Black women continue to represent the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the United States and the innovative ladies behind NYC’s new Uptown Underground marketplace are on a mission to turn that statistic into a thriving force.
An intimate gathering of small businesses created, owned and operated by Black women, the Uptown Undergroundmarket place event series began as a way for founders Vanessa Wells,Veronica Wells and Andrea Reed to provide a profitable platform for their own individual ventures. Much to their surprise, when they actually brought their initial concept to life, it grew into something even bigger.
“We started Uptown Underground Market in December 2016, on a whim, really,” Vernoica tells ESSENCE. “Andrea makes fly jewelry, Vanessa is always creating dope products for the culture, and I had just written a book. We were three creative Black women who were looking for a way to showcase and profit from our talents. And instead of waiting for someone else to give us an opportunity, we decided to create one for ourselves. The idea may have been conceptualized as a way for us to promote our side hustles; but in action, it immediately became a vehicle to spotlight other Black women entrepreneurs who are also doing incredible work.”
In less than a year since holding their very first event, the ladies have a seen a steady increase in both vendors and consumers. Shoppers who come out to the marketplace can expect to find a wide range of items available for purchase, including apparel, jewelry, headwraps, skin care products, handbags, books, stationery, cosmetics and even food — all uniquely created by and for Black women. The trio is currently hard at work preparing for their next event on November 25, which will see double the number of vendors come together in a new location.
“In our third market, we’ve doubled the number of Black women vendors from 10-20, secured a new, more shopper-friendly location in Harlem and have developed a new and more effective marketing strategy,” Veronica adds.
Appropriately boasting the tagline “a market to empower Black women,” the Uptown Underground marketplace is certainly living up to its’ name.