12 Small-But-Mighty Businesses To Watch At CultureCon 2021

·7 min read

What started as a casual social gathering among friends inside a Harlem apartment has blossomed into an immensely influential networking event for upcoming creatives of color. CultureCon's annual conference first kicked off in 2016 after a creative activist by the name of Imani Ellis nurtured this shared sense of small community by founding an agency called The Creative Collective NYC. Both CultureCon and Ellis's established initiative serves to uplift multicultural communities through educational workshops and star-studded speaker events that open up space for Black and Brown brands to flourish.

We're proud to highlight 12 small-but-mighty businesses that will be making an influential splash at CultureCon 2021. From coffee to skincare, nail polish, and accessories, these BIPOC brands are navigating the industry with aplomb and high-quality products. Get the inside CultureCon scoop on the names that are forging a path for future small-business leaders — and, of course, score a few goods for yourself in the process.

Unbothered is an official media partner for CultureCon and Square is the presenting partner for this year's conference, providing additional support through the Small Business Market, featuring a selection of Black and Brown-owned businesses.

At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. All product details reflect the price and availability at the time of publication. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

<h2>Space Montrose</h2> <br> <strong>Founder</strong>: Leila Peraza<br> <br>Husband and wife, Carlos and Leila Peraza started Space Montrose back in 2010, and it is now home to over 200 entrepreneurs and hundreds of unique handcrafted art pieces. Head over to their site if you’re in the mood for some excellent window shopping and supporting this Texas-based retailer. From DIY kits to custom gift boxes, Space Montrose probably has something for you. <br> <br> “Our mission is to bring handcrafted goods from around the USA to the Houston community that is accessible to all…Visit Space Montrose and let our cards bring light to your day and our artist's stories inspire you. We hope you love our story as much as we enjoy serving the community.” <br><br><em>Shop</em> <a href="https://www.spacemontrose.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Space Montrose" class="link rapid-noclick-resp"><strong><em>Space Montrose</em></strong></a>

Space Montrose


Founder: Leila Peraza

Husband and wife, Carlos and Leila Peraza started Space Montrose back in 2010, and it is now home to over 200 entrepreneurs and hundreds of unique handcrafted art pieces. Head over to their site if you’re in the mood for some excellent window shopping and supporting this Texas-based retailer. From DIY kits to custom gift boxes, Space Montrose probably has something for you.

“Our mission is to bring handcrafted goods from around the USA to the Houston community that is accessible to all…Visit Space Montrose and let our cards bring light to your day and our artist's stories inspire you. We hope you love our story as much as we enjoy serving the community.”

Shop Space Montrose
<h2>Chuco Relic</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Chelsie Melendez<br> <br>After years of travel, Chelsie Melendez decided to delve back into her Juarez, Mexico roots by setting up her eclectic souvenir shop, Chuco Relic. In this Texas-based shop, you’ll find locally made products that highlight the talent of El Paso and her Chuco Town pride. <br> <br>“Her itching to start a business began after having her first child. Her husband, Carlos, pegged the idea to buy their mutual friends’ business; thus, the concept of Chuco Relic was born...Now your new favorite souvenir, curio, a gift store in El Paso, Texas it is the spot for locals, tourists, and transplants to feel real Chuco Town pride with locally sourced one-of-a-kind El Paso threads.” <br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://www.chucorelic.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Chuco Relic" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Chuco Relic</a></em></strong>

Chuco Relic


Founder: Chelsie Melendez

After years of travel, Chelsie Melendez decided to delve back into her Juarez, Mexico roots by setting up her eclectic souvenir shop, Chuco Relic. In this Texas-based shop, you’ll find locally made products that highlight the talent of El Paso and her Chuco Town pride.

“Her itching to start a business began after having her first child. Her husband, Carlos, pegged the idea to buy their mutual friends’ business; thus, the concept of Chuco Relic was born...Now your new favorite souvenir, curio, a gift store in El Paso, Texas it is the spot for locals, tourists, and transplants to feel real Chuco Town pride with locally sourced one-of-a-kind El Paso threads.”

Shop Chuco Relic
<h2>Just Add Honey</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Brandi Shelton<br><br>Just Add Honey was created by tea lovers for tea lovers. The brand's collection of unique flavors (Black Coconut, Cacao Chai, and Chocolate Mint to name a few) were made to break away from artificially-flavored, unenticing tea bags. Regardless of your preference, Just Add Honey wants you to find your tea niche and indulge.<br><br>"While scouring places for tea, we decided we would make what we wanted —combining flavors from around the world that were pleasing to the palate while still keeping it light and interesting, and Just Add Honey Tea Company was born. Fresh, fun, and sophisticated flavors combined with stimulating and soothing ingredients are in every cup...Our mission is to bring thoughtfully blended teas to your doorstep."<br><br><em>Shop</em><strong><em> <a href="https://justaddhoney.net/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Just Add Honey" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Just Add Honey</a></em></strong>

Just Add Honey


Founder: Brandi Shelton

Just Add Honey was created by tea lovers for tea lovers. The brand's collection of unique flavors (Black Coconut, Cacao Chai, and Chocolate Mint to name a few) were made to break away from artificially-flavored, unenticing tea bags. Regardless of your preference, Just Add Honey wants you to find your tea niche and indulge.

"While scouring places for tea, we decided we would make what we wanted —combining flavors from around the world that were pleasing to the palate while still keeping it light and interesting, and Just Add Honey Tea Company was born. Fresh, fun, and sophisticated flavors combined with stimulating and soothing ingredients are in every cup...Our mission is to bring thoughtfully blended teas to your doorstep."

Shop Just Add Honey
<h2>Hot Sam's Detroit </h2><br><strong>Founders</strong>: Lauren Stovall, Tony Stovall<br><br>If you’re looking for a taste of authentic Detroit flavor, take a look at Lauren and Tony Stovall’s apparel shop, Hot Sam’s Detroit. This retailer is filled to the brim with Men's fashion, that quite frankly, would make great Father's Day gifts. <br><br>"The Hot Sam's brand has always been synonymous with high-quality Detroit style. The story goes that in 1974 a couple of determined and hard-working young men worked their way up the retail ladder at Hot Sam's and in 1994 became owners of the very store they worked at, which makes this fashion and lifestyle label a true American/ Detroit dream personified." <br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://hotsamsdetroit1921.square.site/s/shop" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hot Sam's Detroit" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hot Sam's Detroit</a></em></strong>

Hot Sam's Detroit


Founders: Lauren Stovall, Tony Stovall

If you’re looking for a taste of authentic Detroit flavor, take a look at Lauren and Tony Stovall’s apparel shop, Hot Sam’s Detroit. This retailer is filled to the brim with Men's fashion, that quite frankly, would make great Father's Day gifts.

"The Hot Sam's brand has always been synonymous with high-quality Detroit style. The story goes that in 1974 a couple of determined and hard-working young men worked their way up the retail ladder at Hot Sam's and in 1994 became owners of the very store they worked at, which makes this fashion and lifestyle label a true American/ Detroit dream personified."

Shop Hot Sam's Detroit
<h2>Honor Roll Clothing</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Chris Duncan<br><br>Chris Duncan aims to tell the tales of unique underdogs and those who overcome tough challenges through his Atlanta-based unisex clothing brand, Honor Roll. On his college campus-themed site, you can find a collection of elevated wardrobe essentials and read all about influential people's stories in The Journal.<br><br>"We are explorers of truth. There are people across the world facing gut-wrenching challenges, from afar, would seem impossible to overcome. Yet with their backs forcefully pressed against the wall, they find a way to triumphantly survive. Those stories inspire the world’s Underdogs to overcome. We are dedicated to being the narrator for those stories that have yet to be told."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://honorrollshop.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Honor Roll" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Honor Roll</a></em></strong>

Honor Roll Clothing


Founder: Chris Duncan

Chris Duncan aims to tell the tales of unique underdogs and those who overcome tough challenges through his Atlanta-based unisex clothing brand, Honor Roll. On his college campus-themed site, you can find a collection of elevated wardrobe essentials and read all about influential people's stories in The Journal.

"We are explorers of truth. There are people across the world facing gut-wrenching challenges, from afar, would seem impossible to overcome. Yet with their backs forcefully pressed against the wall, they find a way to triumphantly survive. Those stories inspire the world’s Underdogs to overcome. We are dedicated to being the narrator for those stories that have yet to be told."

Shop Honor Roll
<h2>Iwi Fresh</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Yolanda Owens<br><br>In today's world, it's relatively easy to get your hands on sustainable skincare and beauty products, but at Iwi Fresh, Yolanda Owens takes it to a whole new level. Since 2003, Iwi Fresh has created farm-to-skin products — Owens produces her own crops with the intention to use them for skincare, rather than buying them from somewhere else. Shop this Atlanta-based business for natural skincare, hair products, and more.<br><br>"Inspired by her grandmother's home remedies. [Owens] began to create raw skincare products using the fresh ingredients from her garden, with each batch made from scratch. Her commitment to creating non-toxic, raw products fueled her FYSTT mission: Feeding Your Skin The Truth."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://iwifresh.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Iwi Fresh" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Iwi Fresh</a></em></strong>

Iwi Fresh


Founder: Yolanda Owens

In today's world, it's relatively easy to get your hands on sustainable skincare and beauty products, but at Iwi Fresh, Yolanda Owens takes it to a whole new level. Since 2003, Iwi Fresh has created farm-to-skin products — Owens produces her own crops with the intention to use them for skincare, rather than buying them from somewhere else. Shop this Atlanta-based business for natural skincare, hair products, and more.

"Inspired by her grandmother's home remedies. [Owens] began to create raw skincare products using the fresh ingredients from her garden, with each batch made from scratch. Her commitment to creating non-toxic, raw products fueled her FYSTT mission: Feeding Your Skin The Truth."

Shop Iwi Fresh
<h2>Pear Nova</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Rachel James<br><br>Back in 2012, Rachel James took her love for art and elegance to debut her vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand, Pear Nova. <br><br>"[Rachel] wants to create more luxury nail care and self-care products while encouraging women everywhere to indulge in elegance. She plans to continue supporting the causes she holds dear, such as domestic violence awareness and female empowerment. She intends to keep inspiring and being inspired by phenomenal women. And she hopes to enjoy every step of the journey."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://www.pearnova.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Pear Nova" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Pear Nova</a></em></strong>

Pear Nova


Founder: Rachel James

Back in 2012, Rachel James took her love for art and elegance to debut her vegan and cruelty-free beauty brand, Pear Nova.

"[Rachel] wants to create more luxury nail care and self-care products while encouraging women everywhere to indulge in elegance. She plans to continue supporting the causes she holds dear, such as domestic violence awareness and female empowerment. She intends to keep inspiring and being inspired by phenomenal women. And she hopes to enjoy every step of the journey."

Shop Pear Nova
<h2>Semicolon Books</h2><br> <strong>Founder</strong>: Danielle Mullen<br><br>Danielle Mullen continues to change the narrative of what "Black-book buying" and "Black bookselling" look like through her shop, Semicolon Books.<br><br>"Semicolon Bookstore is committed to nurturing the connection between literature, art, and the pursuit of knowledge; while also using the power of words to better our community." <br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://bookshop.org/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Semicolon Books" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Semicolon Books</a></em></strong>

Semicolon Books


Founder: Danielle Mullen

Danielle Mullen continues to change the narrative of what "Black-book buying" and "Black bookselling" look like through her shop, Semicolon Books.

"Semicolon Bookstore is committed to nurturing the connection between literature, art, and the pursuit of knowledge; while also using the power of words to better our community."

Shop Semicolon Books
<h2>Sir & Madame</h2><br><strong>Founders</strong>: Brian Merrit, Autumn Meritt<br><br>This vintage-inspired clothing and luxury lifestyle Chicago-based boutique was born as the lovechild of creatives Brian and Autumn Meritt back in 2007. Rather than settle for plain disjointed clothing, the creative couple filled the void for cohesive Men's and Women's casual wear with their all-encompassing brand, Sir & Madame. <br><br>"[Brian and Autumn's] passion and creativity has produced an eclectic combination of casual and elegant pieces for the stylish urban sophisticate who craves everything that encompasses urban living no matter where you are."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://sirandmadame.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Sir & Madame" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Sir & Madame</a></em></strong>

Sir & Madame


Founders: Brian Merrit, Autumn Meritt

This vintage-inspired clothing and luxury lifestyle Chicago-based boutique was born as the lovechild of creatives Brian and Autumn Meritt back in 2007. Rather than settle for plain disjointed clothing, the creative couple filled the void for cohesive Men's and Women's casual wear with their all-encompassing brand, Sir & Madame.

"[Brian and Autumn's] passion and creativity has produced an eclectic combination of casual and elegant pieces for the stylish urban sophisticate who craves everything that encompasses urban living no matter where you are."

Shop Sir & Madame
<h2>Ari & Arya</h2><strong>Founder</strong>: Ariana Sanchez<br><br>Chicago-based shop, Ari & Arya, provides high-quality and handcrafted artisan goods that represent Ariana Sanchez' rich family heritage.<br><br>"From my family to yours, there is a lot of love and careful attention behind each item I select. I hope you enjoy this labor of love for traditions as much as I enjoy bringing it to you."<br><br><em>Shop</em><strong><em> <a href="https://www.arixarya.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Ari & Arya" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Ari & Arya</a></em></strong>

Ari & Arya

Founder: Ariana Sanchez

Chicago-based shop, Ari & Arya, provides high-quality and handcrafted artisan goods that represent Ariana Sanchez' rich family heritage.

"From my family to yours, there is a lot of love and careful attention behind each item I select. I hope you enjoy this labor of love for traditions as much as I enjoy bringing it to you."

Shop Ari & Arya
<h2>Spirit Mountain Roasting Co.</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: Tudor Montague<br><br>Tudor Montague intertwines his passion for the craft of roasting and coffee into Spirit Mountain Roasting Co. Since 2015, this company has prioritized freshness, quality, and community — each sustainable and fair trade bag supports indigenous non-profit organizations and is made with intention. <br><br>"Our community includes not only the pipa, people of the Quechan Nation, it includes the entire coffee supply chain from seed to cup. We do our part by engaging in direct and fair trade with indigenous coffee farmers whenever possible...We support these communities by working with suppliers that align with our values. We select coffees which are produced sustainably (organic), exchanged fairly (fair trade), handled correctly (roasted with care), and (we hope) enjoyed thoroughly."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://www.spiritmountainroasting.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Spirit Mountain Roasting Co." class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Spirit Mountain Roasting Co.</a></em></strong>

Spirit Mountain Roasting Co.


Founder: Tudor Montague

Tudor Montague intertwines his passion for the craft of roasting and coffee into Spirit Mountain Roasting Co. Since 2015, this company has prioritized freshness, quality, and community — each sustainable and fair trade bag supports indigenous non-profit organizations and is made with intention.

"Our community includes not only the pipa, people of the Quechan Nation, it includes the entire coffee supply chain from seed to cup. We do our part by engaging in direct and fair trade with indigenous coffee farmers whenever possible...We support these communities by working with suppliers that align with our values. We select coffees which are produced sustainably (organic), exchanged fairly (fair trade), handled correctly (roasted with care), and (we hope) enjoyed thoroughly."

Shop Spirit Mountain Roasting Co.
<h2>Hogg Batch</h2><br><strong>Founder</strong>: David Hogg<br><br>Hogg Batch is where the strong flavors of coffee and whiskey harmonize. This Florida-based Black-owned business creates unique coffee experiences with high source and single-origin beans from around the world.<br><br>"HoggBatch Experimental Coffee Roasters is focused on creating unique coffee experiences that inspire creativity, adventure, freedom, and excellence...we age the beans in freshly dumped bourbon (or other spirits) barrels to extract the unique flavor notes from the spirits and barrel. Then we small-batch roast them to create a unique, delicious flavor profile."<br><br><em>Shop</em> <strong><em><a href="https://www.hoggbatch.com/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Hogg Batch" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Hogg Batch</a></em></strong>

Hogg Batch


Founder: David Hogg

Hogg Batch is where the strong flavors of coffee and whiskey harmonize. This Florida-based Black-owned business creates unique coffee experiences with high source and single-origin beans from around the world.

"HoggBatch Experimental Coffee Roasters is focused on creating unique coffee experiences that inspire creativity, adventure, freedom, and excellence...we age the beans in freshly dumped bourbon (or other spirits) barrels to extract the unique flavor notes from the spirits and barrel. Then we small-batch roast them to create a unique, delicious flavor profile."

Shop Hogg Batch

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