Originally published at usbank.com. U.S. Bank ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2022.
For Nikita Mathis, she knew it was time to create her own income stream when she found herself living paycheck to paycheck as a single mom of two children working in the medical industry.
“I could barely make ends meet. I was embarrassed, stressed out and constantly depressed about my financial situation and I grew tired of my children seeing me this way,” she recalled. “I had to think of another way to make a livelihood to provide for them. I really wanted to show them life was better than this, you can become your own destiny and make your own money.”
Drawing on her family history of entrepreneurship, which includes clothing and boot makers and fond memories of helping her aunt host elaborate weekend garage sales, she started selling fashion from the trunk of her car. She found success going door-to-door to hair and nail salons to sell things. Just a few years later she opened her first retail location for Platinum Plush Fashions, which has been providing head-turning fashion and footwear for men and women in South Seattle for more than 20 years.
In her two decades as a business owner, Mathis has leaned on Seattle-based nonprofit HomeSight for support, resources and grant funding. Through partial funding from the U.S. Bank Access Fund, Mathis was recently able to update her storefront façade through a grant from HomeSight. She’s also received funding to cover new point of sale equipment.
“HomeSight is proud of our long history supporting BIPOC communities, especially the small independently owned businesses that were devastated by COVID,” said Darryl Smith, Executive Director of HomeSight. “Thanks to partners like U.S. Bank and the U.S. Bank Access Fund, we are able to help business owners speed up their recovery.”
Today, Mathis employs a team of three employees, who are also learning the ropes to one day launch their own business, and says starting her business more than 20 years ago is one of her proudest moments.
“I hope that one day my kids will also become entrepreneurs so they too could help people in their community rise,” Mathis shared.
Weathering The COVID-19 Pandemic
Less than two miles away, Talya Miller, co-owner of The Comfort Zone restaurant credits the support she received from HomeSight with helping her keep her doors open during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I felt like I had been thrown in the ocean and was just trying to float, that’s what it felt like when COVID hit,” shared Miller, whose restaurant The Comfort Zone is located inside the Royal Esquire Club, a historic not-for-profit African American men’s club in the Columbia City neighborhood of Seattle.
In January of last year, Miller turned to HomeSight for help with new signage to let customers know they were still open. HomeSight awarded a NWA Republic Façade Improvement Grant in part from funding provided by the U.S. Bank Access Fund. The updated signage helped neighbors and customers know The Comfort Zone was still open for business, despite the adjacent social club remaining closed due to COVID restrictions.
Miller received support from HomeSight a number of times during her seven-year journey as co-owner of the restaurant, including assistance with marketing plans and support and access for other small business grants. Her passion for cooking Southern-style comfort food sprouted during her years as an emergent care foster parent. A mother of three children already, Miller stepped up to take in six children at any given time who were in need of short-term foster care.
“We would have steak Saturdays and different themes, I found kids were really motivated by food, so I just cooked for them all the time” she shared. “These kids literally had nowhere to go, and food brought everyone together.”
Miller’s son, Charlie, followed in her footsteps becoming a chef and helping out with what became a family business. Today, Miller runs and co-owns the Comfort Zone with her daughter, LaShon, and credits her other son Scott, her father, cousin and countless extended family members who show up whenever needed to help out.
“In there, in the back of my mind, I think I can trudge through and make it. But having people see that I’m a good person and wanting to support what I do is wonderful. And HomeSight has been right there for me to do it.”