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Seattle’s QueenCare is teaching young Black women how to be entrepreneurs

QueenCare owner, Monika Mathews, cuts the ribbon on her new space in the Central District. (Photo courtesy of QueenCare)

A few weeks ago, Monika Mathews was able to open a second location of QueenCare in Seattle’s Central District, selling her handmade, all-natural body oils, scrubs, and creams.

“If it wasn’t for Vulcan, we would not be able to be in this location here,” said Mathews about the new space she’s renting on the ground level of the Jackson Apartments. “Vulcan, along with a lot of African-American community members, advocated that these spaces be dedicated to Black businesses. Vulcan took it a step further to actually subsidize some of the rent so that Black micro businesses could actually afford to be in a beautiful location like this.”

“Where we stand right now, there used to be a plethora of Black businesses; it saddens me that they’re not here anymore,” she added.

Vulcan is a company started by the late Paul Allen, and the real estate branch is famous for redeveloping Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

But QueenCare is a whole lot more than shea butter creams and sugar scrubs.

“QueenCare was founded, actually, to support our nonprofit work through the Life Enrichment Group,” Mathews said. “We started a nonprofit 19 years ago to really help our youth academically, to provide positive mentorship for them, and to help them with economic development opportunities. Young Queens Seattle/King County is one of our longest running programs. It’s leadership and personal development for young ladies where we focus on self love, personal development, and academic achievement.”

Money spent at QueenCare goes right back into funding the nonprofit’s programs. Girls from Young Queens are eligible to partake in Youth In Business, a program Mathews developed to help young Black women start their own businesses.

“They receive a $600 stipend to help them with logos, collateral materials, inventory, and business plans,” Mathews explained. “We also host pop-up shops for them and we use our access and opportunity to promote them and their businesses. The second half of the program is more of them delving deeper into how to market, how to retain customers, and the professionalism of running a business. Then, from there, they fly! We’re always available to help them, even outside of the yearlong business development program.”

Nineteen-year-old Alexia Johnson started with Young Queens in 2015.

“Now I have Lexi’s Customz where I do customized resin art,” Johnson said. “Youth In Business helped me learn the marketing skills I needed and helped me get the inventory I needed, like the molds. It put me in a group of other girls that want the same thing that I do, to start their own business, want to be entrepreneurs, and want to be successful in life.”

Life Enrichment Group also facilitates tours of Historically Black Colleges, which is how Johnson was able to visit many schools back east.

“On the tour, we got accepted on the spot and so it gave me that experience of, oh, I can do this and I want to do this,” Johnson said.

Ninety-three percent of the the young women who take the college tour end up going to college.

Mathews also offers five paid internships each year at QueenCare, where the young women learn to make the beauty products, work in the shop, and learn about marketing and business plans.

“I think the most fulfilling thing is that all of our young ladies pretty much have become very altruistic, working in social service fields, working in fields where they give back,” Mathews said. “I think that is the basis of why we’re doing this; it really is about community development. I really am dedicated to making sure that the African American presence grows in the Central District. We want to welcome everyone to come and add to the vibrancy of this neighborhood.”

In honor of International Women’s Day, QueenCare is offering 10% off their products now through March 8, 2021. Go to queencareproducts.com and use the promo code “Queen.”

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