Standing in her own place, after three years of championing Manchester’s black-owned businesses in the ether of social media, Efia Mainoo looks pleased as punch.
When she got the keys to this archway in Red Bank, just around the corner from The Sparrows, Grub, and hit bakery Half Dozen Other, it needed a fair bit of turning into something that wasn’t a cold, bare and neglected storage facility.
Pictures on her phone from the past couple of months show a pretty epic transformation. Now it’s homely and warm, with bright yellow floors.
Treatment rooms have been constructed and the shelves upstairs on the shopfloor heave with skincare and hair products, homewares and fabrics.
BlackOwned started as an online community in 2021, Efia wrangling together specialists in and stylists of afro hair, as well as those establishing their own brands in the world of skincare and beauty.
Her new extension of the project, BlackOwned Studios + Marketplace, is not just a place to shop or visit skilled stylists though – it’s much more than that.
“We started showcasing different black-owned Manchester-based beauty businesses,” she told Manchester’s Finest. “I found there was a huge disconnect in terms of visibility, specifically for black stylists.
It stemmed from her returning to the UK from time living and working abroad to find that she could not find a decent stylist for love nor money, the good ones being booked up for months and months on end. Necessity being the mother of invention, BlackOwned took on a life of its own.
Now she has thousands of followers over various social media platforms and is turning all that support and industry into something tangible.
“The long term goal was always to create a physical space, where we could do everything we were doing online in person, where stylists can work from a space flexibly. Creating a black beauty hub, basically,” she goes on. “And I want to make sure Mancs are thoroughly represented!”
This arch is now a co-working space for beauticians, hair stylists, as well as a store-front for a host of Manchester businesses, like skincare company Earthie Organics, Christie X White, which makes fragranced candles and Lohi Fashion.
There will be events too, social and networking bashes, workshops, talks – all aimed at growing this community in the real world.
Working very much on the ‘build it and they will come’ principle, Efia has built it and now she’s inundated.
“We have members who are stylists who can book in to work here,” she says. “On the waiting list we have more than 50. We’ve just moved in, and off we pop! But it’s a good problem to have.”
BlackOwned Studios + Marketplace, 23 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4HF