Meet The Female Founder Making It Easier To Shop Black-Owned Brands

#PEIntensive18, female founders, Monday Motivation, retail, underrepresented founders

Mondays can be rough—sometimes we need a little motivation to get the week started. Our #MondayMotivation blog series brings you tips and life hacks from Project Entrepreneur Alumnae—female founders who applied to the Project Entrepreneur Venture Competition to attend our two-day PE Intensive and join a nationwide community of hundreds of women entrepreneurs. Get to know more about the PE Community and #beinspired by how these women motivate themselves each Monday to tackle the week ahead.

Michelle Dalzon is an alumna of the 2018 PE Intensive and the Founder and CEO of The Black-Owned Market (TheBOM), a curated shopping experience that makes it easy for consumers to buy from Black-Owned brands. Michelle has created dynamic pop-up marketplaces that connect Black business owners with their intended customers, and we caught up with Michelle to discuss what motivated her to build TheBOM, how she’s forging a new path in the retail space, and how she’s continued to bring awareness to Black-Owned brands since attending the PE Intensive.

Michelle Dalzon for WeWork J.Crew

Photo credit: Bryan Derballa

What inspired you to start your business?

I was inspired by my parents who are small business owners. They have owned a beauty supply store for the past 30 years in Massachusetts and that was my first job. It was the sole reason I was able to attend a private school and go to college. After college, I moved to New York and notice that there were more options to shop with Black-Owned brands but no easy or convenient way to buy from them.

Black people have $1.2 trillion dollars in buying power, but yet only $0.02 of every dollar goes back into black-owned business. I would attend flea markets and only see one or two Black vendors. This is why I decided to create a space that made it convenient to shop with Black brands all under one roof. Black business owners need more access [to their potential customers], and we [consumers] need more access to [Black-Owned brands].

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The only challenge I have faced thus far is keeping a consistent flow of revenue. I’ve used the pop-ups thus far as the MVP, but we are ready to take [things] to the next level. This would require us to have more money and more employees, so I am ready to raise a formal round of funding.

What’s been the greatest reward?

My biggest reward has been the reactions to the events or the consistent return of the same vendors. Ultimately, I served two customers: the business owners and the people that want to shop with them. My goal is to keep both parties happy because without either one, theBOM does not work.

What changes would you most like to see in your industry, and how are you working to make those changes happen?

Until Black-Owned brands are as convenient to shop with as their commercial counterparts, then my job is never done. And I want [Black] consumers to be able to either walk into their nearest store or visit an online marketplace and be able to shop all of their skincare, beauty, and haircare needs from a maker that looks like them.

Michelle Dalzon, Founder and CEO of The Black-Owned Market (TheBOM) and PE Intensive 2018 Alumna

Photo courtesy Michelle Dalzon

Who or what motivates you to keep going, even when things get tough?

My community. There is a huge gap in the marketplace that theBOM is filling. I want to be on the side of change that aids us into being proactive rather than reactive, so that the next time a company creates a campaign that is [insensitive or] racist towards our community, we have a place like theBOM where we can shop a variety of Black-Owned retailers as an alternative.

Can you provide a few updates on what’s new with your business or what you’ve accomplished since you attended the PE Intensive in April 2017?

Blavity hired theBOM to create a one-of-a-kind shopping experience for their conference-goers at their annual Summit21. We’re also gearing up for our last pop-up experience as we transition into the next phase of our business—the last pop-up will take place on November 24, Small Business Saturday. If we facilitate a pop-up in the future, it will most likely like be at your favorite conference rather than our own production.

Can you describe a problem you solved in your business that other early-stage founders face and tell us how you went about solving this problem? How can other early-stage founders repeat your success?

I think what I’m most proud of is the product I’ve built, the community I’ve fostered, and the future growth of my company. I would tell founders to focus on building a strong foundation while getting in front of their target audience. This builds brand loyalty and trust, because without that, you honestly have nothing. You can’t do anything without customers. As cliche as it may sound, it’s true.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out?

Budget, and save your money! [If you’re currently working full-time], keep working your main hustle until your company can become your main hustle. If [working full-time] gets overwhelming, then work a more flexible gig for extra cash: you can be a nanny, Lyft driver, or front desk operations at a coworking space. Do something that doesn’t take too much time away from you building your empire, [but brings in some cash].

For more motivation from our PE Alumnae, check out our interview with PE Alumna Staci Brinkman. Staci is the Founder and CEO of Sips by, a subscription service that helps people explore different teas. Staci is an alumna of the 2017 and 2018 Intensives, and we loved catching up with her talk about expanding her team, taking advice, and the crazy growth she’s experienced in the past year and a half.