Campus Spotlight, Student Life

Bustling, beautiful, and Black: McGill’s Black Marketplace

You could hear the music floating out from down the hall, and of course, anyone passing by could see displays with brightly-coloured crafts and cosmetic products practically jumping off of them. To really capture the essence of the Black Marketplace, you had to have been there. 

Organized by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Black Affairs team, the first Black Marketplace brought local Black entrepreneurs, business owners, and community members to campus for Black McGill students and others to explore the wide range of goods and services on offer. 

The SSMU ballroom was transformed into a ring of tables, each covered with the wares of different Black-owned small businesses from around Montreal. Davido and Burna Boy were serenading as people strolled, shopped, and got to know a little bit more about each business and the entrepreneurs who took leaps of faith to turn their dreams into reality.

In between acquiring a hand-made Cameroonian bracelet and a fruit-charmed anklet, I caught up with a few of the business owners myself.

A duo of best friends was selling jewelry for their company, Noir Essentials. I stopped by their table and, after telling me about their business, we quickly got wrapped up in celebrity gossip, chatting like old friends.

This is, for Ebonee Myers, co-owner of the company, one of the biggest draws to running a small business. 

“Meeting people is probably the best thing,” Myers told me. 

Myers started Noir Essentials, a jewelry and athleisure-wear company just six months ago in March 2022. She runs the entire operation by herself and admits that, while keeping up with trends and administrative work can be hard, her love for custom jewelry and the incredible people she’s met along the way keep her going.

I then stopped by Nathan Garrett’s table, drawn in by silky durags embroidered with images of Stephen Curry and The Weeknd. Talking to Garrett was the most inspiring thing; you could feel his intelligence and creativity spilling into every word. He told me about his company, Empire Durags, which sells durags and sweaters with custom embroidery––all made by him. 

“[The best part of running my business] is all the things I’ve been learning about myself,” Garrett said.

Being the only person behind the company, which started in 2017, Garrett found himself lacking feedback, doubting himself, and having to figure things out alone. Studying others’ successes, asking “why can’t it be me?”, and plain old discipline taught him more every day and encouraged him to continue working harder.

I also had an incredible time talking to Yveline of YDS beauty. She had a huge smile beaming across her face, and her energy was infectious. We gushed at her display table overflowing with the most beautiful array of press-on nails you’ve ever seen. Like, Euphoria-level nail art. With my jaw firmly on the ground, we chatted for a few moments about how she created this empire of French manicures and sparkly 3-D embellishments. 

Yveline fell in love with doing nails in high school but found herself and her business in a tough spot when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. While lamenting to her Twitter followers and surfing social media, she was struck with the answer: Press-on nails. She leveraged her online following to launch YDS into what it is today, creating an entire sub-section of the business with easily removable and reusable nails. 

Like Garrett, Yveline advises future business owners to focus on growing both as a person and as an entrepreneur. “You have to always be learning,” she said.

Though many attended the event to shop and browse, walking around and chatting with everyone felt like a gift just for me. It wasn’t only the beyond-inspiring entrepreneurial spirit that overflowed the room, it was the pride and celebration of Blackness, too, in the university space. The event was an incredible way to kick off the year––and we can only hope that we’ll be seeing another Black Marketplace very soon.

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