Monday, November 5, 2012

Oakland’s First Fridays
If you haven’t been to Oakland’s First Fridays recently, it is worth well worth the trip and will most definitely quench your thirst for art, culture, and food.  What was once just a few blocks of art galleries open late to show their new exhibits has turned into 10+ blocks of festivities stretching from Jack London Square to Old Oakland and through the Uptown District.

On November 2nd, Women’s Initiative had the unique pleasure of spending First Fridays with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.  She has supported the growth of Oakland’s Art Murmur which now draws crowds from across the Bay.  The Mayor hosted Women’s Initiative’s East Bay Board of Directors for an intimate reception at City Hall – complete with a tour of the Mayor’s office which boasts beautiful wood paneled ceilings and a very large fireplace, as seen below.  The Mayor accompanied Women’s Initiative on a tour of three graduate businesses that are helping transform Oakland’s empty store fronts into bustling businesses.  Penelope Abide, owner of Nneka, has taken the old Raider’s building on Broadway and created a retail space packed with local designers, artists, jewelers, and at least 4 other Women’s Initiative graduates’ products.  When she moved into the space on Broadway and 14th a year ago, it was one big, open area which has been converted into two retail spaces.  Right next store is Betti Ono Gallery, owned by Anyka Barber.  On this particular night, the Betti Ono gallery was home to a husband and wife artist’s duo, bringing multi-media art to a whole new dimension.    Betti Ono gallery is known to be one of the most popular spots on First Fridays – be sure to check out her December exhibition. 

The final stop on the Women’s Initiative business tour was Shoe Groupie, owned by Candice Littlefield and Dion Bullock.  With a selection of sassy shoes for ladies and men, as well as accessories, Shoe Groupie is nothing short of fabulous.  Mayor Quan was intrigued by a pair of rain boots that roll up and can be put in your bag when not in use.  Best of all, they are totally affordable and come in both black and leopard print. 

As we said our goodbyes to Mayor Quan and her team, she had a smile on her face; happy to see new business in Oakland?  Delighted that women are leading the charge for economic revitalization?  Women’s Initiative graduates are powerful agents of economic change in Oakland and we all share the Mayor’s vision of creating an Oakland that draws people from across the Bay Area to eat at our restaurants, shop our small businesses and help keep Oakland moving in a positive direction.  Thank you Penelope, Anyka, Candice and Dion for being such exceptional role models for other women business owners and thank you Mayor Quan for recognizing our efforts to contribute to Oakland’s renaissance. 

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