Inspiring Local Black Owned Businesses

My dear friend Whitney Robinson is an inspiration on so many levels. Somehow despite whatever challenges she seems to get herself into (and she always gets herself into them) she perseveres with a positive outlook, digs in further, and does it all while looking a lot more stylish than you too. Did I mention yet that she has four kids under the age of six, that she delivered more than one of them at home (before help arrived) and recently had another at the beginning of Covid who is currently in the NICU? And yet.

She is also currently running her business The Renee which exists as a series of “jam sessions” (intimate conversation-lead events both in person and virtually) for women of color to talk and change the narrative about their bodies and children, one idea at a time. Black women face significantly more complications and likelihood of mortality in pre and post pregnancy, as well as in delivery, than white women. It is a serious issue that needs addressing.

Recently, Whitney held a virtual jam session with Stacey Abrams who many of us are hoping will become the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. You can find out more about Whitney’s work at The Renee and on instagram here.

Wonderpuff is a gourmet cotton candy company run by Jackie Michele but to say it is just cotton candy would also be an understatement. Her mission is to not only bring sparkle to the world through her confections but also her voice and perspective. The handmade cotton candy is both vegan and organic with flavors such as roasted honey pear, orange cardamom and lemongrass CBD. To follow her on instagram is one thing, but to get the true experience, you need some cotton candy. Actually, you need cotton candy, but most of all, you need Jackie. She is an empath (we both cried just in a few seconds of talking to each other because our energies were bouncing off one another) and she cares so much about bringing encouragement and positivity in the world that it spills over into everything she touches. She is currently shipping out cotton candy via mail-order and you can find the details on her instagram account here.

Gretchen Campbell of Grow, Encourage, Empower, is a therapist at Gather Studios in downtown Cary whom I have gotten to know over the past year of her being here. She specializes in helping teens, tweens and millenials through therapy as well as meditation, yoga and wellness events. Gretchen is an empowering and encouraging person and I love seeing the space filled with so many young girls who are being mentored and steered by her. Gretchen is currently offering telehealth sessions. You can find out more on her website here or on her instagram.

Speaking of yoga, Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and writer based in Durham, North Carolina. She has currently received a significant amount of attention and you may have already seen her on Good Morning America, The NY Times or one of the other places she has been featured.

Jessamyn offers yoga classes online through her business The Underbelly which you can follow here. You can follow Jessamyn on her other instagram account here. In addition, she has a podcast called Dear Jessamyn which you can follow here.

If you haven’t had Chef Ricky Moore’s food at Saltbox Seafood you are missing out. It is some of the best food in the Triangle and that is saying a lot. His business started in a little shack with pick-up only and has expanded to two locations. He was recently a semi-finalist in the prestigious James Beard awards (the Oscars of food) and also just released a cookbook.

You can taste his food in person at one his two restaurants located in Durham (I still recommend the original take out spot) and find more about the restaurant here on his website. You can follow him on instagram here.

Nail Yeah is a nail spa in downtown Raleigh owned & operated by Crystal Clark and she makes the most amazing nail art. If you can think of a design, she can make it. You can find out more about Nail Yeah on her website here and on instagram here.

Tall Grass Food Box is a weekly food box supporting Black farmers by increasing their visibility and securing space for them in the local marketplace. Every other week they pull together fresh produce from Black farmers across NC and put together a box to be picked up. You can find out more on their website here or their instagram here.

Clarence Hayward is a Raleigh, NC (by way of Brooklyn, NY) artist whose work seeks to investigate cultural truths and challenge stereotypes. He currently is a fellow at Anchorlight Studios. You can read more about him and purchase prints of his work on his website here and you can follow him on instagram here.

I first met Cicely Mitchell many many moons ago when I first moved to North Carolina. At the time she was running a shopping focused e-newsletter in her spare time and working as a biostatistician during the day (which she still does by the way) and together we would talk about producing events. This was before either of us created our separate events, my Rock & Shop Market and her The Art of the Cool Festival. Cicely is inspiring because her vision and focus has remained consistent but has still evolved over the years. Last year she sold The Art of the Cool but now produces The Summer Stage at Golden Belt which celebrates “all things Durham” with art, food and music. You can follow Cicely on her instagram here and learn more about SummerStage here.

Bright Black is the husband and wife team of Tiffany and Dariel. Durham based candle makers whose goods are intended to serve as a platform for sharing positive narratives about Blackness. You can purchase their candles at their website here and you can follow them here on instagram.

NorthStar Church of the Arts in downtown Durham was started by Phil & Nnenna Freelon. It was founded upon the principles of worship through performing and visual arts with the belief that creative arts offer an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and each other. The church was built in 1930 to serve the deaf and hearing inspired community. Their mission is to create community at the intersection of spirituality and creative practice. From their website “Disproportionate numbers of black, brown and others have been pushed out of the city center in the name of progress. Part Of NorthStar’s mission is to hold space for all people to pray and play in downtown. In light of sweeping changes in Downtown Durham the need for a creative spiritual space is needed now more than ever. ” You can find more about this space at their website here and on their instagram here.

Jeddah’s Tea Room is a tea shop in downtown Durham owned by Morgan Siegel with loose leaf teas come from Brazil, Egypt and Senegal, among other locations. You can purchase tea concentrates on her website here and follow her on instagram here.

Raleigh Rose Garden in the time of Covid

My daughter and I attempted to get out of the house and take in some nature earlier in the week by visiting Raleigh’s Rose Garden which is currently in full bloom. We were greeted by lots of construction fencing and machines, though the garden is open despite that, it was closed when we came because they had just sprayed pesticides on the blooms. Here are some of the images that I captured from that short trip:

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co

Art Inspiration: Michelle Morin

I recently started following artist Michelle Morin on instagram. Her work is lush and detailed featuring tropical plants, landscapes and other textured nature-inspired patterns. Her work is multi-layered and busy but somehow still subdued. I really love it. She began her work as an artist while working as a private gardener in Cape Cod. Inspired by the plants around her she began sketching and painting during work breaks in the garden. Since then she has been painting and creating surface pattern designs for over 16 years. You can purchase her work on etsy, follow her on instagram or check out her website for more information.

Images via Michelle Morin’s instagram

Shop Local Downtown Cary Apparel Fundraiser for Dorcas Food Pantry

I created a “Shop Local Downtown Cary” line of shirts for men, women, and kids, (plus hoodies and stickers) to show support for all of our local business neighbors and the Dorcas Ministries Food Pantry, also located here in downtown Cary, NC. 100% of the profits from these items will go to the Dorcas Food Pantry which provides free, emergency food assistance. These items are currently available via pre-order meaning I will contact you after your order is placed to let you know when your item has been made and is ready for contact free, curbside pickup.

You can find all of the items here:

Please help me to spread the word and show your local love/pride. 💗