Brooklyn’s Black innovators lead the way
Michelle Cadore and Brian Williams share insights on growing their businesses in the borough.
February 23, 2021
In celebration of Black History Month, we are highlighting Black founders and entrepreneurs and their contributions to Brooklyn’s innovation ecosystem.
DBP recently spoke with two leading innovators, Michelle Cadore (YES I AM, INC. / DA SPOT) and Brian Williams (BREAUX Capital), about their founding stories, recent achievements, and goals for the year ahead.
CEO + Designer, YES I AM, INC.; Co-Owner, DA SPOT
Caribbean-American entrepreneur and fashion designer Michelle Cadore grew up in Brooklyn and worked in city government supporting small businesses before deciding she wanted to build her own. The CUNY Baruch College Zicklin School of Business alum launched her apparel brand YES I AM in 2016 with a line of t-shirts, jackets, and accessories featuring inspirational messages, and the following year opened a small storefront in Dumbo called DA SPOT, which quickly grew to carry 25 brands from fellow creatives of color.
Cadore relocated DA SPOT to a larger space in Fulton Mall’s City Point in 2019, and left her day job to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship. To date, Cadore has worked with nearly 60 brands – many of whom are selling their products for the first time. DA SPOT now houses C.A.N.V.A.S. Art Gallery, which features rotating works by local artists, and has hosted a variety of workshops and performances.
Michelle Cadore, center, with DA SPOT co-owners Frantz Farnoile (FACE) and Tyler Jordan
Recently, Mastercard featured Cadore, her brand, and the shop in a national commercial and online campaign spotlighting entrepreneurs who participated in the company’s “Digital Doors” pilot to boost their online presence. Cadore pivoted to a primarily virtual shop during the height of the pandemic and grew her online business from 5% to 50% of total sales.
For 2021, Cadore is looking forward to more opportunities to support creatives of color, and partnering on events and festivals that bring makers together with new audiences for their work, such as the recent Black Creatives + Culture Market at City Point.
Michelle speaks with Nadine Gurley of Let’s Converse at DA SPOT’s Downtown Brooklyn storefront
(Photo credit: Baskuiat)
Cadore sees her business as a way to foster community and celebrate the culture of Brooklyn businesses that came before hers. She recalls attending Brooklyn Tech and spending time at Albee Square Mall – the same area where her store is located today. For Cadore, “owning a business in this space is iconic, legendary – it makes me feel like anything is possible and helps us to inspire and motivate our community.”
Learn more about Michelle Cadore and her work with YES I AM and DA SPOT here.
Artists and designers who are interested in working with DA SPOT can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor de Blasio stopped by DA SPOT for some holiday shopping last year
Co-Founder, BREAUX Capital
After graduating from Morehouse College in 2014 with a degree in Economics, Flatbush native Brian Williams returned to Brooklyn and started his career in the education sector. Following personal experiences with injustice in the financial system, he became interested in supporting financial wellness for Black communities. In 2015, together with two fellow Morehouse alums, Williams founded fintech startup BREAUX Capital - an online platform and mobile app that offers automated savings, educational content, and peer connections aimed at helping young Black men build wealth.
Though BREAUX Capital began with just $500 in initial investment, it has grown to a social network of more than 1,000 members across the country with hubs in cities such as NYC, LA, Atlanta, and New Orleans. The BREAUX network includes Black men from a variety of backgrounds, from students to entrepreneurs to individuals returning from prison, united by the goal of improving their financial health.
BREAUX Capital co-founder Brian Williams
The team has been recognized for their work numerous times over the past several years, including Inc.’s 30 Under 30 feature and selection for the 2021 Roddenberry Fellowship to support social entrepreneurs.
Looking ahead, Williams is eager to “continue to grow the business and see how lives change through our work.” He believes that the COVID-19 crisis and resulting economic impact exposed opportunities for innovation to help mitigate financial hardship, and in the coming year he and his team aim to grow membership throughout NYC neighborhoods.
Brian (right) with co-founders Ras Asan (left) and Derrius Quarles (center)
Though BREAUX Capital now operates remotely, Williams is still based in Brooklyn and leads the company’s presence here. For him, the importance of being in Brooklyn is twofold – it puts the fintech startup at the heart of the financial capital of the world, and presents the opportunity to make change in the community he calls home.
Learn more about Brian Williams’ work and BREAUX Capital here.