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Washington's "Shop Black" Holiday Market spotlights Black-owned small businesses serving the DMV

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Lamar and Kathy Wilson, founders of Blush Box Curated Gifting, display their one-of-a-kind Blush Boxes at the "Shop Black" Holiday Market. (Julian Mitchell/Washington Football Team)

Bud Light Party Pavilion on Monday night surprised attendees with a host of items rarely seen at a football game. The tents that lined the concrete path were filled with candles, dog clothing, handmade jewelry, hair products and dessert offerings. The goods and services that glowed on these tables just inside the stadium gates were curated for a special occasion -- the Washington Football Team's inaugural "Shop Black" Holiday Market powered by Vistaprint.

"I think this event is just amazing," Kathy Wilson, owner and founder of Blush Box Curated Gifting, said. "Often times minority-owned businesses are overlooked and it's very difficult for us to compete with the big box retailers and other folks in our space. It's just the most rewarding thing to have this type of event to showcase just for us."

Nearly twenty Black-owned small businesses serving the DMV area were spotlighted in Monday night's "Shop Black" Holiday Market. The event set out to amplify the powerful stories behind these businesses, support vendors during the all-important holiday season and spread awareness about the importance of shopping Black. A full list of featured businesses can be found at the end of this article.

Nikki Thompson-Howard knows firsthand how transformative it can be for a small business to get out in front of even just a handful of new eyes. That's how Nikki and her sister, Jaqi, saw their business grow from the ground up.

In 2018, the sisters got furloughed from their jobs as federal employees. Shortly after, Nikki attended a church celebration toting her sweet potato cheesecake and, after delighting the tastebuds of her fellow congregation members, a business idea was born. Three years later, The Furlough Cheesecake operates a brick-and-mortar store in Oxon Hill, Maryland and ships their sweet treats around the country. News of the Shop Black Holiday Market came with a lot of excitement for the entrepreneurial siblings and lifelong Washington fans.

"We are honored to participate in this very first event," Nikki said. "Organizations sometimes only focus on their bottom line and the fact that the Washington Football Team is looking at the community, looking at things that are going on in society and making a conscious decision to help and support those segments of society that need some extra help, it's really amazing."

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That focus on the bigger picture, of continuously moving the needle towards racial justice and equity, has been a priority for the franchise in recent years as seen in the establishment of the Black Engagement Network (B.E.N.) "Shop Black," an initiative propelled by B.E.N., comes from an understanding that, historically, Black business ownership has often been ignored, unsupported or actively discouraged.

Providing continuous support, awareness, promotion and resources remains important for business advancement, particularly on the heels of the pandemic. As one of a variety of activities and gameday activations centered around the NFL's Inspire Change game initiative, the "Shop Black" Holiday Market is part of a larger movement to increase access to opportunity and help forge pathways for economic progress for all. Other programming on these topics spearheaded by the team includes a Black small business bootcamp, COVID relief grants and features on the Washington Football Team social and media channels.

"Events like this are important so we can reach people that we may be unable to reach at the level that we're at," Shannon Thornton, owner and founder of Sole Girl Fashion Market, said. "It's important for us to network with other Black-owned businesses and just get our name out to a different customer base."

Standing behind a display of colorful boxes she handpicked goodies for and packed herself, Kathy Wilson can rattle off a number of positives that may come with her presence at the holiday market. But, what's more exciting for the army vet and businesswoman? The potential benefits she can't name today.

"I'm excited about exposure, the networking opportunities, the ability to leverage our fanbase and our management." Wilson said. "And anything else that can come our way, because you never know what opportunities can come just from this."

"Shop Black" Holiday Market featured businesses:

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