Black-owned businesses make an impact on Utah community

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Three Black-owned business owners in the state of Utah opened up about their experiences, what motivates them and how they’re making an impact on their communities.

The inspiration to start up a business is different for everyone. Margaret Matthew, Trey Stewart and Matthew Haddix all looked to their life experiences and interests to create brands that reflected their passions.

Trey Stewart is the owner of Default Happiness. (Photo courtesy of Trey Stewart)
Matthew Haddix is the owner of Lit Mercantile. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Haddix)
Margaret Matthew is the owner of MNM Skin. (Photo courtesy of Margaret Matthew)

Margaret Matthew is Ugandan-born and Sudanese. She fled her country when she was 5 years old because of a civil war in her village. Following that, her life consisted of moving around the U.S. After settling in Utah, she founded Future Scholars of Africa with a group of friends to provide opportunities for African students in the state.

“This nonprofit is the reason why I wanted to do more than work for corporate America,” Matthew said.

Watching her friends attend school and think about their futures made her question her own. This led her to start the Master Esthetics school, which resulted in the establishment of her company MNM Skin in March 2021.

The story for Trey Stewart, a BYU basketball player, had a different beginning to his brand Default Happiness. While he was learning about stocks and Roth IRAs, he was also creating custom shoe designs, which inspired him to launch his own clothing line. His basketball coach, Mark Pope, helped Stewart connect with others who supported the start of Default Happiness.

“Instead of investing my money, I put it all into starting my company. I learned all about LLCs, Employer Identification Numbers, building a website and the financial side of things,” Stewart said.

Matthew Haddix is the owner of Essence of M, or Lit Mercantile, a business focusing on men’s grooming products. About two and a half years ago, Haddix experienced issues with his skin that interfered with his lifestyle.

“During that time, I lost a lot of motivation to get up in the morning and take care of myself appearance-wise due to the fact that I could not find products that worked for me and were natural,” Haddix said.

According to Haddix, many men were facing this same problem. In efforts to find a solution, he tried tons of products but none of them worked for him, leading him to create his own brand.

“I believe our community has natural beauty, but the mainstream industry has not provided us with ways to take care of our hair and skin,” he said.

For Matthews, Stewart and Haddix, the road to creating their own businesses consisted of many ups and downs. All of them had different paths and continue to navigate their way within the industry.

Matthew’s story began with challenges that pushed her to grow and learn more.

“I had no resources, no mentor and no help. I relied on my family and friends’ encouragement while I tried to navigate opening a business,” Matthew said.

As she overcame her challenges and moved forward with her brand, she encountered other Black-owned businesses in Utah, which made her realize she was not alone in her efforts.

The process for Haddix contained similar difficulties. He had moral support, but partnerships were hard to come by. He discovered how much mental effort it took for him to stay consistent and to continue to put his heart into his work rather than focus on money and fame.

“I also faced rejection and questions of me knowing if I know what I am doing and if I know how to make products for Black skin as well as other ethnic skin types for men,” Haddix said.

Throughout the uncertainty, he found his drive in the connections and support he received from his customers and other Black-owned businesses in the area with whom he has worked with to build awareness through social media and word of mouth.

Haddix attended Utah Black Business Market, an event hosted by Medium Studio in Salt Lake City. This event, and other similar events, are opportunities for Black business owners to connect with other Black business owners and grow their brand.

Stewart shared how fortunate he was throughout his journey. He has had opportunities to collaborate with others such as music artist Heeva Olive and the Black-owned business Wellness Action Recovery on the East Coast.

He shared his future plans to create sport programs for basketball camps. “I have a basketball group, we plan to hold a sports camp with an emphasis on building the mental side of kids’ game as well as their skills,” Stewart said.

Using their passions to reach out to others, these business owners shared what their goals are and how they make an impact on their communities.

Haddix hopes to emphasize a feel-good mentality through his products. He aims to uplift and motivate men.

In addition, he aspires to bring a broader audience of men in the beauty industry, challenging traditional gender roles and encouraging his community to be open to new ideas and not be afraid of them.

Stewart’s brand focuses on mental health. His mission statement highlights the importance of affecting people on an individual level, which includes the act of spreading happiness and hope.

Connecting to the idea of inward work, Matthew strives to help others beyond the surface of the skin.

“Helping people take care of their skin is not just physical,” she said. “It’s also emotional and mental, and when their best face is forward, it increases their confidence and ability to do more in the world.”

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