Aaron Westbrook created Ebony Voyage to ‘help the world discover Black entrepreneurs in every region’

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Anyone who’s done their research knows there are so many incredible brands out there owned by diverse creatives and thought leaders. Sadly, most people can’t find products created by those brands in their local stores.

Enter Aaron Westbrook, the founder of Ebony Voyage, a stunning new website that showcases some of the best Black-owned businesses around the world. Below, Westbrook shares what inspired him to start Ebony Voyage and his goals for this website.

What inspired you to start Ebony Voyage?

Like many of us over the last couple of years, I’ve tried to be very conscious with my spending habits, in particular about what I’m putting my dollar toward. It wasn’t until the process of planning for a vacation that I took last year that the idea to begin Ebony Voyage came about. It started with packing travel-size beauty products. I needed something compact and protective but realized that the options that catered to my specific needs weren’t accessible. Once I made it to my destination, I stumbled upon one Black-owned business that had just opened. It was empowering to support their vision. It was in that moment that I realized how I could use my talent to help the world discover Black entrepreneurs in every region of the world, outside from scouring through lists compiled online by fashion and beauty insiders. Where does one go to learn about Black-owned fashion and home interior designers? Why haven’t we created a marketplace for Black entrepreneurs to be discovered and be seen? That is what birthed this journey of developing Ebony Voyage.

What’s your process for discovering new brands and deciding which brands to include on Ebony Voyage?

It initially started with a simple search online for fashion brands. I’m big on sneakers and streetwear, so I was looking for up-and-coming labels that no one knew of at the time. That quickly turned into something more substantial. I began expanding my search for beauty and home decor brands — discovering Black estheticians and skin care lines that know exactly how to meet my needs, learning about interior designers that fuse African heritage with contemporary design. I began documenting the products and brands that I use throughout my every day and would research a Black-owned alternative.

Do you have any favorite Black-owned brands? If so, can you share which ones and why?

I’ve been introduced to so many new Black-owned brands since starting this journey to build the site, all of which have their own unique story. A few that resonate with me on a variety of levels include: 

  • Wales BonnerAn international menswear and womenswear clothing brand whose hybrid European and Afrocentric approaches provide a distinct notion to luxury.
  • ASHYA: A New York-based luxury accessories brand that prides itself on providing high-quality unisex offerings.
  • Daily Paper: One of Europe’s fastest-growing lifestyle brands, offering streetwear inspired by African culture wrapped in contemporary designs.
  • OUI the People: A beauty brand dedicated to shifting the beauty standard narrative and empowering the non-binary community.
  • KHIRYAn Afro-futurist jewelry brand that challenges the conventions of luxury by creating pointed statements about the value of Black life and culture.
  • Bolé Road Textiles: A New York-based interior design brand that finds balance blending a modern aesthetic with traditional Ethiopian textiles.

Why do you think it’s still so hard to find Black-owned brands in many mainstream retailers?

I think when people outside of the culture hear Black-owned, they feel as though the products may not be made for them. They’re reluctant to buy in, just based off their perceived notion of what the brand offers. In the past, mainstream retailers didn’t know how to market Black-owned brands. They thought it was too niche or didn’t match the demographic of the buyers who frequent their stores. Just because a brand is Black-owned doesn’t mean someone who doesn’t identify as Black can’t participate. The label of being Black-owned is empowering in and of itself. However, I do believe there is a shift happening, and retailers are realizing that Black entrepreneurs are the ones setting the trends and the agenda for culture. We’re seeing it happen right before our eyes with Telfar and Brandon Blackwood. Both are extremely talented designers who occupy similar spaces but received pushback from major retailers who found their brands too limiting. They created opportunities for themselves, owned their narrative and became successful because the authentic narrative they pushed was realized by all. Now, they are able to approach those same retailers with a different posture. They realize how important Black creativity is.

What’s next for Ebony Voyage? Any exciting launches or collaborations or newness coming in 2022?

I don’t want to define success by one narrow goal. I have so many plans for the brand that I want to see through, but it all comes down to impact. My immediate goal is continued growth; [to] build awareness and expand the number of brands that are featured throughout the site. But when it’s all said and done, I’d like for Ebony Voyage to make an impact, whether it’s helping someone on their discovery of Black-owned brands or serving as a launchpad for emerging Black creatives. The success of Ebony Voyage hinges on the impact it will have on the culture.  

If you liked this story, check out these Black-owned handbag brands that need to be on your radar.

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