Lanie and Char Edwards understand how tough running a small business can be. The Pittsburgh natives moved to Los Angeles to grow their business by participating in several pop-up events, but quickly realized none of the other vendors looked like them and they decided to change that.
“I hadn’t been to many pop-ups before, so I’d never attended or been a part of all-Black business pop up, so the idea just popped up that my sister and I do an all-Black block party type of thing,” Lanie tells ESSENCE.
The two instantly came up with the concept of Black On The Block, a fun one-off Juneteenth event aimed at supporting local Black businesses.
Once word got out, Target became involved and signed up to volunteer and more than 1,000 people attended. But most importantly, Black founders directly benefited.
“A lot of the vendors said that they made the most money they’ve ever made at any other vendor fair,” Lanie tells ESSENCE.
The event was so well-received that the duo decided to scale it into a monthly series to not only continue provide business owners with a consistent pipeline of economic growth, but to also provide some Black joy.
“People really enjoy themselves and we see that every month,” Char tells ESSENCE, explaining that the monthly series features live entertainment, a space for dancing and DJs. “It’s really gratifying.”
Each month, the event boasts between 100-150 vendors, and vending fees are $250 per event. But in true charitable fashion, the sisters are offering support for those who can’t afford the monthly expense.
“In honor of National Black Business Month, our 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Black on the Block Community Outreach Inc, will be assisting hundreds of small, Black-owned businesses with their vendor fees towards any festival, pop-up, farmers market, flea market, or similar events,” the sisters shared via Black On The Block’s Instagram post.
Those who apply by August 31 and awarded will receive $250 to not only cover the fee of vending at Black On The Block, but also any market of their choice.
“We want to make sure that if you’re interested in us in anyway, you’re taken care of, from the vendors, to attendees to even our followers,” Lanie, pointing out that Black On The Block was created to feel like a family-centered brand.
“Our mom is the CFO, and often we tag team on decisions seamlessly—no one is going to care more about your company than your family, you know?”
Two years in, the sisters are ready to take over the world.
“We’ve definitely discussed taking Black On The Block on the road to do multi-city pop-ups with the goal of taking it internationally,” Lanie tells ESSENCE. “We keep hearing that it’s something other cities want to experience and we’re here for it. But mostly, we want to try and expand and do more to help small businesses. That’s what it’s always been about.”