Like many people during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tenaeya Rankin was looking for a way to take her mind off of what was happening in the world outside.
She began to experiment with making enamel pins, featuring inspirational and lifestyle messages that promote Black and African-American culture in America, she said.
“Basically, getting all my ideas out of my brain and onto paper,” she said.
On Saturday, Rankin sat behind a table in the center court of the Francis Scott Key Mall with products from her business, Purrfect Ten Swag Shop, at a showcase for Black-owned businesses.
It was only her second vendor event, she said, and she has mostly promoted her work through her store online.
Expos for Black-owned businesses help businesses like hers connect with people, she said, and she hoped people could find products they could relate to.
August is Black Business Month, and the events like the one on Saturday are a way to show support for the community, said Marvin Thompson, CEO of Marketing Solutions and Events, which organized the showcase.
On the other side of the mall’s fountain from Rankin’s table, Joyce Henry of Heritage Creations sat behind a table filled with pillows. Many of them featured pictures of performers such as Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, Marvin Gaye, and Beyonce.
She started out making pillows for a few friends, who suggested that she should be selling them.
She started coming to expos like the one on Saturday in her spare time about six years ago.
“Because of the pandemic, of course, I had a little more spare time than I used to,” she said.
For Joyce Kwamena-Poh, her business NKU Shea Butter is also “very, very part time,” although she enjoys making her own products.
“It’s both a business and a hobby,” she said.
Kwamena-Poh, a native of Ghana, started making body and hair butter about 13 years ago.
She also makes jewelry, bringing beads from Ghana to make bracelets, key chains, and other items.
Bracelets can be made pretty quickly, but waist beads and more complicated items take more time, she said.
Malik Adisa-Ajene began studying holistic medicine in the mid-2000s, making combinations of various herbal remedies.
Last November, he started vending his products for Spiritual Pathways Holistic Healing on a regular basis, going to shows in the Frederick, Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County areas.
Before that, he focused on his website, he said.
His interest in holistic medicine began when he got sick in 1995. While doctors tried to find what was wrong, Adisa-Ajene moved to a more vegetarian diet and eventually became completely vegan.
He wanted to look for ways to stay healthy other than taking lots of prescription medicines, and learned about nutrition and herbal remedies, he said.
As more information on holistic health has become available, it’s piqued the interest of people who want to take responsibility for keeping themselves healthy, he said.
Frederick, where Adisa-Ajene was born and raised, has become a more productive market for holistic health in recent years, he said.
“It’s picking up, but we still have a ways to go,” he said.
Follow Ryan Marshall on Twitter: @RMarshallFNP