Jae’da Turner carefully arranges racks of dresses and straightens bottles of hot sauce as she wanders inside her Newbury Street storefront. The 30-year-old founder of Black Owned Bos. is hosting a holiday pop-up this month, featuring more than 30 Black-owned vendors in a store just steps from Copley Square. It’s a world away from where she imagined she’d be over two years ago.
Back in 2019, Turner was working in marketing at the local sportswear brand ‘47 when she created the Black Owned Bos. account on Instagram.
“I love Boston. I’m born and raised here. I grew up in Dorchester,” she said. “I wanted an opportunity to showcase the the neighborhood, the city where I’m from.”
So she began visiting and photographing Black-owned stores she loved in the city, and posting their details to the account. It soon became a directory of sorts, with people reaching out to her asking to be added to her list. But while the account gained traction, Turner was content to stay behind the scenes — when this reporter first approached her about being quoted for a story, she demurred, saying she wanted business owners to get the spotlight instead.
That changed in 2020, when the pandemic upended the city’s small business community. Businesses owned by people of color were among those hit hardest, and suddenly the notion of shopping local had far larger impact. It was an “opportunity to rise to the occasion and actually support the businesses in a more intentional and direct way,” she said. Turner had also been furloughed from her job, so she was able to pour more of herself into her passion project.
That proved fortuitous a few months later, when, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed, consumers looked to shift their spending toward Black-owned businesses in support of economic justice. In a matter of weeks, Turner gained over 10,000 followers, and soon began fielding calls from local officials, members of the city’s business community, and real estate types all seeking her guidance on how they could support Black entrepreneurs. Eventually, it led Turner to take on the entrepreneur mantle herself.
Over the past year, Turner has worked with real estate development groups to host pop-up marketplaces at several malls in Greater Boston. She’s helped curate a Black-owned marketplace for the Seaport this holiday season, and has an incubator space at Bow Market in Somerville. A Black Owned Bos. app will launch soon. And of course she’s also running her own storefront on Newbury Street this holiday season through Christmas Eve.
“I think retail and taking up space is an important thing, especially in Boston,” Turner said. “Having space, having ownership is really a gateway to generational wealth and growth for families and for businesses. So that’s really the goal right now. It’s taking up space in places where you don’t see too many Black people, or too many Black businesses and just showing those businesses themselves that you can be here, you belong here.”
Janelle Nanos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @janellenanos.