurs Brooklyn Paper has heard from those who already made it is: “Do not take ‘no’ for an answer.” It might sound easier said than done, but those who dished out the advice have already lived by it.
“The biggest challenge was getting funding, but the entrepreneur in me knew this was the opportunity to do something nice for my friends,” said Khane Kutzwell, founder of the Crown Heights barber shop Camera Ready Kutz. “We have to keep our neighborhoods together. We have to create the businesses that we want in our neighborhoods because if we don’t, someone is else is going to come by with something that doesn’t represent us. Black entrepreneurs have to keep going through all the nos, because all that means is, the yeses are getting closer.”
While Black-owned businesses in the U.S. have grown significantly in recent years, they still make up a small share of firms and revenue in the country and their growth is still slower than for those owned by white, Hispanic and Asian entrepreneurs, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.
In 2020, there were an estimated 140,918 U.S. businesses with majority-Black ownership, up 14% from 124,004 in 2017, according to the latest available data. Those firms brought in about $141.1 billion in gross revenue that year, an 11% increase since 2017, and provided income for more than 1.3 million workers.
Many Black business owners go through the same struggles at the start. Knowing this, many of them have created spaces and concepts to pave the road for future entrepreneurs.
“Do what you can with what you have and the rest will follow,” said Emelyn Stuart, film producer and founder of Stuart Cinema & Café.
Whether you’re looking for a haircut, a good meal, or a good movie theater — here’s a non-exhaustive list of Black-owned businesses in Brooklyn:
Camera Ready Kutz
A Trinidad-born, Far Rockaway-raised Master Barber, Kutzwell started her business to offer the LGBTQ community a safe place where they could get the haircut they want. Now she cuts all kinds of hair for all kids of gender expressions.
73 Utica Ave. between Dean and Michael Griffin streets. By appointment. camerareadykutz.com.
This eatery’s name refers to a mix of spices peanuts, various aromatics and peppers that is used in every dish they serve. The concept is a collaboration of Chef Folusho, a Crown Heights native and Chef Hema Agwu, from Lagos, who has gathered experience in Morocco, Eritrea and many communities within New York City. Together, the chefs reimagine traditional African dishes — pulling most often from their shared Nigerian roots.
“We’ve seen people get very excited as they try our food and that’s what we are here for,” said Agwu. “We are here to stay.”
717 Franklin Ave. between Sterling Place and Park Place. Noon-10:00pm every day. brooklynsuya.com.
Cafe Con Libros
This feminist bookstore and coffee shop offers a carefully curated agenda of book events and talks. They over plenty of books perfect for the average reader and for those looking for something a little bit outside the mainstream. Their mission is to celebrate the entire community’s Black, Latinx and women-identified talent.
About the Book: June 2023.
From the authors of GLORY, Kahran & Regis Bethencourt of CreativeSoul Photography, comes CROWNED, a collection that reimagines how we see our favorite and most beloved childhood fairy and folk tales. https://t.co/PVnPxAMcwh pic.twitter.com/RK3ocbqVL4
— cafe con libros bk (@cafeconlibrosbk) February 22, 2023
724 Prospect Place between Rogers and Nostrand avenues. Monday to Friday 9am-3pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm.cafeconlibrosbk.com.
Café Rue Dix
A French and Senegalese café, restaurant, and bar that makes its own hot sauce, tea and coffee. The menu is loaded with breakfast classics like french toast and huevos rancheros, plus specially-made tea blends available to-go or to enjoy while you sit in the café. Next door, the restaurant’s owners run an two accompanying businesses: Marché, a design store with one of a kind clothing, candles and jewelry; and The Nail Studio at Marché.
1451 Bedford Avenue between Sterling Place and Park Place. 9am-10pm from Monday to Thursday, 9am-11pm Friday and Saturday, 9am-9pm Sundays. caferuedix.com.
A favorite spot for remote workers to work from through the mornings, Daughter is filled with laptops and the smell of fresh coffee all day. In the evenings, the light dims and wine starts pouring as patrons sign out of their emails and wind down for the evening. The business shares 10% of monthly profits to causes that they are passionate about, like Ancient Song Doula Services, Heart of Dinner and For The Gworls.
1090 St Johns Pl. between Kingston and Brooklyn avenues. Monday to Friday 8am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm. daughter.nyc
Williamsburg Music Center
Back in the 80s, Williamsburg was at the peak of violence, poverty, and discrimination against people of color living in New York City. Composer, conductor and musician, Gerry Eastman sought out to open WMC to provide a safe space for musicians to perform and pay tribute to the African musical diaspora.
367 Bedford Ave. between South 4th and South 5th streets. Thursday to Saturday, 9pm-12:30am. wmcjazz.com
Stuart Cinema & Café
Producer Emelyn Stuart grew up in Sunset Park, and she remembers how she had to go to Bay Ridge to watch movies at Alpine Cinema, since there were no movie theaters in her neighborhood. Now, she is set to expand her business this summer and open a second theater — the first Sunset Park has had in the last 40 years.
Stuart Cinema is one of the theaters that hosts the most film festivals in New York — she is always looking to give local filmmakers a place to show off their work.
79 West St. between Greenpoint Avenue and Milton Street. Schedule changes according to showings. stuartcinema.com.
Brooklyn Clay Industries
Ceramic master and art teacher Reuben King has created a space where people can explore their creativity, appreciate the process of crafting, and loosen up. Brooklyn Clay Industries offers a BYOB introduction to pottery wheel class, a 10-week pottery program, a hand-building course, private master classes, plus standalone classes and date night events. The space is both a studio and a gallery that provide affordable working space for displaced ceramic and sculpture artists.
Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Ave., Building 62. Tuesday to Friday, 3:30pm-8:30pm. Saturday and Sunday, 12pm-6:30pm. brooklynclayindustries.com
LaParis Phillips tried her luck in the fashion industry, but it wasn’t a good fit for her. Now she uses what she learned about color and texture to crafted flower arrangements that age beautifully over time. Brooklyn Blooms offers bouquets, flower crowns, and even a special “BedStuy Collection” inspired by the nabe.
433 Nostrand Ave. between Jefferson Avenue and Hancock Street. Tuesday to Friday, 11am-7pm. Saturday and Sunday 12pm-5pm. brooklynbloomsfloral.com.