Small businesses are the backbone of a community's economy, but when you add diversity into the mix, it takes the foundation to a whole new level.
Diversity and vitality can be felt throughout Tyler, Texas, as the area is home to a number of minority-owned businesses. Here is a glimpse of two and the entrepreneurs who are at the helm.
A Taste of Mexico
Anabel Magallanes, owner of Mita Artisan Shoppe, is the face behind this Mexican clothing, gifts and décor business. As a Latinx woman, the business reflects her culture.
“I started (the business) when my grandmother, Mita, passed away in 2017. I wanted to do something to keep her memory going because she always taught us about Mexico and its culture. And she loved to embroider.”
Magallanes was able to make that dream a reality in 2018. She started selling her wares in Canton, Texas, at the First Monday Trade Days, which is purportedly the largest outdoor flea market in the United States.
From a Dream to Reality
According to Magallanes, selling her products at the flea market was a great way to launch her enterprise, but the limitations imposed by the pandemic challenged her to rethink her setup. Fortunately, she was able to come to an agreement with her now landlord at the Bergfeld Center, located in Tyler’s Azalea District.
“I spoke with them and let them know what I had in mind for the store and what I was planning to sell, and they felt like it was a great match for the shopping center,” she says. “It’s one of the oldest shopping centers here, if not the oldest one, and it’s also historic. It was a great opportunity to come out here and be part of something important in town.”
In retrospect, Magallanes is confident in her decision because it’s bringing in both new and established business.
“Returning customers and our friends will ‘like’ us on Facebook, they’ll tag or shop and refer us to others. Plus, we have customers who come in and say, ‘a friend wore this shirt, and I asked her where she got it.’ So, little by little, they’re hearing about our store.”
Filling a Void in Town
Word of It’s Bout Time Beauty Supply Shop, co-owned by Tara Cooper, is also spreading. In 2008, she and her husband, both respiratory therapists at the time, moved to Tyler and saw an opportunity to bring a missing piece to the community. To their knowledge, there was not a Black-owned beauty supply shop in the area, which represented a void for this demographic.
One day, her trajectory changed when she had a feeling she simply couldn’t ignore. It was like God was telling her to think bigger, she says.
“Me being Black means I understand our hair. I have studied hair textures all my life. So, when customers come in here, and they’re having problems with their hair, I can help people of all races.”
It’s Bout Time Beauty Supply Shop
Cooper acted on her intuition and soon took the steps to open the storefront. Today, her business is more than a hub for transactions. She acts as a consultant for people of color who may have concerns about their hair and skin.
And Cooper says you don’t necessarily get that kind of customer service at other non-Black owned beauty supply stores.
“Me being Black means I understand our hair,” she says. “I have studied hair textures all my life. So, when customers come in here, and they’re having problems with their hair, I can help people of all races.”
Planning for the Future
Speaking of helping people, Cooper has three employees and would love to grow her workforce and the size and scope of her operation. She has a second location in the works now.
“One of the things I love to do is give back to the community that poured into us,” she says.