RaShaad Strong founded STUDIO-SOLE after getting fired from his job in April 2020. The Newark, New Jersey footwear business, which Strong founded and manages with his parents, comprises a consignment shop, an e-commerce site, and a “sneaker academy”–a class for those interested in learning about the sneaker industry. The store displays 3D-printed Nike Air Force One sneakers and custom shoes designed by academy students. Strong even has a store mascot, Taco, a pet iguana.
Strong is one of seven Black business owners featured in the Black History Month Stories In Place series. “Video connects us,” says Harris Beber, the Chief Marketing Officer at Vimeo. “It’s the most powerful medium we have today for human expression.” The video-solution company started Stories in Place last April to highlight small business owners during the pandemic.
To expand the project’s reach, this year Vimeo partnered with email marketing company Mailchimp’s in-house studio, Mailchimp Presents. The partnership produced seven shorts directed by Black filmmakers showcasing their favorite Black-owned businesses. Each filmmaker and business was awarded a $10,000 grant for their participation. Here are some of the highlights.
STUDIO-SOLE by Amandla Baraka
Baraka’s film takes viewers through Strong and his parents’ vision for STUDIO-SOLE. Strong’s father, Cory, recounts running around barefoot as a child. Living in the South, he says, he’d feel his feet burning as he ran–you could either turn back to the grass and shade or run to the other end. “We don’t retreat. We run to the other side,” Cory says. “That’s what we teach our kids.”
Harriett’s Bookshop by Raishad M. Hardnett and Aidan M. Un
This video looks at the story of Jeannine Cook’s Philadelphia bookstore, which takes its name and inspiration from abolitionist and activist Harriett Tubman. Opening just weeks before the pandemic, Harriett’s Bookshop celebrates women authors, activists, and artists. While Cook has created a vibrant community for Black women in the area, some elements of the business continue to be a struggle. For example, she’s still renting her storefront, and her lease is up in July. “Few of us own the buildings where we do our businesses,” Cook says in the video. “I am in some way a sharecropper. I am bringing energy and people to this location, but at any point, someone can say no more.”
Mosaic on a Stick by Travis Wood
Wood’s film follows Lori Greene, a multiracial artist and owner of a mosaic studio and community art space in St. Paul, Minnesota. Greene’s team of four speaks of her compassion as a leader and her family mindset. A mosaic artist herself, Greene loves to use “old, crusty looking” plates in her creations. She extends this practice in her efforts to foster a community through her store. Just as discarded items can come together to create something beautiful, “that’s true of people too,” she says. “We are all broken people trying to heal.”
Check out the Stories In Place website to watch the rest of the films.