Trevor Parham, founder and CEO of co-working company Oakstop, is literally in the business of bringing people together. But with a highly infectious pandemic on the loose, it wasn’t an easy thing to do in 2020.

Not to mention the political divisiveness tearing the country apart and the social unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

“Bringing people together is sort of the antithesis of where we are right now as a society,” Parham said.

Though 2020 has been described by many as a “terrible year,” the “worst year ever” or a “garbage year,” Parham has done his best to remain optimistic, even though the pandemic decimated his Oakland-based business. Oakstop’s revenue cratered, the number of employees went from more than 20 to just five and Parham has had to reduce his salary. To zero.

Parham, an entrepreneur who grew up in Oakland, said he was faced with two decisions early on in the pandemic: stew in the fear of failure, or invest in the future. He chose the latter.

“I’m not going to be a victim of this year, I’m going to be a leader,” he said. “Not only are we going to make it through this, but we’re going to find some way to turn this into an opportunity, and make lemonade out of lemons.”

While Parham watched other businesses close down, he stayed open, correctly predicting there would be government help and a plethora of “sweet deals.” The first set of “sweet deals” came when he was able to expand Oakstop at its core downtown location from occupying the second floor and basement to include the ground floor, adding 4,000 square feet and bringing his total to 21,000. The deal required a one-time lump sum, but no rent owed on any of the spaces until the city’s commercial moratorium lifts, likely in the spring of 2021. The second “sweet deal” came just recently, when he closed a new lease on new location at the California Ballroom in December.

Investing in the future also meant investing in his community. He started donating co-working and event space to Meals on Wheels to help feed the elderly, and to an organization that created personal protective equipment.

And not long after the first wave of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the June police killing of George Floyd, Parham co-founded the Oakland Black Business Fund, a relief fund to support Black businesses. For Parham, the best way to change the power dynamics that result in injustice is to own a business.

“Being a Black business owner is essentially a revolutionary act,” Parham said. “It’s an act of empowering and bringing economics into your community, so we can have more of a powerful position to prevent things like (the killing of Floyd) from continuing to happen.”

So far, the Oakland Black Business Fund has raised $265,000 and has helped 75 local Black-owned businesses. The fund has more than 1,500 donors, including Okta, Community Bank of the Bay, Clorox, National Community Investment Fund, Bandcamp, Square and the Chamberlin Family Foundation.

Parham started Oakstop in 2014 with $30,000 in savings and built it up to become a profitable community hub for events and co-working. He bootstrapped the operation because he wanted to be primarily responsible to the community, not investors.

On a sunny day in the fall, Parham was walking near Lake Merritt while on a call with the Oakland Economic Recovery Advisory Council and 40 to 50 other business owners who had been advising the city of Oakland during the pandemic, when the weight of his efforts hit him.

“It was in this moment when I thought, ‘Wow, I’m really an active contributor to this city and this community,’” said Parham.


When we say, "black-owned businesses represent our main street," what does that mean?

It means that our spaces are community hubs. Black entrepreneurs serve their communities in a relevant, culturally compassionate manner and are driven by so much more than economic gain.

Kyrah and Lilly, the owners of @queenhippiegypsy are a shining example of our point. As Oakland's first crystal botanica on the historic 14th street business strip, they've made it their business to be a healing force and a light for our community over the very dark past 2 years. 

It is imperative that as a community we protect the people who fight to protect us. Queen Hippie Gypsy has been vandalized, impersonated and even burglarized over the past two years. Why? Because they are visible. Because they are present. Because they give a damn. 

OBBF works with Black-owned small businesses help them respond to business emergencies. However, we also work to strengthen their networks and grow their support base so they are better prepared for the next emergency. 

As always, please support the businesses we love! Extend Queen Hippie Gypsy a follow, attend one of their fabulous workshops or purchase a gift set for yourself or a loved one (in person or online!)
Have you told your loved ones you love them today? 

Can we talk about someone we love?

We love @beammeuptayleur and the whole @gold.beams team. They open up their homes, their schedules and their wallets to give young black artists safe spaces to be vulnerable and develop their craft. How fitting that today, before her "@secondmondays " showcase this evening, we get to love on her and all the phenomenal artists who grace her stage every month!

OBBF supports arts entrepreneurs like Tayleur because we have no doubt that these brilliant curators will lead Oakland into its next cultural revolution.

Artists lift our spirits when we are at our lowest. They express our rage and frustration when we can't find the words. They are also criminally under resourced in this country where access to healthcare is directly tied to your "9-5."

Your support of OBBF, helps us to support black excellence in our community. It helps us to empower full time arts entrepreneurs to create without compromise.

Do us a favor... skip the trip to Walgreens for that last minute V-Day gift. Bring your loved one to Tayleur's (free) event tonight (link in bio) and celebrate with some talented young artists in your community. 

Supporting Oakland artists without having to leave Oakland? What could be more romantic than that?
We want all the beef! We want all the smoke!

Okay, dad jokes aside…we are so honored that @finalsauce trusted us to tell their inspiring story of sisterhood, courage and community. It takes a tremendous amount of heart to share your gifts with the world. It takes so much more to double down on your dreams and make your passion your career. 

Every bottle of the Final Sauce is handmade, bottled hot at the peak of freshness and sold in small batches to ensure quality. They’ve got so many incredible flavors (Original, Hot, Bourbon, Mango, Coffee, Hennessey!...) and elevate whatever you eat (ask our vegan friends who have sampled the salad dressing and poured the sauce on their tofu rice bowls!)

We support Princess and Brownie Sims in their journey to establish their own manufacturing and distribution facility for their sauce. We know that black women-owned family businesses like the Final Sauce are absolutely imperative for Oakland to preserve its history and protect its future. 

We appreciate your support of OBBF in whatever form is right for you (donation, like, follow, share…) 
100% of every individual donation is reinvested into black-owned businesses in Oakland.

But please remember to prioritize supporting the business directly! A follow and a purchase from @finalsauce goes a very long way and is a (tasty) investment in Oakland’s current black-business ecosystem and our future food manufacturing industry!

(Sorry to post this at dinner time. Look at your plate…you know what to do!)
It's been an amazing journey for the Oakland Black Business Fund over the past 20 months! We've been able to serve over 150 Black-Owned businesses and are looking forward to serving hundreds more in the future!

This Black History Month we are going to use every Monday to highlight a Black-Owned business that is making a stand for the community. If you wish to donate to the fund (GiveButter link in the bio,) you can rest assured that 100% of all individual donations go to micro-grants or technical services costs for Black-Owned small businesses in your community.

Even if you cannot donate, we welcome you to take part in one of Oakstop's community events this month (link in bio), curated almost exclusively with businesses OBBF has had the pleasure of serving.

Thank you as always for your support and for patronizing Black-Owned businesses, artists and service providers in Oakland!
Congrats to Oakstop member, Sistah Sci-fi, being as Best Indie Bookstore of 2021!!

Vote for @sistahscifi NOW on @allwaysblack 

Repost from @sistahscifi
Sistah Scifi nominated for Best Indie Bookstore of 2021 😍 along with @unclebobbies, @harrietts_bookshop, @mahoganybooks, and @baldwinandcompany. 

You can vote on @AllwaysBlack created by @penguinrandomhouse;
Curated by @creemyles