When COVID-19 struck in America, multiple states imposed a lockdown in order to contain the spread of the virus and protect lives. The unintended consequences of the lockdown led to the collapse of businesses, with Black businesses being the hardest hit.
Traditionally, Black businesses face structural and cultural challenges, including challenges in raising venture funding to expand the business operation, hire more competent hands, and racism among others.
Before the pandemic, Dennine Dyer was getting to the peak of her career as a wardrobe stylist and a fashion guru, working with top-notch celebrities. The 32-year-old even worked on a TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress America” which ended up advertised on a big billboard in Times Square.
The lockdown became a nightmare for Dyer as clients canceled one project after another.
“I felt like I was on top of the world. Like, I’m working on these amazing projects, with all these celebrities — and then everything stopped,” Dyer told CNBC + Acorns. “And now I’m by myself, I’m not able to see my family, I’m not able to see my friends. I was scared to leave my apartment because of the fear of the unknown.”
Dyer was down but not out. She capitalized on the pandemic to venture into a new field. In less than two years, she has established a promising ice cream business that is gaining attention and receiving positive reviews in the media and among consumers.
Dyer spent her lockdown period to stay connected with her family and do virtual cooking. The cooking became an instant hit. Uncles, aunts, cousins, and nephews were teaching the group of up to 14 family members how to make anything from traditional West Indian dishes to focaccia, Pad Thai, and pesto.
In one of their food cooking deliberations, Dyer suggested to an uncle to lead an ice cream-making class but the idea was dismissed. She took up the challenge and began researching into ice cream making.
Using her Brooklyn kitchen, Dyer got all the necessary ingredients and mixed them up with some ice in a Ninja blender she’d borrowed from her mother. Her first craft ice cream did not go as planned.
“I’m like, ‘Alright. It failed the first time, we’re gonna figure it out the second time.’ It was a long night. And then, like, I scooped it. I’m like, ‘Whoa, this is ice cream. I did it,'” she said.
She subsequently spent the next few months researching everything about ice creams sorbets, ice pops, and popsicle making. She received a $1,400 check from her family to help pay for her license and LLC.
She used the seed money and her personal savings to launch Solo Scoop Creamery in October 2020. According to Dyer, each ice cream flavor she makes was inspired by her travel destinations, giving customers a taste of the world with each spoonful.
Dyer is aware of the field she is venturing into as she comes up against established giants. However, she is unfazed and is drawing on her years of creating visual stories with her work as a stylist to build a successful business.
In April, she crossed the break-even point with $500 in profit and by September she closed her first year in business with about $5,500 in profit.
Dyer has not completely abandoned her fashion hustle. She is supplementing her income with some seasonal styling jobs.