Welcome back! Spiffy here, your interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs working to make this world more equitable. Today I’m super excited to speak with Michelle Dalzon, founder and CEO of the Black-Owned Market, working towards UN SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Are you ready to be inspired?
Spiffy: Thanks for being here today, Michelle! I’m excited to chat more with you about the work you’re doing. To start, can you tell me what challenges the Black-Owned Market is addressing?
Michelle: Happy to be here, Spiffy, thank you for having me! As you know, I am the owner of a company called the Black-Owned Market but I also call it theBOM. The name means that we represent and empower businesses owned by Black people. I call it BOM for short because it was and still is a popular slang word from the ’90s which means cool, dope, amazing. The reason I focus on Black businesses is that I believe that entrepreneurship is the way out of economic struggle. I want to make sure that Black businesses have a platform where they come first and their products can be purchased easily.
Spiffy: That’s fantastic. What motivated you to do it?
Michelle: Growing up, I witnessed my parents run their own small business. The store they owned is called M&S Beauty Supply and it is the same age as I am. The name is the combination of the first initials in their names, Michelle and Sam. Every day after school, I would walk down the street to my dad's store and wait until my mom would pick me up to go home. In my grade school years, I watched my dad talk to customers, sell products, and provide for our family through a business he and my mom created. I knew that when I grew up I wanted to do the same. At an early age, I recognized that I wanted to be free and create my own schedule but still make money. I later learned that is one part of being an entrepreneur.
Spiffy: What an amazing and influential experience, Michelle. Can you talk about how theBOM is working to create a more equitable world?
Michelle: The murder of George Floyd last year forced everyone to wake up to the trauma and fear Black people live with every day. It took a pandemic and a killing on national tv to force people to wake up to what we face every living moment we breathe. That also forced everyone to focus on the support and investment in Black people in every aspect—more specifically, Black businesses. This placed an immediate spotlight on the work I have been doing since 2016. I have always wanted Black businesses to get the recognition they deserve so that they, in turn, can provide better lives for themselves and their families. It shows that when we invest in Black businesses, it has a direct impact on the communities in which we live.
Spiffy: Can you tell me about a recent milestone by your company and the impact it will make?
Michelle: We recently received our first big investment and were accepted into a fellowship called Visible Hands that will hopefully help us grow and expand. We are also in the process of a partnership with T-Mobile that brought us our most online orders in a single day. The impact of both of these milestones will allow us to further our mission to help elevate more Black businesses. This will allow for more exposure to audiences they may not have tapped into yet. Investment dollars also help me to grow my businesses so that I can hire the right people to create more tools to fulfill this mission.
Spiffy: It’s all connected, for sure, which brings me to my next question. Failure is a part of any process and I wanted to ask you to share an experience of it during your journey with the company. What did you learn from it?
Michelle: When I started my business, I did not receive any sponsorship and did not know what it took to even secure a sponsorship. That did not stop me though, I used the money I saved and the salary from my job to ensure I could host our first pop-up marketplace. I challenged myself at the beginning of 2016 to execute on this vision I had by any means necessary, even if that meant the funding would come out of my own pocket. I learned that I am powerful and capable of anything I put my mind to. I created something I wanted to see exist in the world and, because I did, it inspired so many people to do the same. It also shined a light on an untapped and overlooked market. It changed the way people view and interact with Black businesses.
Spiffy: That’s a powerful story, Michelle. What other kinds of important things have you learned?
Michelle: Life lessons have taught me that I am worthy of everything I want in this lifetime. Feelings of doubt, insecurity, and fear will all arise, but it is important to trust that voice inside you for the answers. We are all connected to answers, we just have to get still and listen within.
Spiffy: Before we close, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Michelle: Yes, Spiffy, you still have time to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Don't let anyone rush you for an answer. Be curious and explore things that grab your attention, and experience them as long as they are interesting to you. Do not feel the pressure from the outside world to perform. Do your best and be proud of your best effort, you will always be supported. I hope that wherever my words find you, you know that you are worthy and capable of anything.
Spiffy: That’s beautiful and inspiring, Michelle. It’s the perfect way to sign off today. Thank you very much for your words and your time, it’s been an honor!
Michelle Dalzon, founder and CEO of Black-Owned Market, is a business development professional and experienced marketer with a demonstrated history of working in the advertising industry. Her skillset covers everything from integrated marketing, advertising, editing, and television to leadership. Michelle received her BA in communications and economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Today, Michelle combines her passions and skillset to build and strengthen a platform for Black-owned businesses at theBOM aka the Black-Owned Market. (Nominated by Visible Hands. First published on the Ladderworks website on November 18, 2021)
© 2021 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Anushree Nande. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. Follow Spiffy’s interviews of founders building a more equitable world here.