The Original Coloure Collective hopes to empower minority small businesses through photography
Creative people have a reputation for being quirky — living on the edge, introducing design trends and art movements considered “out there” by some.
That may be a fair assessment, but other characteristics of creative people include ingenuity and the ability to solve problems. Fashion designer/stylist Sara Crawford and photographer André Wright, Jr. are two such creatives who are using their unique vision to solve some of the problems brought about by the pandemic.
At her day job as program director at the Women’s Business Center at True Access Capital, Crawford was able to see firsthand the devastating effects COVID-19 was having on small businesses. In January, Wright came to Crawford and asked her to work with him on some editorial photo shoots to promote black artists and minority small businesses — groups that carried a deeper burden of the pandemic’s economic downturn.
Crawford understood the necessity of lifting up small minority-owned businesses, not just because the moment called for it, but also because of her roots in Wilmington. Her uncle was the first African American printer in Wilmington, and her grandfather owned small businesses on Wilmington’s East Side. She agreed immediately to Wright’s plan, and The Original Coloure Collective was born.
Crawford gets excited when she talks of the venture. “Here in Wilmington, we want to create a better place to live, to cohabitate in,” she said. “A place that will sustain us. This project is important because we are learning how to come together for the common goals to grow business and sow unity. There are so many things happening right now that are just dividing us. I think it is most important that we are working together. That’s where our story started.”
Why harness the power of photo shoots? Crawford explains: “It is a different way going about promoting these businesses. We are looking at it from the visual, digital, virtual space aspect, and what businesses and solo-preneurs need right now is to be able to communicate and engage with their tribes. We are doing press releases, pitching to magazines, bloggers, and media outlets so they can get maximum exposure. We also share the photos with the individuals so they can use them within their business and social media content. On the back end, we have a full social media directive with content that everyone who signs up on the project follows.”
Together, Crawford and Wright come up with a vision for each photo shoot. They work from a list of businesses and individuals, research to determine which businesses fit and would benefit from their vision, then reach out to the businesses. Since January, they have done two such editorial shoots and are planning a third.
The concept for their next shoot is neo-soul. They will be shooting at The Cooper, a new apartment building that just opened at 210 N. Market St. They plan to utilize the architecture, the courtyard, and perhaps have a cellist on hand to set the mood.
The second group The Original Coloure Collective wants to impact is black artists.
“We want to inspire and influence the creatives here in Delaware,” said Crawford. “The arts community has dwindled due to COVID, and we want to be a part of building that back up because arts are really important to our community — to our story. We want to show them that you still can be a business in Wilmington. Still be sustainable. You can still be creative.”
To that end, The Original Coloure Collective will be collaborating on artist installations. Their first one, entitled The Rumkake Universe, will take place Friday, June 4 from 5-9pm at MKT Gallery (200 W. 9 St., Wilm.). Collective member Andrew Major will premiere his comic book style art and sell copies of this book, Star Lit.
Now that the collective has a few events under their belt, they are hoping to reach back out to the businesses that have participated and ask if there was an influx of business after they helped promote them. The goal is to create a measurable level of impact with businesses as well as with artists.
Vanetta Springer, of V Class Makeup Artistry, worked as a make-up artist on the first two shoots. Springer said that since that experience, “traffic to on my website has increased more than 40%. I am completely booked every weekend for the next two months with weddings. I appreciate the opportunity I got to work with the collective.”
As their reach grows, The Original Coloure Collective hopes to scale up in terms of members.
“I don’t want to call it a production team because I don’t think that is what we are,” Crawford says. “I think of ourselves as brand architects. We are all about building up our community.”
— Follow the Original Coloure Collective @theoriginalcolourecollective