- Faith & Family
The ingenuity of Blacks in Miami-Dade County striving to be entrepreneurs isn’t a new concept. In fact, mom-and-pop businesses have been the lifeblood for Black communities — from Liberty City and Overtown to the Grove — since Blacks from the islands and U.S. began to populate South Florida over 100 years ago. Throughout the years Blacks have maintained the owner’s spirit that continues to live on in today’s entrepreneurs. Karlos Griffin, 30, president of Millions Clothing Company, is an entertainer-turned-clothing executive that put his focus on keeping Miami stylish.
“Before I had Millions Clothing I had a shoe store,” said the London-born, Miami Gardens resident. “We noticed that throughout the recession people were still buying clothes so a clothing store was the next step. The first idea was a jean company, but manufacturing was more than we could afford at the time so we set our sights on making shirts.”
Millions first opened its doors in 2006. Most of the clothes are found on the brand’s official website and some pieces can be bought in other local retail stores. While Griffin recognizes the difference between the clothing and music business he says that the same hard work is required in both industries.
“No matter which business
you have it’s kind of the same,” he said. “It’s about promotion, marketing and supply and demand; it’s about the same basic principles. Fashion is more consumer-driven; you are more concerned about what the consumer would like.”
Matthew Simms, 24, who is a part of the marketing team for Millions says that despite the gloomy economy, women are some of their most loyal consumers.
“Our main audience is women; women will buy [clothes] for men and the kids,” he said. “Men don’t seem as likely to shop for themselves. So, we try to really get the attention of the women.”
Dana A. Dorsey [D. A. Dorsey] is hailed as Miami’s first Black millionaire, a pioneer citizen and developer of early Colored Town (Overtown). Dorsey came to South Florida in 1897 and soon began to purchase lots in Colored Town. He eventually accumulated the largest real estate empire ever owned by a Black man in the history of Miami-Dade County. He is also credited with helping to organize South Florida’s first Black bank, The Mutual Industrial Benefit and Savings Association. There were other business pioneers as well.
Israel Lafayette Jones, a recently-freed slave, moved from Raleigh, N.C. to South Florida in 1892 in search of work. After a nine-year stint as a caretaker and foreman of a Coconut Grove plantation, Jones saved enough money to purchase a small island called Porgy Key, now the southern end of Biscayne National Park.
He later went on to expand his landholdings when he purchased Totten Key from Frank T. Budge in 1911. The purchase would prove to be quite an investment. He bought the island for $1 dollar an acre and eventually sold 212 acres for $250,000.
By Randy Grice