small business

Despite Pandemic, Business Owners Open in New Haven

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Opening a new business is hard and doing it during a pandemic is even more of a challenge. But one Eli Whitney graduate was determined to share the arts with her community.

“It’s about helping young entrepreneurs because everyone needs a start,” said Rahkiya Davis, owner of Kolour Boutique in Newhallville.

A new business owner herself, her store could be the opportunity local artists need to get off the ground.

“There’s a lot of people doing hair, there’s a lot of people selling eyelashes, clothes, all these young entrepreneurs, a lot of them do need a space where they can start selling their product,” said Davis.

Davis is a graduate of Eli Whitney High School where she developed a love of fashion design. She knows how hard it is for young designers to get their brands in stores.

She has a vision for the store, which will be a quick stop for boutique items and local designers' clothing, as well as a place where cosmetologists can try out their crafts.

“I don’t want to charge some of these crazy prices,” said Davis. “I want to give them the opportunity to come and see if this is something you like.”

In a neighborhood known for higher crime rates in the city, she also wants this to be a space for artistic expression through community classes.

“This space will help them come in and be creative and let go of whatever it is they want to get out and showcase themselves and their talent,” said Davis.

It’s an area where city officials say they’re excited to see new business development

“A new business opening up in Newhallville is extremely special,” said Michael Piscitelli, New Haven’s economic development administrator.

And, she’s also part of an entrepreneurship trend in New Haven. Shuttered businesses, departed students and faculty, and tourism jobs put on hold have impacted everyone’s bottom line. So, there are new businesses popping up to replace old ones.

For the last three years, New Haven has guided the process in a program called “The DNA of an Entrepreneur.”

“It takes people from the idea stage all the way to the implementation stage,” said Cathy Graves, deputy director of business development.

The program runs twice a year for eight weeks with lessons on marketing and finance, turning out several new business owners this year.  

“(We) had 41 people go through the academy and so far, we’ve had 12 people open up a business and during this pandemic it’s not bad at all,” said Graves.

Last year, 17 program graduates opened up in the city. The next class should begin mid-September, giving people a new way to make their dreams come true, even during a pandemic.

“It’s a very good way to invest in the city, to invest in our community,” said Graves.

Davis is one of many business owners who are opening up on her own, and despite challenges, she said she’s not giving up.

“This is a dream I’ve always had so I feel like until I fulfill it, I’m going to be here doing my passion,” said Davis.

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