Princess Jenkins, proud owner of Harlem-based boutique The Brownstone, was recently awarded a $5,000 grant after being named one of the winners of the first Carver Federal Savings Bank and The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce 2022 Minority Women-Owned Business Pitch Competition. The goal of the competition? To get minority women-owned businesses to pitch a plan that will help make their businesses more environmentally friendly.
Jenkins, whose store specializes in selling, styling, and tailoring women’s clothing from sizes 12-20, won the competition by pitching a virtual catalog for her boutique, as opposed to the 200,000-page print catalogs that would traditionally go to her 5,000 customers. In her pitch, Jenkins included a shocking fact to help put into perspective how important her plan is for the environment. “We are going to save the lives of 200 trees,” she said. “And if you were to line them up they would go across 125th street from beginning to end, and you’d still have trees left.” In addition to a virtual catalog, the entrepreneur will also use part of the grant money to install environmentally friendly lighting inside the boutique.
Carver Federal Savings Bank, which is also Harlem-based, is one of the largest African American-operated banks in the United States. President and CEO of Carver Bancorp, Michael Pugh, spoke with The Root to give some background on the competition. “Carver Federal Savings Bank and the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce wanted to do something together that would support women entrepreneurs, because we know specifically that Black and brown women of color are within a nation of business owners that is growing. The second thing that we thought about was the impact of climate change. And we know that when there are any changes in our ecosystem, our nation, the world, people of color oftentimes are impacted by those changes first, and in many cases, the most. We knew that we needed to do something that would send a strong message and encourage small businesses to be thinking about ways that they can help reduce their carbon footprint.”
The Brownstone was established in Harlem in 1998 to create a comfortable environment for mid-sized and plus-sized women. Jenkins mentions that there is a sign in the store that reads, “Beware. By wearing this clothing, you may get too many compliments.” The messaging is intentional: to make all of her customers to feel confident and beautiful when they wear her pieces. The boutique was also created to give full-figured women a place to shop freely and learn to feel comfortable in whatever size they wear. “What I think that I love about The Brownstone is the fact that there’s a level of comfort. Some people can be intimidated by fashion. And since I love women and I love fashion, that’s what they’re gonna get when they come into the door.”