Aurora Nkrumah Dixon is intentional about buying Black-made products. She says everything in her house, from bedsheets to toothbrushes, are from Black-owned brands.
Last June, she launched The Necessities Company, an online store featuring products from Black vendors, to prove it’s possible to completely buy Black. The site has about 50 vendors selling nearly 100 products like fresh produce, laundry detergent, toothbrushes, batteries and light bulbs. Each product is tested before it’s sold and must contain natural ingredients.
“We [Black people] are the No. 1 consumers in the world, and we’re giving all our money to everybody else,” said Nkrumah Dixon, who relocated to Charlotte from Atlanta in 2018. “We have to put our money back into our own economy.”
Initially, she ran a pop-up shop called Jamii Exchange Market — “Jamii” is Swahili for community. At events, customers repeatedly asked if her shop had a website. At that point, she was personally delivering products at customers’ requests.
Nkrumah Dixon added the online store and rebranded the business. During a pop-up event last year, one of her customers sparked the name change.
“[The customer] said, ‘y’all got everything. You should call it The Necessities Company,’ and it stuck,” she recalled.
Connecting to a network
The Necessities Company also operates as a retail distributor for WeBuyBlack, the largest e-marketplace for Black-owned businesses, according to Fast Company.
While living in Atlanta, she met WeBuyBlack founder Shareef Abdul-Malik through her community activism work. After injuries from a car accident didn’t allow her to return to work as an event organizer, Abdul-Malik introduced her to the company and she began distributing products. A $200 investment in a case of Coral Oral Toothbrushes returned $1,700 in profits, she said.
Through The Necessities Company, Nkrumah Dixon supplies a variety of goods for retail clients like Kemetic Science Institute in University City and 7th Phaze in NoDa. She also stocks merchandise in stores throughout Atlanta.
Necessity during a pandemic
Covid-19 not only disproportionately struck communities of color but also devastated Black businesses that relied on in-person traffic. Nkrumah Dixon positioned The Necessities Company to help both customers sheltered in place and businesses experiencing declining sales. During the stay-at-home orders, she and her husband provided free, same-day, contactless deliveries to customers in Charlotte, Mount Holly, Gastonia, Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
Buying from companies like True Laundry Detergent during the pandemic has kept the vendors in business and their staff employed, she says. Growing and scaling Black businesses present opportunities for entrepreneurs like Nkrumah Dixon to hire more workers and reinvest resources back into their communities.
With the state reopening for business, customers have asked Nkrumah Dixon about a physical store; she’d like customers to help crowdfund the opening of a brick-and-mortar location.
Running a delivery and distribution service can be tiring, but she’s energized to help her people.
“I go home, and I crash immediately, I’m so exhausted,” she said. “But when I wake up, and I’m at the door, and somebody sent the message, ‘thank you so much I really appreciate this,’ it’s all worth it.”
Bryant Carter is a freelance writer from Brooklyn, New York. He graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in English.