This article appears in a 12-part series on minority entrepreneurship and is underwritten by the Wilmington Alliance. It was independently reported and not reviewed by Wilmington Alliance before publication.
When you think about the traditional (i.e. as of the mid 2010s) coworking space, the companies that inhabit it usually run along the lines of tech startups, marketing companies and nonprofits.
AfroZen, with an office in TKO Suites at 300 Delaware Ave., is a bit different. It’s metaphysical company founded in 2019 by Adanna Murrell.
“Many shy away from the concepts of metaphysics, due to fear and/or misinformation, but if you’ve ever walked into a room and didn’t like ‘the vibe’ of the room/people in it, then you have experienced what metaphysical practitioners work with,” said Murrell, who found that her longtime niche interest was establishing itself as a viable business when she released a line of handmade products, including candles and sprays that fall into the New Age Wellness category.
It started with Murrell meeting one-on-one with clients for via Facebook, which is still the center of her business. As the realities of COVID-19 set in in March, she found that people were seeking ways to cope with the lockdown — and her virtual presence and calming products were what many were looking for.
“It’s along the lines of aromatherapy,” she said. “I make everything from scratch, bless the bottle with good intentions. I have lots of testimonials — the response was overwhelmingly positive.”
And it wasn’t just people looking for alternative ways to cope with quarantine anxiety. With couples stuck at home, she saw big opportunity with her candles and room sprays designed for sexual enhancement.
“My business kind of soared because of COVID, because I was able to pinpoint exactly what the needs are — knowing that back in March that a lot of people were going to be cooped up within the home, I made something people could buy for their partners, and it took off. I was basically just listening to what the audience needed.”
It was during this time that Murrell found that running the business at home wasn’t working. She needed more space to create the products and get them ready to ship. Now, she makes all of the products out of the office at TKO Suites, which is the home base of several other minority-owned small businesses, including Mädō Creative Agency and United Tech Project.
“I learned about the space by word of mouth, and I’ve been here for about a month now,” she said. “It’s absolutely helpful for the business.”
Murrell’s entrepreneurship journey isn’t exactly typical — she didn’t go through an entrepreneurship program or participate in pitch competitions for investors — but it’s not exactly atypical for entrepreneurs of color. Though she does have an office now, AfroZen exists entirely on social media, where she interacts with people, offers metaphysical readings and has an online shop geared for adults.
Everything she learned about marketing and promotion, she said, she learned from YouTube.
“I did hit a plateau,” she said. “I wasn’t very versed when it came to marketing. I just put myself out there and at first it was good, but it started to plateau because I kept doing it to the same audience over and over and over, so I had to go back to the drawing board to figure out more techniques for the marketing.”
So far, she hasn’t had to take out any loans. She invested her own savings to get started.
“I focus on groups that are interested in what I’m selling, then I give value — meaning, I give information for free that they can use right then and there, and then once they get a positive outcome from it, they come back wanting to learn more,” she said. “You have to establish a trust factor.”
Since her customer base is online, she serves people all over the U.S., as well as internationally. She doesn’t rely on a Wilmington-based client base, but as a member of the business owner community, she’s aware of the local challenges. “I think the issue is that there are lot of talented individuals out there in the Delaware area who want to be heard, and I think [minority business project organizers] need to put themselves in their shoes to see where they’re coming from. More listening and more action.”
Her advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs with niche interests: “If you have an idea, you’ve got to execute on it,” she said. “Take the leap of faith and just jump out there and do it, because a lot of us are sitting on these brilliant ideas, we’re not doing anything about it, and the best way that you can see your labor is by actually executing it and being consistent with it.”
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