With racial justice at the forefront of national conversations last summer, so too was support of Black-owned businesses.
Here in Grand Junction, those stores pop up as online yoga businesses, used tire stores and fashion authenticators.
Teri Ciocco took a winding road to entrepreneurship. She has been a geologist, teacher’s aide and a science teacher. Now she can add small business owner to that catalogue.
About a year ago, Ciocco started Yogis Pay Yogi, an online marketplace where yoga instructors can buy and sell lessons and resources.
“Most of my career was as a science teacher at Orchard Mesa Middle School. This is where I drew my inspiration,” Ciocco said. “From teaching in School District 51, I saw that cooperation, sharing, working together as a team just makes everything rise to a higher level. So that’s what I’m trying to do with yoga.”
Ciocco and her husband moved to Grand Junction after living on the Front Range. He took a job in accounting while she worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Department of Energy.
Those jobs required a lot of traveling and, with three kids, she wanted to stay close to home. So she switched careers and opened a day care where she took care of pre-kindergarten children. That evolved into moving into a teaching career where she was with District 51 for 20 years.
About 15 years ago was when she saw a need in her life and the life of her colleagues for peace of mind, and that planted the seed for Yogis Pay Yogi.
“I saw a personal need to relax at the end of the day. I decided to go to yoga teacher school,” she said. “I would teach this to other teachers in workshops at School District 51. I would also teach it after school at the school, and also teach it at Palisade Community Center.”
After retiring as a teacher, she applied that experience to her next chapter.
You know those worksheets and lessons teachers pass out in regular classrooms? Chances are those were purchased in an online marketplace from other teachers. That’s what Yogis Pay Yogi does, only with less algebra. Vendors will sign up to have their lessons, music, photos and yoga study guides listed on the website, and instructors can pick and choose what to buy.
Yogis Pay Yogi had an uptick in attention during the summer protests against racial inequality. Black Lives Matter Grand Junction’s website also featured Ciocco on its paged dedicated to such businesses.
She’s seeing steady business now and thinks the best way to support small, Black-owned businesses is simple.
“Word of mouth is good. When you tell someone how pleased you are with that business, that goes a long way,” she said. “That helped me a ton.”
For more information on Ciocco’s services, visit yogispayyogi.com
“IT’S BEEN A DREAM”
Jeffery Dottson first came to Grand Junction to play running back for then-Mesa State College in the mid-1990s. He studied history and communications, and was in the Army.
But everything he’s done in life has been with one goal in mind — to be a business owner. He’s been the head of BMT Auto, a used tire superstore at 241 S 14th St., for four years and has been in the industry for 15.
“It’s been a dream of mine. I caught the bug early,” Dottson said. “I would work throughout the day and realized I wanted to be my own boss. It gives you freedom and no one to blame but yourself.”
A father of four, Dottson’s goal is to retire at 55 years old so he can spend time with his family.
“Especially now, tomorrow is never promised,” he said.
Dottson, who was born in Georgia, draws much of his experience from his time in the Army, including on matters of race. A lesson he learned in the military was not to judge someone by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
“We saw no color in the Army,” he said. “I’ve been racially profiled before. I think most of the time they’re not jealous of me because of my skin, they’re jealous of what I have as a man and a business owner.”
BMT Auto is open Monday-Wednesday from 9 a.m. — 7 p.m., Thursday-Saturday from 9 a.m. — 8 p.m., and on Sunday from 10 a.m. — 6 p.m. You can call BMT Auto at 970-201-0929.
“WOMEN OF COLOR ARE GETTING MORE OPPORTUNITIES”
The idea of Liyah’s Luxuries came to Aaliyah Kimble when she was sitting in an airport and noticed a Louis Vuitton bag.
That sparked her interest in the brand. She became a Louis Vuitton reseller and is now an authenticator. She went this route after seeing that other Louis Vuitton authentication services were daunting and not user friendly and had little depth to their content.
Those services didn’t go above and beyond, and Kimble wanted to change that.
“It’s an online business, so I’ll have people send me photos of their bags and let them know if it’s authentic,” she said. “I’ll guide them through the refund process if it’s fake. If they bought it at a local store, it’s more difficult than if they bought it on eBay.”
Clients will snap photos of their stamps showing where it was made, tags, zippers, essentially anything with the Louis Vuitton logo on it. She can tell if the product is inauthentic based on the bag’s interior design or color, and the fonts and format of the tags, among other issues.
Kimble is from San Diego and came to Grand Junction by way of Louisiana with her fiance in 2019.
“I like it here but I miss the beach,” she said. “But the mountains are a pretty nice trade off.”
While settling into Colorado, Kimble has noticed growth within her customer base.
She’s in a number of fashion Facebook groups. When she joined them, the members were mostly white women. Now she’s seeing a consistent increase of women of color joining, showing her that they have more disposable income.
“It means that women of color are getting more opportunities,” she said. “It signals growth, even though it should have always been this way.”
For more information, you can visit liyahsluxuries.com or check out her Instagram, @liyahsluxuries.