There are so many fires right now, it can be hard to figure out which one to put out. A Black woman founder is fighting for her womanhood to be respected, for her skin to be decriminalized, for her business to stay alive, and sometimes for her sanity amidst all of these things. As a Black woman founder, I know this all too well. Which is why I loved the opportunity to chat with the founder of Nilist Spoon & Theory Handmade, about being a Black entrepreneur in Minneapolis in the current environment.
Bea is the founder of Spoon & Theory Handmade, an online creative arts, jewelry and aromatherapy goods store. The store offers everything from upcycled leather and eco-inspired laser cut jewelry to aromatherapy body and home goods.
How has COVID-19 impacted Spoon & Theory?
During the COVID-19 crisis, Black-owned businesses have been hit the hardest. This isn't new. We always seem to be hit the hardest. Spoon & Theory has pivoted a bit to accommodate the new reality, and started, like many other brands, producing masks. But Bea hand-sews these masks (the handmade in the brand name is not for naught). In fact, Bea learned how to sew specifically so that she could help make triple-layer masks for those who need it the most during this pandemic.
How have the protests impacted Spoon & Theory?
According to Bea, there has been an overwhelming amount of activity in Minneapolis, but sometimes, some of the Black-owned businesses get left behind. It’s not just the businesses with broken windows that need help. There are only retailers, like Spoon & Theory, who are impacted by diminished sales and less resources/time, but are not receiving the inflow of grants and other attention that some storefronts, many of which are not Black-owned, have been getting.
Bea also told me that she grew up in Minneapolis, just about 5 blocks away from where George Floyd was murdered. She knows that the neighborhood has changed in many ways, but some of the same things continue to happen there. It’s disheartening, but Bea noted that the community is really mobilized to make change right now, and she is hoping that change will reach everyone who needs it.
How did Bea come up with the idea for Spoon & Theory?
Bea was a professional dancer, choreographer and costume designer before a car accident in 2009 that left her relearning how to walk and do many activities that she had previously considered normal, such as doing her hair. As she recovered, and reclaimed her crown, she started making her own hair products to nurse her locks back to health alongside her body. With the encouragement of friends and family, she finally got up the courage to start selling her products to the public at pop ups and markets. Spoon & Theory slowly evolved to sell the eco-friendly jewelry and other products that it has available today.
What is a challenge of running a business like Spoon & Theory?
Bea explained that she has not yet built out a social media presence for Spoon & Theory because social media can be a bit overwhelming for her following her accident. But having a website now without social media is like being in the middle of an ocean without a sign. The internet is vast, and small retailers can get lost in the current. Bea noted that this is why platforms like Nile are so important to her, because we help to uplift and showcase retailers who don’t have that physical presence that says to the world, “we’re here!”
What is the best part of running Spoon & Theory?
Building something from nothing is an act of love like no other. Bea told me that Spoon & Theory is “like her diary.” She views the business as a therapeutic journey for her. Making the products that she sells has “helped her heal because she makes what makes her feel better.” There is something powerful in knowing that you are buying products that are handmade with love and passion, and have already had a transformative effect on the world before even being shipped to you!
Shop with the code NILE15 on Spoon & Theory Handmade’s website to support Bea and her dope Black-owned business. You may also donate to her at this link: https://spoonandtheory.bigcartel.com/product/support-small-businesses