All photos by Get Fokusd Productions
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It’s said that from tragedy, great things can be birthed.
Written by Latrese Meyers
In 2017, Phylicia Dove was traveling to her hometown in Brooklyn, NY to participate in the “LeadHERship” empowerment summit at Berkeley College. Her car was packed with handcrafted jewelry and other pieces she spent countless hours creating to sell at the popular event. Moments later, this excitement to showcase her pieces to the world would be shaken when she learned of her grandfather’s passing. He was a man she referred to as “the love of her life.” A family full of entrepreneurs taught her to persevere. She attended the event, and afterward, her role as granddaughter took center focus as she began assisting her family with her grandfather’s arrangements. Still in a fog, she mistakenly left her car doors unlocked. And in an instant, every piece of jewelry and fabric she hadn’t sold at the summit were stolen while her car sat parked in front of her childhood home. Combining the heartbreak of her grandfather’s departure with the stolen merchandise, Dove felt defeated. She considered ending her professional passion for fashion altogether.
Noticing her despair, Dove’s mother, a powerful force in her life, challenged her daughter to draw on her faith and remember that suffering produces tenacity, character and hope. Taking those words to heart, Dove started over. From scratch. She created new relationships with merchants from countries all over the world, and using an investment of only $141 that her mother provided, a “Monarchy” was born.
“What’s most interesting about the tough moments in our lives is that it seems like the end and there’s nowhere else to go,” said Dove. “Life is constantly testing us, but I believe there’s beauty in the journey. The robbery and the passing of my beloved grandfather were certainly difficult, but that’s not where my story ended. In all actuality, it’s where it began.”
Fast forward to today to West Utica Street. Dove’s storefront, Black Monarchy, is located on Buffalo’s vibrant west side and serves as one of Buffalo’s newest hubs for cultural fashion. Dove’s store is positioned as a global artisan and fashion brand that carries hand-made pieces and specializes in authentic, ready-to-wear African clothing for men, women and children. From apparel to furniture, everything sold at Black Monarchy is unique.
“We take great pride in being able to say that the pieces created are one-of-a-kind and true to their origin. This keeps us authentic, which truly honors the culture and people who are responsible for its beauty,” said Dove.
Beyond her artistic craftsmanship and her eye for design, the success of Black Monarchy can also be attributed to Dove’s family, including her husband who encouraged her to be bold and include “Black” in the business’ name. Interestingly, that one decision made all of the difference. Dove is a social activist and lover of culture, and wanted to create a space that spoke to and celebrated the richness and beauty of the diaspora. With boldness, “Black” was added to the name and has been warmly received. Dove believed it would raise awareness and start conversations. The latter is something she’s still shocked by.
“People come into the store and find unique pieces. And while browsing our shelves, they partake in serious conversation,” she said.
Although what’s sold in Black Monarchy is derived from African culture, the store’s customer base is diverse. When thinking about the potential of the store, and who would patronize the business, Dove envisioned a place that celebrates our “Origin of One.” Her vision has become a reality. Clients comprise multiple ethnicities and walks of life.
“If you think about the human race as a box of crayons, when you mix all of the colors together, it creates black.” said Dove. “Black Monarchy brings this idea to life, and offers a place to celebrate our culture and shared experiences through fashion.”
Black Monarchy is a hit with its many customers, but also with the corporate and philanthropic community. In 2017, the same year as the robbery, passing of her grandfather, and opening of her first brick and mortar, Dove’s future took a huge leap. 43North hosted “THE PITCH,” a business plan competition that promotes local entrepreneurship. Phylicia won the grand prize in the Main Street Businesses category and the People’s Choice Minority and Women Small Business award. The investment thrust Black Monarchy into the spotlight and offered opportunity for growth, additional exposure, and solidified her brand in the world fashion. In 2018, when 43North teamed up with Fascebook and M&T Bank for IGNITE, Dove won yet again after pitching her store’s mission and product to a panel of entrepreneurs against over 500 other applicants.
When asked what advice she would give to other entrepreneurs, Dove said, “Start. You may not have everything you need. Sometimes you can get caught up in the search for perfection. We want the perfect logo, team, or website. That’s just not the reality for many dreamers. You have to be resourceful, produce from a place of passion, and your calling will qualify you to belong in every space you enter.”
With all Dove has overcome, rebuilt, and gained as the owner and creative designer of Black Monarchy, she recalls her toughest journey as a rising entrepreneur was her additional role as mother. Her leap into fashion began while pregnant with her first child. She is now the proud mom of two young boys, Isaac and Nicholas, who she says “have literally grown up with the business.” She adds, “I don’t know why I waited until this part of my life to try and set the world on fire,” said Dove. “Once I had them it was all or nothing. I went to photo shoots, vending events all the while strapping one baby to my chest and carrying the other in a car seat.” It was in those moments that Dove knew she was doing what she was created to do.
She reflects positively on her journey to date, and says it’s all worth it. “I wouldn’t change a thing. In moments where I should’ve broken, I grew. My favorite mantra is to find what makes you come alive and go and do that, the world needs more people who have come alive. I have simply followed what makes me come alive.” As her space and reach continue to grow, she takes pride in knowing she created a place where people want to be. A place where diversity and culture are celebrated, and open to all who are captivated by her flamboyant textiles.
Black Monarchy is located at 527 W. Utica Street in Buffalo.