By Lois Charm
The Soulsville community hosted an outdoor vendor marketplace on Sept. 21, to give neighborhood artisans the opportunity to showcase their crafts.
Community LIFT sponsored the event and it included partners like the Stax Foundation, the Memphis Black Arts Alliance, LeMoyne-Owen College CDC, and the Soulsville Neighborhood Association.
Rebecca Matlock Hutchinson, executive director of SCORE CDC- (South City - a community of Opportunity, Revitalization and Empowerment Community Development Corporation) developed the idea and coordinated the event. Hutchinson received a grant from Community Lift and partnered with other sponsors to bring her dream to life.
Hutchinson and the community collaborated on the concept.
"The event is resident driven, so people in the community had their hands in planning and implementing the event,” she said.
It was Hutchinson’s vision to see this event become an opportunity for community artisans to profit from tourist dollars in this neighborhood.
“The focus is to feature artisans and entrepreneurs that live in Soulsville and help them to capitalize from the tourists that come to the Stax Museum,” said Hutchinson.
Vendors featured at the event included Nikki Lewis, founder of Soap Me Please. Lewis began her business after suffering from skin issues after turning 30-years-old.
As a way to prevent her skin from suffering irritation from using store products, Lewis began making her own soaps.
“I didn’t know my idea would turn into a business, but friends and family encouraged me to start selling my soaps,” she said.
Lewis said she hopes this market grows to resemble a well-known artisan festival in Memphis.
“I would like for the people who live and frequent this area to be able to come and shop from local businesses and it would be nice if this market could turn into its own Cooper-Young Festival for the Soulsville area,” said Hutchinson.
Other entrepreneurs featured included Lawrence Crenshaw, a 16-year-old student, who started his business, Inspiring Designs by Lawrence, after being inspired by T.V. superheroes.
“I was inspired by the way they (superheroes) make things. I also became inspired by the mechanics of engineering and designing things and the idea that you can use your surroundings to make anything," said Crenshaw.
After receiving welding classes from Moore Tech, as well as shadowing artists at the Metal Museum, Crenshaw put together his own jewelry collection made from copper sculpting.
Crenshaw believes this market will prepare him for what lies ahead down the road with his business.
“It is a great experience to be a part of this event, so I can prepare for bigger events in the future, ” Crenshaw said.
It is Hutchinson’s plan to continue hosting this market, as well as other related events, to help bring economic growth to the Soulsville community.
“We are trying to have an attraction besides the museum,” added Hutchinson.
“It is important for people in the neighborhood to have businesses, and this type of event helps to generate money for the neighborhood."
To learn more about SCORE, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lois Charm is a graduate student at the University of Memphis. She can be reached at email@example.com.