“Listen, this is for the Central District legacy! For every young black male, young black female who ever wanted to be anything. This is for all of you right here, on 23rd and Jackson baby!” announced Monika Matthews, founder and owner of QueenCare – a luxury body-care line.
On February 11, Matthews opened her flagship in the new Jackson Apartment, celebrating alongside Seattle Councilmember Tammy Morales, Ventures Nonprofit Executive Director Beto Yarce, Vulcan Inc. Commercial Marketing & Leasing Manager Laura Geralyn Vannoy, past and present QueenCare interns, and community members.
QueenCare is the first retail and black-owned business in the redeveloped 23rd and Jackson promenade. More importantly, QueenCare’s new store front is an example of Black-owned businesses returning to the Central District after being displaced due to varying forces including; construction, economic disruption from the redevelopment, infrastructure updates, and gentrificationThis moment would not be possible without the resiliency of the Black community, and demands to developers and the City for affordable housing and commercial retail space in the Central District.
QueenCare was Seattle Office of Economic Development’s (OED) Small Business of the Month in April 2019. We caught up with Matthews during the grand opening to talk about her business expansion, navigating the pandemic, Queencare’s internship program, and what’s next.
OED: For those who may not be familiar with QueenCare, what is QueenCare?
Monika Matthews (MM): The whole premise here at QueenCare is to indulge, engage, and uplift. We indulge in selfcare practices and promote it, so that we can realize optimal health. We engage with one another other to get to know each closer; get to know each other’s way of life so we can treat each other a little bit better and with more respect. And then uplift, as we’re uplifting our youth in the community, and in particular our African American youth, to make sure that they have the marketable skills to be able to compete. We’re all about economic development and making sure we have a legacy to leave for generations to come.
OED: Why did you decide to open a Central District location?
MM: Wow, oh my goodness, I have to give all of the shout outs to Ventures Nonprofit! Ventures really advocated for this thing I’m calling “equity in action” – they work together with Vulcan. Put out an application for this subsidized rent space, I applied, and I was selected. So shout out to Ventures!
OED: The last time we talked to you was two years ago. What has changed in those two years?
MM: We have our second location now; we still have our Columbia City location. But we’re just growing and growing, and we’re able to expand our capacity to serve more youth, and that’s so very, very important. And everybody hey, Shop Your Block!
OED: How has your business been able to adapt to COVID-19?
MM: COVID-19 has been the challenge of a lifetime. We have learned a lot of hard lessons and we had to learn them fast. But the biggest thing we learned, is that we have to hone in on what the market is needing and what is essential at the moment. Our decision to make handsanitizer and hand soap saved our business, we made that decision in a split second and because we did that, we were able to weather the storm.
OED: Can you describe a little about your internship program?
MM: Our internship program hires 5 high school youth every single year. We also have two internships for college age students as well. They have personal development workshops, they learn all about the tenants of entrepreneurship, and then they get hands on experience actually working in our store and getting the skills that they need. It’s really experiential learning, it’s not just textbook learning.
We have girls who started their own business, about 75% of them went on to start their own business and are doing really well. It was really important for them during the pandemic because they were able to make additional funds during a time when everything was shut down, including their regular jobs. We’re really excited about out internship program.
OED: What’s next for QueenCare?
MM: Oh my goodness, another location! Whoo!
OED: Any last words for this interview?
Yes, I want to say thank you to the Office of Economic Development, to Heidi Hall. Heidi Hall was one of our first customers actually and she has been so very supportive of making sure that we have the information that we need. Just thank you so very much.
Are you an entrepreneur who is looking to start or grow your business? Or are you a business owner looking for COVID-19 assistance with financial resources or commercial lease assistance? OED’s Small Business Advocates are working with business owners to connect them with resources they need and to serve as their advocate in City government. Click here to get in touch with a Small Business Advocate.