Many of the Richmond area’s budding, creative entrepreneurs — makers of fashion, art and food — are still looking to rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some are putting forth their work at a series of pop-up markets called “Holiday Villages” organized by the Richmond Night Market in partnership with Richmond’s economic development office and Brok Productions.
The open-air markets are held in different locations across the city. One market was held Dec. 4 at Brookland Park Boulevard and North Avenue in North Richmond. Another happened Dec. 11 at Forest Hill Park in South Richmond. The last markets of the year are scheduled from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the 17th Street Market in Shockoe Bottom.
One of the goals of the holiday pop-up markets is to give Richmond-area residents a chance to shop for “local and unique” products, said Adrienne Cole Johnson, a co-founder of the Richmond Night Market, a nontraditional business and creativity incubator that organizes pop-up markets.
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“We pride ourselves on having a unique mix of vendors — anything from jewelry to ceramics, stationery, candles — things for yourself, your house, your loved ones,” Johnson said.
Many of the vendors are either just getting started with their businesses or have been in business for a while and are looking to rebuild sales after the pandemic.
“We are still living through a pandemic,” said Melody Joy Short, the other co-founder of the Richmond Night Market. “Our attempt is to provide a platform. We talk about commerce, community and culture. That is our ongoing effort. Our hope is folks are a bit more intentional this year about shopping local.”
Here are some of the budding businesses at the markets:
Todd Parsons Designs
Among the merchants offering their creative works at the first Holiday Village on Dec. 4 in North Side was Richmond laser-engraving artist Todd Parsons, whose full-time job involves doing reproductions of work for artists in the Richmond area and beyond.
Yet Parsons has built a successful side business, Todd Parsons Designs, using his skills to create finely crafted earrings, purses and wall art.
“I like to call this my bubblegum money,” he said. “This is my therapy, for the most part.”
To make his stylish, colorful earrings and purses, Parsons uses a rather unique medium: plywood.
“Wood is my favorite medium,” he said. “It’s sturdy, it is light, and the laser, when it cuts, just lays a beautiful finish on the edges.”
Parsons started making his own creations about 10 years ago, when he made a pair of earrings for his pastor’s wife.
“It just took off from there,” he said. “Every time I think I might stop, they pull me back in.”
He sells his art at his studio and online at parsonstodd.com.
Jestina Taylor is utilizing the pop-up markets to sell authentic African clothing and accessories from West Africa made by her sister Famatta Kieh in Monrovia, Liberia.
Their business, Famatta Closet, carries her sister’s name.
“She is the seamstress behind everything,” said Taylor, who moved to the U.S. from Liberia in 2002. “She sews and makes the clothes, and it is shipped from Liberia to Virginia.”
“I am the face in front of it — the creative director and seller,” Taylor said. “Most of our stuff comes directly from Liberia and Ghana” in West Africa.
“Initially, I started selling African clothes to people that I knew,” Taylor said. “When I wore the clothes, it was admired by so many people, from the fabrics to the colors and how the items were being put together.”
The business sells fashion online at famattacloset.com, but the goal is to open a store eventually.
After some delays caused by the pandemic, Briana Williams is now getting her line of lipstick, lip balms and lip gloss out to customers through online sales.
“We are really mission-driven and vision-driven,” said Williams, the founder and CEO of LipLoveLine. “We are all about celebrating beauty and using good-for-you ingredients in our products. We have all-natural products.”
“We also help to support different organizations in the community that are connected to the health and wellness of girls and women.”
A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, Williams was inspired to create a line of beauty products in part by her own experiences as a teenager.
“I faced a lot of different health issues,” she sad. “One of the few things I could really talk about was my lip gloss. It really helped me to hone my personality and feel confident in different situations.”
With her business, “I wanted to create something that was affordable, accessible, simple and reliable.”
“A big part of my story is local,” said Williams, adding that she has received a lot of help creating her brand from local organizations such as VCU’s Brandcenter and the nonprofit business accelerator Lighthouse Labs.
“I launched all of the products in August after a year-plus design process,” she said.
The company sells online at liploveline.com.
As an environmental sciences student at George Mason University, Devine Peebles wants to help people find ways to use healthier, more sustainable products.
“I want to reduce the toxic load in people’s lives,” said Peebles, who has founded LyfeVine, a small business that sells candles, soaps, beauty products and jewelry made using all-natural and sustainable materials.
Peebles makes the products at her home in Richmond.
“So for my candles, I do not use fragrance oils,” she said. “I use essential oil.
“I also use soy wax which is more sustainable than traditional wax.”
Peebles is interested in pursuing a career in environmental law, though she also sees the possibility of her current venture growing into a bigger business.
“So far, so good,” she said of sales. “I am doing better than I expected.”
“The main thing I want to do is spread awareness just so people can be more conscious of what they are buying,” she said. “Consumers have a lot of power.”
The company sells online at lyfe-vine.com.
The Sweetest Thing
Richmonder Leonda Jiggetts is building The Sweetest Thing, a small business based on making cookies, cupcakes and chocolates that are a little out of the ordinary.
Her most popular creation, for instance, is her banana pudding cookies.
“I am specializing in unique flavors you can’t find anywhere else,” said Jiggetts, who also makes orange creamsicle cookies and cupcakes, along with cookies-and-cream-flavored cookies.
Her most popular cupcake is lemon blueberry, and she also makes a pina colada cupcake.
“I have always loved to cook,” Jiggetts said. “I used to bake with my mom in the kitchen.
“Some of my recipes come from her and then inspiration from my friends as well.”
The idea goes back to when Jiggetts was approached by a restaurant owner about supplying desserts.
While that particular venture didn’t work out, Jiggetts now sells her baked goods at local eateries such as Juice Life RVA — which sells vegan versions of her foods — at Pop’s Market on Grace and at Buttermilk and Honey in Henrico County. Jiggetts, who uses a commercial kitchen to make her foods, takes orders online for local delivery at thesweetestthingrva.com.
“It has been growing consistently for the past three-and-a-half years,” said Jiggetts, whose goal is to eventually open her own bakery.