MILWAUKEE — A few years ago, Chrishella Roché had an idea.
She had just gotten back from teaching in Abu Dhabi, where once a month she and other coworkers would get together and paint.
"I wanted to create that within my own little community, and so I just started looking for space," Roché said.
In 2018 Roché founded Vibez Creative Arts Space. Family, friends, and coworkers could come together for art, fellowship, and healing. She also features the work of diverse artists from around Milwaukee.
The studio is located inside Sherman Phoenix.
"I love that I grew up on 38th Street and now have a business on 36th Street," Roché said.
When the pandemic hit, Roché and her team quickly pivoted to an all-virtual model. They prepared take-home art kits and shared live art lessons. But Roché said she was worried.
Then, two grants she applied for came through. One was a $10,000 grant from the Black-Owned Small Business Impact Fund, a partnership between the NAACP and Beyoncé's charity BeyGOOD.
"I definitely shed a tear because one, I didn’t have it to make sure we didn’t fall behind on our bills and obligations," Roché said. "But two, it was like, oh my gosh, the NAACP and Beyoncé and her team really looked at my application and thought, that’s a great thing she’s doing there and I want to see her succeed."
Creator and General Manager Olivia Owens said one of the biggest challenges women of color face as entrepreneurs is accessing funding. She said that's why any support from the community is critical.
"A simple like, share, a contribution to a crowdfunding campaign can go a long way for the business owners, can go a long way for these business owners, not even just from the standpoint of funding, but that validation, that confirmation that they are on the right track, people are seeing what they are doing, they're getting value out of their content, their products, their services," Owens said. "They need that moral support as well to keep going because it's hard out here in this pandemic."
Before the pandemic, African-American women made up the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, according to a study from American Express. The study found African-American women started 763 businesses a day on average.
Roché said she hopes she can inspire more women like her to do the same.
"I didn’t have a business plan, all I had was a thought and a feeling I wanted to share with people," Roché said. "And how do you put a feeling down on paper? So I just had a thought and a feeling, and I wanted to get that to other people."
Roché said she will open the Vibez Creative Arts Space studio on Saturday, Feb. 13, for families to come have fun. She plans to open it from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. each Saturday for families.