By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium
Over two decades ago, Monika Mathews, owner of QueenCare, a natural skin, body and spiritual care for Black people located in Columbia City, possessed a dream to help young Black girls believe that the sky was the limit and they could do anything that they set out to achieve. And now, she not only is an inspiration to young girls across the area, but she also is a mentor and a real-life example of what hard work, determination and belief in a dream can become.
Mathews will open a new store front this week in the new housing/business development on 23rd & Jackson in Seattle’s Central District — symbolizing a resurgence of Black owned business in what used to be a vibrant Black community.
Mathews’ business model incorporates a retail store that supports her non-profit program, Young Queens, which provides young Black women with the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship in a fully operational manufacturing/retail environment. For Mathews, it is a true example of how businesses impact the community around them by providing jobs/opportunities and to inspire the next generation of business owners who will help revitalize the Central area and Seattle’s Black business community.
“I think about February 2021 Black History Month and this is also the 100th anniversary of destruction of Black Wall Street and as I prepare to open our second location of QueenCare on 23rd and Jackson I’m very humbled,” says Mathews.
“I’m very excited to revitalize Black businesses in the Central District on that corner, in particular, where there has been a long line of Black businesses that came before me that really paved the way for me to be in that place today.”
Mathews moved to the Pacific Northwest 26 years ago and was looking to make an impact. Her first work experiences were in community service by teaching young people, in particular young Black women, that the sky is the limit in when it comes to their dreams. She established Young Queens of Seattle King County to work with young Black women in order to encourage entrepreneurship and the building of their dreams.
Coming back to the Central Area and bringing Black excellence back to this community is something Mathews doesn’t take lightly. Mathews inspiration is derived from her personal experience, learning about a Black woman pioneer Flo Ware, an African American community activist who’s work transcended the Leschi community and Central District. Flo Ware Park on Jackson Street in Seattle was named in her honor and this legacy was instrumental in inspiring Mathews work.
“All of my work with youth started right here in the CD,” says Mathews. “I think about Flo Ware and Flo Ware Park on 28th and Jackson where I used to live. This was the site of my very first community project. She was a phenomenal Black woman who I really learned a lot from her life and mirrored a lot of my community development sentiments on the work that she did and I want to continue that. So, bringing Black excellence back to the community, I do not take lightly.”
QueensCare’s second location was the product of a collaboration with community activist and venture capitalist like Vulkan Properties, which has been the major developer of what we see in the Central Area today, and Ventures, a non-profit organization which helps marginalized people, people of color, the LGBQT community to start their own businesses.
“We provide opportunity to capital and training for aspiring business owners,” says Beto Yarce, executive Director of Ventures. “We also provide coaching and hands-on learning for entrepreneurs with unlimited potential but limited resources.”
“Our intention is to provide people of color, the LGBQT community and marginalized peoples the resources and opportunity to start their own businesses,” adds Yarce.
Mathews says that her dream of opening a second location in the Central District may not have been possible if not for the assistance that she received from Ventures.
“I am thankful for Ventures for partnering with Vulkan to provide opportunity to affordable commercial space,” says Mathews. “If it were not for them working together to provide this opportunity, I probably would not have been able to afford this space and this is what we are talking about when it comes to equity and action.”
Mathews takes great pride in the fact that her staff is comprised of young Black women who are eager to learn the craft of building a business. Working with Life Enrichment Group (L.E.G.) a non-profit entity providing culturally relevant programs focused on academic achievement and social /emotional support for youth across Seattle and King County, Mathews is able to provide paid internships for her employees.
“We are really invested in uplifting our community and everyone in it,” says Mathews. “Our work through our non-profit partnership with Life Enrichment Group provides paid internships for our girls to work in the store.”
“We just finished up training for our newest interns for the grand opening,” added Mathews.
“I absolutely love where the idea of QueenCare was birthed from,” says Rosa Booker, an event and project management manager. “Not only has she [Mathews] been able to teach them, but she has modeled it with her business, opening not only one store but two stores in two pretty prominent business areas in the Columbia City area as well as the Central District.”
Having a black-owned business open during Black History Month as the first retail tenant in a new development is a momentous event. An opportunity that many advocated believe is the first step in bringing Black excellence back to the Central District.
“When you follow your passion, you will meet up with your purpose – that intersection for me right now is here at 23rd and South Jackson Street,” Mathews said. “How exciting!!!”