Minority-run small businesses in Montgomery Co. get boost at ‘Shop and Drops’

Bluffajo Cosmetics was one of many small businesses featured on Saturday.
Bluffajo Cosmetics was one of many small businesses featured on Saturday.

Maisie Dunbar of Bluffajo Cosmetics standing in front of their makeup display.
Maisie Dunbar of Bluffajo Cosmetics standing in front of their makeup display.

Marcell Brown of Hope Clothing Brand.
Marcell Brown of Hope Clothing Brand.

Hope Clothing Brand wanted his work to bring inspiration and positivity.
Hope Clothing Brand wanted his work to bring inspiration and positivity.

Frankie Alika hopes to expand her business and eventually open a gallery in Montgomery County.
Frankie Alika hopes to expand her business and eventually open a gallery in Montgomery County.

Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.
Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.

Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.
Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.

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Bluffajo Cosmetics was one of many small businesses featured on Saturday.
Maisie Dunbar of Bluffajo Cosmetics standing in front of their makeup display.
Marcell Brown of Hope Clothing Brand.
Hope Clothing Brand wanted his work to bring inspiration and positivity.
Frankie Alika hopes to expand her business and eventually open a gallery in Montgomery County.
Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.
Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.

COVID-19 has made things hard on some small businesses. In Montgomery County, Maryland, budding minority-owned businesses have been given a boost by government-organized meetups, called Shop and Drop’s, at community centers.

The gatherings give business people a chance to swap ideas and the opportunity to sell their products, which they put on display.



During a Shop and Drop event on Dec. 11, hosted at the Gaithersburg Recreation Center, Marcell Brown showed his Hope Clothing Brand — sportswear emblazoned with Brown’s concepts and designs.

“There’s a lot of negativity going on right now in the world, and I pretty much wanted to bring some inspiration and some positivity …” said Marcell Brown, the owner of Hope Clothing Brand. ” … I feel like God placed it in my heart and I’m going to continue to do what God tells me to do.”

Not far from Brown’s display, artist Frankie Alika greeted customers at her table covered by her canvas oil paintings — bright paintings, with many in silver and gold.

“I took some art classes back home … I’m originally from Nigeria, but I didn’t really pay much attention to it, until COVID hit, and I was, like, ok, — I need to go back to the talent that I have,” Alika said. She hopes to expand her business and someday open a small gallery in Montgomery County.

Maisie Dunbar, of Germantown, owns Bluffajo cosmetics, available online at Bluffajo.com. The name comes from Liberia in West Africa where Dunbar said “Bluffajo” is a term of endearment.

“It’s a term that we refer to a person who is always well-dressed, sophisticated, confident. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a woman, it could be a man, just somebody that embodies the whole appearance,” Dunbar said.

Maryland State De. Pam Queen, of Montgomery County, a member of the Economic Matters Committee, has been drawing together minority businesses at quarterly shop and drops at community centers.

“After the pandemic, many of them need a little jump start, and so we’re trying to make sure we’re doing that as well as let them know what resources are available to them,” Queen said.

Two Shop and Drops are planned in the spring, focused on Women-run and Asian-run businesses.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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