Two years after writing about Black businesses in America, I decided to revisit the community of Inglewood, California to talk to the companies that I had previously interviewed.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jamz Creamery and Mama Sunshine’s Treasures were still open and going strong. However, A New You Barbershop and Beauty Salon, owned and operated by Mr Eric Muhammad did not survive the pandemic and had to close. On the bright side, though, he owned another Barbershop in the Las Vegas area so here’s hoping that that business stood up to the ravages of the pandemic.
It was good seeing Mr Jay Allen again, the 51 year old owner and operator of Jamz Creamery, a state of the art ice cream shop. Open for almost six years, the ice cream side of the business was up and running but he expanded the store to have seating accommodations and that took a little while. The seating section has now been open for almost two months so the entire shop is open now.
To recap, Mr Allen worked for an air conditioning/heating company and also for himself in the same field. He had to work hard and save his money to come up with the $50,000 needed to start his business. None of the banks would give him a loan.
Five years into working and saving, he had the money to lease the premises and “bit by bit, piece by piece, doing my own thing and working for the air conditioning company I was able to open ” and then he started working for himself.
On the different flavors of ice cream that he sells, Jamz Creamery boasts 29 different varieties including Butter Pecan, Salty Caramel, Cotton Candy, Cookies n Cream and the tried and true Chocolate Vanilla and Strawberry. All the ice cream are churned on the premises. Some of the toppings are Cherries, Rainbow Sprinkles, Peanuts and Almonds to name a few.
I asked Mr Allen if he had a house special and sure enough he did. It’s called “The Jazz”, an ice cream cake sandwich made with your choice of four different cakes; Red Velvet, Lemon, Chocolate or Yellow Cake. Scrumptious indeed.
Do you have any advice for someone starting a business I asked. “Figure out a way to save money “, he said. “Have a partner who is as involved and as interested as you are. ” His family were his partners and they played a huge role in getting the business up and running. Sometimes he faced adversity, he said, no money to pay the rent at home or for the business but “the Lord always made something come through every time. We’re just coming out of a pandemic, but God is good so we will make it. “
With the new Rams/Chargers stadium up and running, Mr Allen is optimistic and is expecting an overflow of traffic to support his business.
Jamz Creamery is located at 231 E Manchester Blvd. in Inglewood.
My next stop was with Mama Sunshine, a pleasant, effervescent African American entrepreneur, whose real name is Joya Settle Brock. She was named Mama Sunshine by the art community in Atlanta where she lived before moving to Los Angeles.
She studied art education at Alabama State University and has always supported the arts. She did art exhibits and art gallery shows in Atlanta and worked in corporate America for awhile but she felt as if she was “dying” that she had to do something “creative ” so she started getting back into the art scene by selling baskets of incense with an original piece of artwork with each basket.
Everyone loved the originality, so much so that they kept the artwork as keepsakes and started collecting the baskets with the artwork, and this was how Mama Sunshine started.
After moving to Los Angeles, she started doing expos and poetry nights at different campuses and conventions and worked as an art therapist. A teacher took notice of her drive and enthusiasm so, along with her husband, he invested $10,000 into her business.
Mama Sunshine has been in Inglewood for 11 years and was open right through the pandemic. Using innovation and wit, she placed a table at the door of the store so customers could stand there and order what they wanted and she would get the item(s) for them. She also used her online store which she had for years but which the customers never really took advantage of until the pandemic hit. Now that business has picked up tremendously especially for the convenience.
She also did housecalls, delivering the products herself. She prides herself as always being of service, having been a waitress in college and knowing how to serve and give her customers the best deals. The housecalls have ended, but in store and online shopping are still going strong.
Mama Sunshine does hair too. Natural hair. At her shop. No perms or chemicals but instead braids, locks, henna dyes and other hairstyles in that vein. The locks start from $150 and the natural styles from $100. Her best seller is Mama’s Mudd Whipp leave in conditioner that I indulged in by buying a jar of it and I have to say even my hands feel silky smooth! But if you ask her, everything in the store is a great seller, from the body oils to the soaps to the very popular Shea Butter which was sold out at the time of this writing.
She even has Mama Chinatown where she sells goods for pain relief, copper jewelry, organic teas, essential oils, massage oils and a wide variety of products to encourage wellness, and with the help of two assistants she has more time to concentrate on her customers.
Again I asked about the overflow of traffic expected from the Rams/Chargers new stadium. She said she was “excited ” at the prospect of more business coming into the community. She also reminded me that the Metro train service is almost finished, and during the pandemic, the people at Metro would actually call her once per week or every two weeks to see if she needed anything, and they even presented her with an achievement award. They encouraged her to hold on because the Metro rail was almost completed so that with the stadium would definitely be a win win situation.
In closing I asked Mama Sunshine what advice would she give to her younger self about starting a business. She said “don’t listen to the naysayers, don’t doubt yourself and keep a positive mind. Keep going through it all and good things will come. Just hold on and whatever you do don’t give up “. Sage advice.
Mama Sunshine’s Treasures is located at 124 S Market Street in Inglewood and her hours are from 11:30 am to 7 pm Tuesdays to Saturdays.
It’s good to see that Black businesses are finally thriving in America and hopefully the banks and other lending agencies will be more open to supporting them.
Dorrette G. Young
firstname.lastname@example.org Sept 30, 2021