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Creating During A Crisis: Black Female Entrepreneurs in China

Shauna Reeves

2020 did not go according to plan. We were all eagerly anticipating stepping into a new decade. We had goals we planned to smash, dreams we were going to actualise and it all seemed to come crashing down. January saw us losing Kobe Bryant. February brought Covid-19 in all its glory. March saw the rest of the world scrambling to close its borders. April brought Spring but no one could smell the roses as we were all shut inside. May saw us witnessing America showing its true colours. Locusts swarmed India in June. A fire broke out in France’s Nantes Cathedral in July. In August, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan announced his resignation. In September, protests in South Africa erupted after the controversial ad comparing black hair to blond. October brought us the #EndSARS movement. November brought us the comedic show which was the US General Election, and now we’re in beautiful December. December so far has shown sporadic Covid-19 cases in some Chinese cities, the Ethiopian crisis continuing and the Nigerian boys who were kidnapped, rescued. Yet, despite it all, December has brought with it Christmas cheer and an attitude of gratitude.

The year of 2020 is like no other we have seen before. We have read stories in the Bible or in our History books but most of us never imagined that we would actually experience a year like the one we’ve had. I, for one feel like patting myself on the back. The mere act of surviving 2020 with your mind intact is an accomplishment. If you’re alive and healthy you’ve done a phenomenal job. What is incredible, however, is the ingenuity that this Covid-19 desperation stirred up in most of us. Many people chose to look at Covid-19 as an opportunity to do that thing they’ve always wanted to do but had no guts to actually pursue, and for some, they had no choice but to adapt because life as they knew it; changed.

In this article, I’d like to highlight the stories of 4 China-based wonder women who created businesses during a crisis. These were birthed out of necessity and a need to survive during Covid-19 but are now thriving. Perhaps, one could probably say because of Covid-19.

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Coco, owner of Co-Bee D

I’m Coco and Co-Bee D my all-natural, vegan, hemp lotion, came out of pure circumstance. It was the end of April 2020, and Covid-19 was in full swing. Millions of people across the globe were under quarantine, just as I had been at the time. The solitude and isolation wasn’t really an issue for me. Hell, I didn’t even miss the outdoors. However, there was one thing that HAD taken a major hit, my bank account! With my employer deciding to paying us half pay during the pandemic, I found myself living paycheck to paycheck. This was the exact reason I had left the US, and now the same issue was occurring once more, only this time in a foreign country. It was stressful to say the least. So I decided I would resort to what usually do in moments of financial stress; I hustle! A few of my friends had businesses of their own, and I knew I could ask them for a few pointers. But I was at a complete loss as to what product I would sell. And then, after a few weeks, it hit me, I would sell lotion. My mother had always made lotion from scratch in our kitchen using Shea butter and natural oils. But I decided I would add a special ingredient, hemp or CBD. After seeing the benefits hemp had on my own skin, I decided I would make a lotion that could benefit all skin types, regardless of age or ethnicity. And Co-Bee D was born! Though the business is 8 months old, it’s still my baby, and there is plenty of room for growth. I’ve gotten plenty of new customers from word of mouth, but I’m really hoping to keep those customers coming back for additional products, such as hair creams and lip balms. The journey has been filled with up and downs, and there were times customers were completely displeased with my product. However, I value every critique, because it’s allowed me to create a lotion recipe I’m truly proud of. I hope my lotion has an impact on all people, but specifically for Black women like myself. Women of colour have always been gifted at creating their own remedies for the skin, hair and nails. I want to inspire women to take these concoctions and turn them it a profit. All it takes is a dream and the passion to see it through. And I hope my story inspires others to find passions of their own. 

Monique, owner of Land of Love

I’m Monique, the creator and owner of Land of Love. We provide our customers with puddings and tamarind balls that tantalizes their tastebuds and makes them feel at home. My why factor was having lots of time on my hands to learn, make mistakes and try again. I’m sure that alot of you can probably relate to this especially during Covid-19.

The birth of Land of Love was very hilarious…it came from the constant desire to want to try things and to make new meals from varying places. I dabbled in varying Caribbean recipes, African recipes, Chinese and Indian too but failed greatly. However, time is the master of it all and I made the most of the break from work/ work from home by practicing, practicing and practicing some more. There were many trials and errors. After testing out the entire Pinterest, Google and Youtube (failing countless times) I finally got it right (Big up to Chef Ricardo, Morris Time and Aunt Lorna for providing me with guidelines). The smell of the house was just right when we had our first bite of the “perfect” pudding. As Jamaicans would say, our “glad bag buss”. I have to acknowledge the members of the Jamaica’s Finest Wechat group for their support. One of the members of the group, the owner of Luxe Pieces was one of my first customers when she asked to try our pudding. She provided valuable feedback on how the pudding could be even better. Pictures were then shared in the group and someone asked out of nowhere, “who is selling?” and I responded “I’m selling” and hence Land of Love was created. I wouldn’t call Land of Love just a business because we have a very intimate customer base who not only interact when they want to purchase but also when they need an ear to listen, virtual hugs, high-fives or a fist bump. I wanted to create a brand that made people feel as if they had a piece of home with them in this foreign land.

A slice of home

There have been challenges and moments when business was slow but then it picked up again. This also inspired others around me to grow.

One thing for sure is that the name for the business is a reflection of how we want others to feel when they interact with the person behind the screen, the person in the kitchen and the meal itself. Our customers have been a beam of hope, joy and headache but the feedback as been positive I know that they can feel the love with every interaction.

Tamarind balls…authentically Jamaican

The deal sealer for me was the handwritten notes that we put with our packages. One customer once had some difficulties and we spoke and the solution was that the note that was sent superseded the difficulty they had in regards to shipping and because the note was so profound they felt as if the challenges were worth it … the comment from the customer had nothing to do with the pudding itself but with the message that they first saw when they opened the package made them felt great and made them feel as if there is hope in their situation.

That’s our story; a story filled with laughter, love and happiness.  

Remember: Land of Love

Lick your fingers and if you can your toes.

Potato pudding with coconut sprinkles on top

Sandy Beach, Sandy Beach Bakery

My name is Sandra and I’m the owner of Sandy Beach Bakery. I’m from the United States of America. I’ve been vegan for roughly two and a half years, but I’ve been cooking since I was a child. I’ve always enjoyed preparing meals for my loved ones. My love for cooking grew stronger once I became vegan because I needed to learn how to make substitutes for all of my favorite dishes. I always thought, just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I have to miss out on eating good. I moved to China in August of 2019 to teach English at a training center in Shenyang. However, in February of 2020, life as I knew it drastically changed. During the mandated quarantine, I found myself in a financial bind. I needed to survive during this uncertain time. Thus, I opened Sandy Beach Bakery. Prior to this, I would post my meals and desserts in many Wechat groups. Often, others would ask if I sold my meals.

Vegan mac and cheese never looked nor tasted so good

Once I developed my menu and posted about my business, many of my expat peers shared my business in other groups. Before I knew it, I was shipping orders throughout mainland China. I am truly blessed to have wonderful friends who’ve encouraged me to persevere through the ups and downs as well as give me advice for being a businesswoman. If you are interested in ordering from Sandy Beach Bakery, feel free to private message me via Wechat.

Ashlee, owner of Buddah Blends

Hi everyone my name is Ashlee and I’m the owner of Buddah blends, a natural based skin and hair care company.

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To be honest, I started making products during Covid-19 out of boredom as I had so much time on my hands due to the schools being closed. I love DIY and was always making concoctions hence the birthing of the Buddah Blends. I made some for myself and decided to share with friends and they loved it. It was then that I got the idea to turn this into a business. It’s always difficult to find the right products for Black hair and Black skin so I wanted to satisfy that need with my products.

It’s no secret what our products can do and when mixed with others the results are amazing. They are made with only natural ingredients such as Ghanian Shea Butter, Chadian Chebe powder and good old Jamaican black castor oil. The hair care line makes your crown flourish as it helps with length retention, shine, moisture and reduces scalp issues such as dandruff and itchiness.

Leave-in conditioner, tumeric loofah, body scrub, deep conditioner etc. We’ve got it all.

On the other hand, the Skin care line provides our customers with oils and butter blends for that healthy glow and moisture, not to mention the amazing exfoliants to combat blackheads and hyperpigmentation, a condition involving dark spots appearing around your eyes or as a result of acne scarring. Our Turmeric based products decreases Hyperpigmentation and the Loofah bars, whose exfoliating feature is slightly more aggressive, is recommended to be used for underarms and knees.

Our Wechat Channel is loaded with tutorials and informative posts about how best to use Buddah Blends products. Please follow our Channel and message me for any details.

To anyone who may feel as if their hobby or that thing that they do when bored is silly, just look at my story. Anything is possible once you have the guts to go after it.

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History has shown that Black people have always been able to make something out of nothing. We have used our struggles and our hardships as stepping stones and building blocks to create the life we know we are deserving of.

Do you have a similar story? Share it with us by posting it on your Insta-story and tagging @blacklivitychina. We would love to hear from you. I’m sure that similar to these ladies, it would be an inspiration to all.

Additionally, if you’ve had an idea for a while but thought that 2020 was not the year because of covid-19…our advice to you is…

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