By Mahalia Anderson
Rashee Russell, owner of Manchester-based business Artic Ice Jewelry, is making every customer she meets sparkle.
With just one step inside the “Artic Ice Box”—her home-based VIP shopping experience—it’s clear that Rashee has one mission: to help spread joy and positivity, while making people feel great about themselves.
Already a busy mom of three, Rashee shared that she “always wanted a side hustle to earn extra money” in addition to working a "9-5" job. When she was invited to a jewelry party a few years ago, little did she know that it was the beginning of the adventure of her life.
"To personally be interactive with my customers as they ‘ooh and ahh’ over the jewelry is what puts a smile on my face as well as theirs."
“Four years ago I was invited to a Paparazzi jewelry party and I was intrigued by the beautiful jewelry and was blown away by the price point of five dollars,” she said. “Needless to say, I spent a lot of money that night! I watched how people were excited and buying up jewelry like crazy. I also know that the Paparazzi consultant made a lot of money that night.”
That evening sparked an idea for Rashee, and Artic Ice started to become a reality.
“A light bulb went off in my head and I knew that this was something I could do. I signed up as a Paparazzi consultant and my journey started that night,” she said.
Now, four years later, Rashee is the director of Artic Ice Jewelry with a team of 50 people beside her making people happy and radiant with their purchases. Her hopes are to one day make it her full-time job.
“It’s definitely a juggling act to balance mom-life, work-life, being a wife and my newest title as an entrepreneur,” she shared. “I put God first in all that I do and during those times when business is slow and not at its full potential, I take a step back to re-evaluate and reinvent my brand with new ideas. I can only take one day at a time and that’s even more the reason to go harder the next day to get it right.”
Ready to help make entrepreneurs out of anyone, what inspires Rashee to keep thriving, especially during the pandemic, was seeing how the smallest things, like purchasing jewelry online, was making her customers happy.
“We were restricted from so many things and so many people were looking for an outlet to do something fulfilling, fun and safe. And spending money on five-dollar jewelry in a pandemic definitely fulfilled that need,” she shared.
Yet at the same time, just like many other small businesses, sometimes keeping momentum going through the challenges of the pandemic has been tough.
“To be a positive small business owner in a community, where so many people have lost their jobs or have had their income cut significantly can put a strain on your business if the customers who used to support you no longer can do so,” she shared. “I’ve had my ups and downs in the business but to keep going through adversity is what made me stronger, better and wiser.”
Making people feel like magic is what Russell does best. Her team and founders of Paparazzi, friends, family and customers are her support and motivation to keep chasing her dream.
“The founders of Paparazzi, their staff and other consultants from different walks of life pour positive energy into one another, which is uplifting,” said Rashee. “We are a sisterhood and brotherhood.”
While the pandemic has put a damper on gathering, being together with her customers is what Rashee enjoys most, by hosting jewelry parties for girls’ nights, special events and family functions.
“To personally be interactive with my customers as they ‘ooh and ahh’ over the jewelry is what puts a smile on my face as well as theirs,” she explained.
Rashee also shows love to her community by offering some sweet perks and giving back.
And while she isn’t able to host in-person parties as much these days, Rashee has transitioned to shop online and offers in-person shopping at the “Artic Ice Box” by appointment—her home shop filled with a wide selection of pieces to choose from, including looks for women, men and children.
At such an affordable price point, jewelry from Rashee's Artic Ice Box doesn’t disappoint. Her children’s line, called Starlet Shimmer, include earrings, bracelets and rings for only a dollar each. Women’s jewelry options include earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces—and all necklaces come with matching earrings! She also offers men's jewelry, including bracelets, necklaces and rings. Whether shoppers are looking for metal, seed beads, acrylic or wood pieces, she’s got them covered. All adult jewelry is priced at five dollars, with the exception of her upscale Zi Collection sets for $25.00 each. All jewelry in the Artic Ice box is lead- and nickel-free.
Best of all, Rashee is helping more and more people enjoy the finer—yet affordable—things in life, one piece of jewelry at a time.
To shop the Artic Ice Box, visit their online shops at articicebox.com or articice.org. Find Artic Ice on Facebook and Instagram to view Facebook Live shopping events or book an in-person shopping appointment.
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12/21/2021 0 Comments
Aquiline Drones (AD), the nation’s only Black-owned drone manufacturing and technology company, is now catering to tech enthusiasts by offering a complete, ready-to-assemble (RTA) commercial drone kit to the public. For the tech-inclined hobbyists, drone lovers, and students, these high-end drones can be assembled with basic tooling in less than a week. The announcement is perfect timing for those looking for a unique gift idea that’s guaranteed to arrive in time for the holidays.
"Despite the extreme shortages and detrimental delays in our nation’s current supply chain, we are taking the anxiety out of the gift-giving process by ensuring that all drone kit orders will arrive in time for the receiver’s holiday celebration,” said Barry Alexander, Founder, and CEO of Aquiline Drones. “Having created a unique drone solutions ecosystem, we are happy to provide access to our line of commercial drones, the Spartacus Hurricane, as a model kit for do-it-yourself (DIY) audiences who may also desire generating income from this hobby.”
Through its strategic partnership with French drone designer and manufacturer Drone Volt, AD was able to take action to get ahead of the supply chain fallout through the preorder of inventory well in advance of what is being experienced today. “Certainly, we try to do our part to ensure that at least some have a happy holiday,” adds Alexander.
Individuals who purchase these RTA commercial drones can also enroll in hands-on training courses in Hartford, to be trained by AD’s engineers and ground flight instructors.
The coveted Spartacus Hurricane drone is a fast, durable, lightweight, rapid deployment drone that weighs under 5 pounds, flies over 55 mph, and includes dedicated software. Each drone kit contains detailed instructions, parts, tools, step-by-step videos, as well as live manufacturing guidance to ensure product quality and flight success. When completed, the Spartacus Hurricane can assist the needs of videographers, home inspectors, construction site surveillance, and many other commercial applications.
“Building your drone will give you a strong understanding of and appreciation for all aspects of the hardware, including aviation, programming, electronics and physics,” said Alexander. “We hope that everyone takes advantage of this one-of-a-kind opportunity as a Spartacus Hurricane drone kit will certainly make you the envy of your friends and family members."
The limited-production Spartacus Hurricane drone kit costs $4,999 plus shipping and can be ordered directly from Aquiline Drones at firstname.lastname@example.org Orders will be fulfilled on a first-come, first-served basis. Orders placed by December 10th will guarantee delivery by Christmas. As a Christmas bonus, purchasers will be given free access to AD’s popular Flight to the Future online commercial drone pilot training course. Visit www.FlightToTheFuture.com for more information on this world-class program.
About Aquiline Drones
Aquiline Drones is a Black-owned, industry-leading, American drone company founded by highly experienced aviators, systems engineers and IT gurus. With a customer-centric model, US-based manufacturing and supply chain and world-class MRO services, the company offers innovative and successful ways for using drones in commercial activities. Supported by a dedicated UAV cloud, autonomous drone operations with real-time control, and dynamic on-field decision-making capabilities, Aquiline Drones' full-spectrum of technological solutions provide increased applicability across countless industries and environments by delivering real-time data insights. Aerospace-compliant processes for software, hardware manufacturing, and systems integration, along with best-in-class mission capabilities, are being planned and designed. The company continues to forge relationships with federal, state, and private organizations, developing and collaboratively launching new drone applications. Visit www.AquilineDrones.com for more information and follow all exciting company news and updates on AD’s social platforms.
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By Alicia Brown
It’s that time of year again, to look for the perfect gifts to give friends, family and coworkers. Keiwana Hanley, owner of lash extension, brow tinting and beauty product business High Kei Beauty, reminds everyone to also put themselves on their gift list in the midst of the busy holiday season. After all, self-care is the greatest gift out there.
Hanley is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to boosting esteem—“konfidence” as she calls it—for people of all ages. Her motto is “accessorize with confidence” but she makes it clear that the items she sells and services she provides aren’t intended to give the confidence, but the other way around—the wearers give the items confidence. She reminds customers to never to rely on clothing or accessories give them beauty, because they are simply there to accent the beauty that already exists in the person wearing them.
Having learned how to braid hair at the age of eight from her cousin, Hanley would often give back to her community by teaching young girls how to do their own hair. Doing this helped her see how girls were gaining confidence, power and self-esteem through the knowledge she was sharing. It served as an inspiration to launch High Kei Beauty.
After struggling with what to name her business, she asked her late father for assistance.
“With his help, I woke up with a completely different name. I didn’t choose any of the options I had. My dad is Keith, and his name is scrambled through my name. That’s when I knew it was perfect.”
Having learned how to braid hair at the age of eight from her cousin, Hanley would often give back to her community by teaching young girls how to do their own hair.
Since she earned her official lash tech certification from Lash Snob in 2019, Hanley has been kicking up the glam one girl at a time. Hanley takes the time to get to know her customers and provide them with quality products with unmatched detail.
But launching High Kei Beauty wasn’t an easy path. When Hanley relocated to Connecticut in 2009 from St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, college credits weren’t transferred, which caused a setback. And when she officially made Connecticut her home, she struggled to find a place that would allow her to run her business due to certification requirements. But through it all, she was determined to start a business that would spread confidence and help women look and feel their best.
High Kei Beauty provides a plethora of accessories, including hair bows for young girls, wig caps with different hairstyles, mink lashes and so much more. Seasonal items include Christmas wreaths. One of her popular products are her money catchers—adorable bags for going out on the town or for a date night. Hanley will be adding more items and bundles to her online shop for the holiday season, including double-lined beanie hats for winter. She also offers in-home beauty appointments, which can be schedule through her website.
One thing’s for sure—Hanley is here to help women keeping up with their “konfidence” this season!
Find High Kei Beauty on Facebook, Instagram or on their website. Appointments can be made through social media or by phone at (203) 802-5817.
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By Lajeune Hollis
Bridgeport-based BLACC Bottle is not just a reusable water bottle company, it’s a lifestyle brand. Standing for “Bonafide Love Advancing Cultural Change,” the bottles serve as canvases to promote love, unity and positivity.
Co-owners Ralph White, Necas Collins and Delano Bennett crossed paths when working in sales and management at the same Connecticut communications company. All three men are originally from Jamaica but came to Connecticut for different reasons and at different times. When they met there was an instant bond.
Initially, the trio started a podcast to promote financial literacy—a project close to their hearts. But when the pandemic began, some of the ideas they had were kicked into high gear.
“If the pandemic did not happen the process may have taken a lot longer than it did,” shared White. “We had all the time in the world to brainstorm what product to put out there.”
Their stainless-steel reusable bottles carry their positive messages forward. The front of their bottles read BLACC BOTTLE: Greatness Lies Within and the backs are covered with positive affirmations: Just Start, Find Yourself, Surprise Yourself, Rise Above All Odds, It’s Your Time to Shine, and Seize Your Moment.
“In a time where there is so much division and unhappiness around us, we created a product that acts as a reminder to lead with love for others and oneself,” said Collins. “With this approach we strive to accelerate cultural change.”
In a time where there is so much division and unhappiness around us,
BLACC Bottle also carries exclusive hand-written affirmation tees with words of positive affirmation.
“We’re looking to spread positivity and love to all races and to promote a strong brand with Black roots,” said Collins.
Much of their mission is driven by a desire to make a positive impact in the community. BLACC Bottle’s mission is to identify ways they can make an impact within the communities they serve. Through their own experiences they’ve learned that inner city youth are at a disadvantage due to the limited access to financial conversations at home and available programs. They’ve decided to make this a focus for their company.
Part of making that a focus is by offering the BLACC Bottle Scholarship and Financial Literacy Program, and they truly believe the old saying that “love can conquer all.”
“If people act with genuine authentic love, I really think we have a chance of changing the landscape of how we deal and treat each other – we will then be in a position to impact love,” shared Bennett.
As with many small businesses, one of BLACC Bottle’s biggest challenges is funding sources to produce the amount of product they need. However, as good fortune would have it, BLACC Bottle recently signed on to become an NBALAB partner, which will allow them to brand BLACC Bottle products with NBA team logos.
“We hope to continue to grow the brand as many ways as possible to spread our message, to be impactful and visible, and to partner with other companies like the NBALAB,” said Collins.
Long term, they are striving to be the first Black household name when it comes to drinkware and lifestyle brands.
Find BLACC Bottle on Instagram, Facebook and on their website.
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By Sarah Thompson
Tyshawn “FREEK” Robinson’s life hasn’t always easy. From his father being killed by a police officer when Robinson was just one month old to being arrested later in his young adulthood, his environment didn’t always provide opportunities for him to thrive. But now he’s working to flip the script about what it means to grow up in the inner city through his firearms training business Go Platinum Services in Hartford, Connecticut.
“Where I grew up, there were a lot of men going to jail or ending up dead and I didn’t want to be either,” shared Robinson. “There’s a negative perception of Black men with guns and there’s just not enough of us with gun ownership. Most of our parents didn’t want guns in the house unless you were a police office or something of the sort. So, with the lack of knowledge and the environment with no opportunities, certain people want what other people have and then you put a firearm in their hands and bad things happen. I didn’t want that stigma to continue. Every time someone takes my class, it prevents another person from going to jail from carrying a firearm illegally.”
In addition to his jobs as a bounty hunter and working with youth, Robinson took a gamble and launched his new business in August 2020, right in his hometown of Hartford.
“I chose to specifically keep it in Hartford because I believe that people coming from the inner city need this as much as anybody coming from the suburbs or another city,” he said. He hopes to soon work full-time for himself, which he says won’t be long from now.
Go Platinum Services offers firearms instruction every weekend, which include pistol permit classes and refresher classes. Participants receive specialized instruction and the ability to purchase a firearm upon completion of his courses. Robinson is also available during the week to accommodate participants’ schedules.
"You can come from the inner city and certain environments and you can make it out
“The class isn’t just about the guns. It’s about comfort and confidence when you’re dealing with firearms. I try to bring that comfort level out of people of all walks of life,” shared Robinson. “Whether you’re top in the military or you’re a novice, I want you to be confident and comfortable and most importantly, understand the dangers but enjoy what comes with the knowledge.”
Robinson says that some people take his classes—which are $120—for protection and safety, and some for sport. Some people have no idea about firearms and don’t want to touch them because they think something is going to go wrong.
“In reality that’s not the case,” explained Robinson. “Once you understand the firearm, it takes away all of the jitters and the misunderstanding or lack of information and avoids mistakes from happening.”
In other words, Robinson is helping shift fear to confidence. Go Platinum Services also helps people get their criminal records cleaned.
He also believes it’s important to have the option to be taught by somebody who looks like you.
“Coming from environments that I come from, when you have people that have the top-ranked jobs or they don’t look like us, I thought it was important that people have an option. And I choose to do it my way,” he shared. “I didn’t jump in to do it anyone else’s way. I wasn’t going to pretend who I was. I am who I am. I get it all the time – I’m covered in tattoos, I wear jewelry, but when I go into class, I want people to understand that this is a passion for me. I am all in. We’re going to laugh, we’re going to joke, but more importantly, you’re going to get that education. Leaving with a smile and a gun is not a bad deal—so it works out!”
Robinson’s passion runs deep and he’s bringing positivity to his community.
“I want to keep inspiring people. Kids want to do better things in life and want it now so some will choose the streets,” he explained. “My idea is that you can get all of those things that you dream of and still be 100% legit. You can come from the inner city and certain environments and you can make it out and become something. And you can do it your way. You don’t have to let your circumstance define you. I had a record. I got my record clean. It’s how bad you want it. I’ve been stabbed 11 times because of that ‘life’—so I understand it all and I want to change the stigma. I want to help as many people as I can to change. There is a way, and I can help you – as long as you’re willing to do the work.”
Go Platinum Services is located at 808 Windsor Street in Hartford. Learn more about Go Platinum Services on Instagram and Facebook or call or text 860.897.5195 to inquire about classes.
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By Sarah Thompson
Imagine a place where brides are welcomed with open arms, greeted by personal stylists, and cared for every step of the way—even before they enter the doors. Bridal Affection in Hamden is just that.
Owners Mel and Ide Ehigiato first opened their bridal salon as a sister store to Bridal Trousseau in New Haven, which was, quite literally, bursting at the seams. The move was intended to provide a bridal salon that offers two options for brides to find their dream gowns. Bridal Affection offers a Flagship Salon with some of the best bridal designers in the industry. In addition, they have a Sample Salon inside their store where brides can purchase couture bridal gowns off the racks at a generous discount.
“If your wedding is imminent, you can come to Bridal Affection’s sample salon, fall in love with a gown and bring it home that day,” explained Ide. “All of the gowns in our sample salon are discounted, but they are all the same quality as at Bridal Trousseau. They’re couture gowns. If you’re on a budget, and time crunch, it makes sense. In our flagship salon, we carry some of the best bridal designers in the industry where you can order your dream gown directly from the gown designers. You can visit both our sample and flagship salons in the same appointment”.
Their salon offers gowns from major designers like Maggie Sottero, Pronovias and Van Der Veld.
“We offer personalized service for brides,” shared Mel. “One of the things we focus on in our salons is having a professional personal stylist who can guide you through the process. Our stylists are people who really love and care about what they do. We hear from many brides and their families how we made it easier for them and less stressful. Trying on pretty dresses should not be stressful, it should be fun. To us, that’s very important.”
"Our stylists are people who really love and care about what they do. We hear from many brides and their families how we made it easier for them and less stressful."
The Ehigiatos make booking easy. Brides receive instant confirmation and reminders a few days before their appointment. And for brides who want an even more memorable experience, Bridal Affection offers two-hour Exclusive Bride and Bubbly Appointments.
“You bring your party, we provide hors d’oeuvres and champagne, and you can book any day of the week,” explained Ide. “On days when the shop is closed to the public you can have the whole salon to yourself!”
When a bride tries on the gown that is “the one” it’s one of the highlights of owning their shops, according to Mel.
“Sometimes you want to cry with them, because you’re excited and you’ve been through that process with them. You see them and you see how happy they are—they are beaming,” she shared.
The space at Bridal Affection is truly a sacred space, where all brides are treated with dignity and respect, and where some families even put aside differences for their loved one’s special moment.
“It helps bring people together for one person,” said Mel.
Last year, when COVID hit, The Ehigiatos were forced to close their doors temporarily, just two weeks after their shop opened.
“We started Bridal Affection on March 1, 2020. We had to build the business from scratch, and because of the pandemic, brides had to cancel and postpone their weddings,” explained Ide. “But with that, there were also opportunities, so it wasn’t all bad. We had to be innovative, and it forced us to be more creative in the way we operate our business.”
Through it all, Mel and her team worked with every bride to ensure their wedding was a special day that they deserved.
Originally a research scientist and adjunct lecturer in the Bronx, Mel discovered her “passion for fashion,” as she calls it, when she and Ide were running an event venue business.
“We love diversity and we welcome everyone. I’ve always loved being around a lot of different kinds of people because where I grew up in upstate New York it wasn’t like that,” she shared. “I like an environment where people can come together for something pleasant and happy to celebrate, no matter what they look like or who they are. We see people from all different backgrounds come in our salon. It’s encouraging, it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful to be a part of that.”
The Ehigiatos believe in living out their faith and that their purpose is bigger than selling wedding gowns.
“It’s the ability to meet people, build relationships and love them,” shared Ide. “That is truly who we are. We want to welcome everybody and love everybody.”
Bridal Affection is located at 1125 Dixwell Avenue, Hamden, Connecticut. Find them on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or on their website. To learn more about Bridal Trousseau, visit their website.
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