An entrepreneur who launched a store in Carnaby Street in London to showcase black businesses
Over the past year, several industries have recognized the inequality of opportunities offered to the black community. While a lot has been said and done online during the COVID pandemic, to ensure the sustainability of these changes we need to see the same actions taken in industries that were closed in 2020. One of those industries is the offline retail. One of the main reasons black-owned businesses struggle to grow is the lack of exposure on the main streets who have traditionally preferred to allocate top-notch real estate to brands that they believe were more likely to generate larger profits. One entrepreneur who is working to address this problem by launching a store on London’s famous Carnaby Street and who has championed the black community long before the Black Lives Matter movement is Kojo Marfo, founder of My group of tracks.
Marfo was raised in Ghana but moved to the UK for college in his late teens. Being an immigrant who did not come from a wealthy family, he had to work several jobs to cover his expenses. He then earned a place at Coventry University to study aerospace engineering with the dream of one day becoming a pilot. However, after spending time with other people on his route, many of whom were older than himself, he decided not to become a pilot at this point in his life, but to do something he will do with it. later. However, something he had done alongside his part-time job to make ends meet was hosting a variety of events at the college ranging from club nights to fashion shows.
Although organizing these events was something Marfo did to make money, he quickly realized that he was taking immense joy to see so many grassroots creatives having their first experience for show off their talent at fashion shows or art exhibitions he would organize. During his sophomore year in college, he put on a show that would be a combination of fashion, music, and art called My Runway Show. He expected that only college students would attend the show, but in the end he drew the participation of people from all over Coventry. Additionally, many of the creations that aired on the show began to earn money. Marfo realized there was potential to make a show that didn’t just focus on college students, but extended to Coventry and the surrounding area. He hired the local council and was able to get a big theater.
The event they are organizing would showcase the emerging creative talents of the region, with many volunteers and artists helping with the organization. In the end, it offered over 100 people in the creative industries experience and also marked the first time Marfo began to believe he had a potential business he could run long after he graduated from college. . In light of this, after completing his studies and returning to London, he started My Runway Group.
My group of tracks
When setting up My Runway Group, Marfo decided that the key element he wanted to focus on was continuing the work he had started in college in highlighting underrepresented people, usually from the creative communities and their work. With this in mind, the first events organized by My Runway Group were live shows and pop-ups to showcase talent as well as masterclasses on topics such as’ employability in the creative industry ‘and’ “ how to view your creative career as a business ”. . These events will be a huge success and will attract the attention of several renowned institutions such as the British Film Institute and the UK phonographic industry group. As Marfo strengthened many of these partnerships, he began to realize that connecting local talent with large organizations was a skill he possessed. The group began to consult with many of these large organizations by organizing events and helping them with their branding and outreach, adding another arm to their business.
Black in Carnaby
One company that Marfo was able to develop a relationship with was real estate company The Shaftesbury Group after working with them on numerous events. During the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, he had conversations with the company about hosting an event. Wanting to do something bigger than just a pop-up window, the idea for “ Black In Carnaby ” came about where they would launch a store on famous Carnaby Street in London that would sell products from companies owned by black people. Once the terms were agreed, they launched an appeal to ask if companies would be interested and in October 2020, when stores in the UK were partially open, they were able to stock 112 different brands, rising to 165 in December, with over 98% of brands selling products in their stores. before being forced to close as the UK entered its third lockdown in January 2021.
With the end of lockdowns in the UK, ‘Black In Carnaby’ has recently been relaunched. The business model, as it stands, is that brands can apply to participate by contacting My Runway Group to secure a niche. The vast majority of the revenue goes to the business while the store is managed by My Runway Group. Businesses can also support up to an entire store floor to showcase brands and do exhibitions. My Runway Group also assists stores that decide to come forward with marketing and have some exciting announcements in the coming months for their partners. The ‘Black In Carnaby’ store is a chapter in Marfo’s journey that has been brewing for many years since he was an immigrant teenager working many jobs to make ends meet, but he has “much bigger plans. in the coming years for more events and experiences to present. people who are not always seen â
You can find more information on the ‘Black In Carnaby’ store here and if you would like to visit the store is located at 56B Carnaby Street, London, W1F 9QF
This article is part of a series featuring underrepresented people making a difference. To submit feature ideas or keep up to date with new releases you can find me on Twitter – @ TommyPF91