MelaninCon celebrates black excellence and entrepreneurship in D.C

Native entrepreneur London Ward lately spent a number of hours on a Friday afternoon connecting with like-minded folks and spreading the phrase about Snob Nails Technician Faculty, a Temple Hills, Maryland-based college for aspiring nail technicians.

Dorian Kirkwood (second from left) of Krown Media speaks during a panel discussion at MelaninCon 2023 with entrepreneurs Abu Sillah (left) and Jerome Lewis (second from right). (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Dorian Kirkwood (second from left) of Krown Media speaks throughout a panel dialogue at MelaninCon 2023 with entrepreneurs Abu Sillah (left) and Jerome Lewis (second from proper). (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

Ward, a nurse-turned-nail technician, launched Snob Nails Technician Faculty in 2020. She did so after opening two nail salons and embracing a profession change that allowed her extra flexibility and a considerable revenue enhance crucial to lift a special-needs little one. 

Within the first 12 months of the Snob Nails Technician Faculty’s existence, Ward offered coaching for a number of younger folks at a low value. When grant funds ran out, she pivoted to promoting t-shirts, press on-nails, e-book luggage and different Snob Nails paraphernalia to subsidize what she considers a profitable training.

On Sept. 8, she showcased a few of these objects throughout MelaninCon, a multi-day occasion at Area Stage that attracted and united Black millennials of varied skilled backgrounds across the widespread aim of celebrating Blackness and tackling the litany of challenges dealing with the Black neighborhood. 

Ward stated that, by exposing Black folks to profession development alternatives within the nail tech business, she’s enjoying her half in fulfilling that mission. 

“We’re an enormous minority within the nail tech business,” Ward stated. “There’s an absence of training and mentorship, and we’re essentially the most artistic however have the least funding. That’s why I have to discover a option to get college students and make [my classes] reasonably priced. This ability has made me a seven-figure earner and stay life on my phrases. I’m not scared to provide the know-how.” 

MelaninCon: A Likelihood to Rejoice and Push Additional 

Ward counted amongst greater than 100 younger individuals who converged on Area Stage throughout MelaninCon, what founder Donovan Woodberry described as a “Celebration of Us.” 

On Friday, individuals flooded the foyer of Area Stage to community with each other. They later listened to panel discussions centered on model cultivation, navigating the Black enterprise panorama, monetary planning, holistically addressing youth crime, and psychological well being. 

Brandon Andrews, a casting director for ABC’s Shark Tank, gave a keynote deal with meant to make clear the equitable relationship between entrepreneurs and buyers. 

All through the weekend, MelaninCon took to the D.C. streets throughout a feed-the-homeless occasions alongside Benning Street in Northeast and in McPherson Sq. in Northwest. Members additionally flooded the picture sales space and danced the night time away at a Black Excellence Gala that featured Black-owned spirit manufacturers. Different seminal moments introduced individuals to Audi Area and La Vie in Southwest, and Pop Social in Northwest. 

In reflecting about MelaninCon, Woodberry stated that the three-day operate highlights how he has grown in his love for D.C.. 

Woodberry has known as the District dwelling since leaving College of Louisville in 2017 to immerse himself in what he described as a novel Black city expertise and construct upon a flourishing profession as an influencer, clothier and mannequin. He known as the District a big change from what he had encountered as a younger grownup at a predominantly white college. 

“I like D.C.’s sense of tradition and [being able to] see the various kinds of Black folks — these within the hood, these in authorities, and people from overseas,” Woodberry stated as he additional defined the inspiration behind MelaninCon. “I thought of our issues and created panels round that. There’s a wealth hole and it’s arduous to collaborate with folks so I wished to create the flame of optimistic Black affect on the neighborhood for collaboration.” 

Andrews, senior impression strategist with Values Partnership, expressed comparable sentiments in regards to the younger individuals who attended MelaninCon, saying that melanin represents the variety and uniqueness of the Black race. 

Within the spirit of collaboration, Andrews spent a portion of his keynote deal with providing to assist join entrepreneurs with assets that may assist them increase their enterprise ventures. 

“Donovan has introduced folks collectively for years and it’s good seeing the work culminate,” Andrews stated. “Our neighborhood has fantastic concepts and entrepreneurs and that is one other reminder. I’m at all times in search of people who find themselves passionate in how they present up. It’s necessary to know that after they’re with buyers, it’s worth for worth.” 

For One Particular person, a Journey Effectively Value It 

Kharisty Akins traveled greater than 1,300 miles to attend MelaninCon and additional discover her calling as a life coach. 

On Friday, Akins, a resident of Dallas, offered copies of her e-book “When By no means Occurs: Learn how to Navigate Life When the Surprising Happens.” She stated the e-book builds upon her neighborhood work by highlighting her therapeutic journey and showcasing how she’s been capable of overcome the challenges that life has thrown her manner. 

For the remainder of the weekend, she linked with different entrepreneurs whereas getting extra of a really feel for a metropolis she stated is ripe with alternative for Black folks striving to make a manner. 

“The assist for Black enterprise is thru the roof,” Akins stated. “The assist brings consciousness to develop into a greater particular person. I’m assembly folks from completely different walks of life and educating myself about what they received happening. It’s a two-way road and I’m studying to take my enterprise to the following degree.”