Black Women in Creative Businesses: Doing What They Love

Melina Brann

Melina Brann (pictured above left) and Onylah Taggart (pictured below left), are two creative women who took a chance and found success.

Get some coffee and check out Brann’s show at the Blue Owl Coffee shop located at 1236 Turner Rd., Lansing, MI 48906. Brann won a nationwide Meijer art contest with above artwork.

If you are looking for a special gift visit Taggart’s DBN (Dazzle By Ny) Boutique. The fashion boutique is located in downtown East Lansing, MI. Log on to the site at

Courtesy photos

By Deborah M. Walker

LANSING, MI – Creative women have always played an essential role in shaping American society, and African American women, in particular, have developed a unique niche in molding everyday culture. With an African American female holding one of the highest positions in the United States, women of color are exploring new beginnings and creative opportunities at a historical level in every facet of life.

According to, the Annual Business Survey, covering the year 2018 and released in 2022, stated that approximately 18.3% (1.0 million) of all U.S. businesses were minority-owned. Blacks or African Americans owned about 124,551 businesses. Women held roughly 19.9% (1.1 million) of all companies. Minority women owning businesses is a trend that is not slowing down. Ingham County, Melina Brann and Onylah Taggart, are creative women who took a chance and found success.

Melina Brann wins Meijer national art contest

Without a background in art and very little former art training, Melina Brann surprised herself when she won the Meijer National Art Contest in November 2021.

Brann, who began acrylic painting at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, said she couldn’t believe it when she realized she was a winner.

“At first, I had to have a few other people check the email. I’m like am I reading this right. I was in shock for a few days, but now that’s its setting in, this is awesome. What a great opportunity,” exclaimed Brann.

Brann said she painted her winning picture in August of 2021 and submitted it in September. It was late fall when she found out she was a winner.

The submission process was a breeze, Brann admitted. After uploading the art-work to the contest’s page, Brann was instructed to briefly describe what her art-work was about and what the piece meant to her. Brann said her artwork reflected her time in Lansing and the many people who helped her art journey There was no entry fee.

“So I wanted to draw some- thing close to me. I had a lot of support from the commu-nity in Lansing when I start-ed my art journey. I wanted to depict that in the picture. They also helped build me up. It’s like a pyramid show- ing, illustrating, how we all work to build each other up,” informed Brann.

Brann said some of the pieces were vaguely based on people she has met over the past three years since she moved to Lansing. Some of the people in the drawing are random. She said all people in her paint- ing are African American or people of color.

Brann said she found out about the contest after a local television station ran a story about the competition. She was interested in participating and decided to submit her work.

“I said this sounds right up my alley. I hadn’t heard of it before, and so it was great,” said Brann about the oppor-tunity.

What happens to the art?

Brann reported that the art will be on stationery and home goods such as reusable bags, in 2023, dur-ing Black History Month and the rest of the year if in stock. All, or most, of Meijer’s stores in every state that Meijer operates in, will carry the artwork, including all Lansing locations.

The $5,000 prize money also buys Meijer the rights to the picture, and Brann does not get a percentage of sales from the proceeds of the goods sold with her art-work on it. However, a portion of the sales will go to a non-profit of her choosing.

Future Plans

Brann said she would more than likely participate in more art contests down the road. She gave supportive advice for anyone looking to give art a try.

“Just put your stuff out there because you never know what will happen. Make sure to build a community of peo-ple around you who support you because that is very important,” Brann advised.

Brann is originally from Battle Creek, Michigan, and has a full-time job working as the executive director of the Women’s Center in Lansing. She currently has an art show scheduled in March at the Eagle Monk Brewery located at 4906 W. Mount Hope Hwy, Lansing, MI, 48917.

Brann said her current focus is on portraying African American women, and women of color, in all ranges of their emotions. She wishes to disrupt the angry Black woman stigma she said African American women face.

Brann is helping to change the dialog about African American women’s proprietorship. Her willingness to put herself out there and take a chance on her talent makes Brann a creative woman in business.

To find out more about Melina and her artwork, visit her website at

Onylah Taggert opens DBN Boutique DBN (Dazzle By Ny) Boutique is a minority- owned fashion boutique located in East Lansing, MI. The owner, Onylah Taggart, a mother and student at Michigan State University (MSU), opened her store because she was tired of women being misrepresented in fashion.

“The larger stores are male-owned, and they are selling women’s clothing. I don’t like that,” said Taggart.

Not only is Taggart a retailer for clothes, she is also a customer. She believes her experience as a shopper increases her connection to her supporters. Taggart said  she is more than a place to buy urban clothes. She is the voice and image of today’s African American  culture’s influence on fashion.

“I am the buyer, so I know what we like. I know the culture. I am urban wear. This is me,” Taggart explained.

Taggart opened her clothing store at the age of 21. Not only is she a pioneer for young minority women ven-turing into entrepreneurship, she is also an example of an African American woman in a creative business.

The demand for business 

Taggart said she has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and a love for clothes and fashion. Combining her two passions was what drove her to open DBN Boutique.

Taggart chose her East Lansing location because MSU did not have a lot of options concerning urban Fashion.

“I felt it was something that would do well because it was something that we needed here,” Taggart informed.

Taggart used her savings and money from a school refund check to open DBN Boutique. The decision proved profitable. Since opening in October, Taggart said she had recouped half of her investment. “I’m reaching the halfway mark of the money I have put into my business. I’ve already seen that back in four months,” exclaimed Taggart.

COVID-19 has slowed business down some, but Taggart explained the  effects of the pandemic have been minimal. She said this is due to the proceeds earned from her online store.

“Even if the in-store foot traffic is not that good, I can still make a video online and generate sales,” she explained.

Taggart said there will  always be a need for her business. According to her, fashion is everywhere, and the demand for clothes will never end. She claimed that people use clothes as more than body coverings. Taggart argued that most  people like to use their clothes to speak for themselves.

An evolving sense of fashion

Taggart explained that her sense of fashion has elevat- ed over the years to include more sophisticated pieces and complex pairing of fabrics and materials. As a young fashionista, she used vision boards and intricate planning to create one-of-a-kind fashion looks. Taggart said she built her wardrobe from the shoes up.

“I started putting outfits together,” Taggart stated. “Now it’s not just about the shoes anymore. As I got older, I could afford to get the bag that matches the shoes and the accessories to draw the whole look together… and layer my clothing.”

Taggart uses her sophisticated style to purchase eye-catching pieces for her bou-tique. She buys her clothes from a catalog. Taggart claims they are pricey, but the quality of the clothes is worth it. There are many out there, but she prefers

“If I see a piece and it’s  jumping out at me when I’m looking at clothes, I start to get ideas on how to style it. Then I know it’s nice, and if I  haven’t seen it elsewhere, I will get a sample,” said Taggart. “I also buy directly  from the store.”

Taggart said she is looking to increase her vendors. She explained that many clothing vendors do not have a physical store and she would like to partner with them.

Down the road

Taggart has big plans on the horizon for DBN Boutique. Excited about her journey as a store owner, Taggart said  she has contemplated running an informational Bootcamp, where she will teach others the secret to her success. She also wants to scale DBN Boutique to be a six-figure business by the end of 2022.

“Stay tuned because I am looking to do a women’s  brunch or a women’s boot camp to teach people what I have learned. Teach them so they won’t be completely lost,” she said.

Taggart said she is thankful to everyone who has supported her journey. She said the support from MSU and the Lansing area has been great. She encourages others to reach out and take a chance on new opportunities.

“Never give up on your dreams,” Taggart said.

To purchase clothes from DBN Boutique, stop by the store at 301 MAC Ave, East  Lansing MI, 48823, or visit the online store at You can also give DBN Boutique a call at 313-423-2846.