Dominique Reighard's side business is born from the values that have sustained her company, E.E. Ward—the oldest African American-owned business in the U.S.
E.E. Ward, a local provider of moving and storage services, is the oldest African-American-owned business in the nation, started by an Underground Railroad conductor. It has survived through slavery, the U.S. Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars and 26 presidential terms.
This extraordinary longevity inspired co-owner Dominique Reighard—a former “America's Next Top Model” contestant—to create a side business to honor her company's unique legacy: a clothing line, 1881 Apparel, that celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit of E.E. Ward's founder, John T. Ward, and his son William. It emblazons the year in which they started their hauling company.
“Our voices sharing positive stories that empower others need to be louder,” Reighard says. “We cannot have enough of folks out there sharing … We need to have more good. We need to drown out the negativity.”
Reighard hopes the stirring message behind the historical date encourages other aspiring entrepreneurs to jump into action. “I just thought, there are so many people out there who must have dreams and entrepreneurial aspirations and maybe this line will empower others to take action on their goals,” she says.
So far, Reighard has gotten the word out to a couple influencers—Lisa Price, the owner of New York-based Carol's Daughter beauty company, and Keith Carlos, an “America's Next Top Model” winner and a former NFL player—who are excited about the “1881 Strong” message. The Ohio-centric store Celebrate Local also has begun to carry the line in Columbus' Easton Town Center and Cincinnati.
And Reighard has more ideas in the works to assist others in starting businesses. “The power is in starting,” she says.