Vendors profit from students

Florida A&M University is surrounded by several black-owned businesses that feed on profits from students and returning alumni. In fact, many black-owned businesses in Tallahassee are built on a foundation of student-support and provide services that are essential to black students.

Valenica Jones, owner of the Mandisa-Ngozin Braiding Gallery, has been running her business since graduating from FAMU in 1995. Located on Old St. Augustine Road, it is one of the many black-owned businesses that reach out to FAMU students.

“FAMU was the foundation for my business, I built my clientele on campus as student,” Jones said. “As a student I braided and twisted hair on campus, and we officially opened as a business in 1995, when I graduated.”

Jones said she is grateful for the continued support from FAMU students.

“My business is very profitable and we are able to expand because of the support from students and alumni,” Jones said.

According to Jones, many students who graduate still return for Mandisa-Ngozi services. “A lot of students return after graduation and still show support, I really appreciate that and they appreciate our work,” she said.

Though some local businesses do not attribute all of its success to FAMU students, they do realize that the business FAMU students provide is very much appreciated and needed.

Cavel Barret, owner of the Simmer Down restaurant on Lake Bradford Drive, says that her business picks up during the school year and suffers during the summer months. “My business is profitable, but it is seasonal,” Barret said.

Barret said he does not think Simmer Down could survive without the support of FAMU students.

“No, I don’t think we would do good without the support of black students, and we suffer during the summer when students leave,” Barret said.

Although businesses like Simmer Down and Mandisa-Ngozi offer so much to students, many do not support them and take their money other places.

Karim Dixon, 22, a fifth-year business administration student from Brooklyn, N.Y. said she thinks many students chase brands.

“Many white business have been around for so long and have chains and corporations, many black students are just more familiar with them as opposed to newer black owned businesses,” Dixon said.

Because businesses around FAMU’s campus is surrounded the most by black students, Simmer Down and Mandisa-Ngozi Braiding Gallery appeal more towards black students versus other ethnicities. Even though black students surround them, they admit that it is their duty to service everyone.

“I try to make Simmer Down appealing to the general public,” Barret said. She added, “But, I think because of the food we serve here, Caribbean food, which is considered black food and the location, we are more appealing to black students.”

Jones also said her services are more useful for black students.

“We offer natural hair care for black students and we try to build awareness and self-esteem as it relates to roots and culture,” Jones said.

Some business owners think there should be more black-operated businesses in the Tallahassee area.

“Once you pass the areas surrounding FAMU’s campus, such as Tennessee and Appalachee, there aren’t enough black businesses,” Dixon said.

He said he is proud of what black business owners in Tallahassee have accomplished. “If anything, they show that we are capable of running successful businesses and being efficient,” he said.