Pitt Student’s Marketing Passion Drives Black-Owned Businesses

Kyley Coleman in black striped overalls and a white collared shirt underneathBefore the pandemic, Chef Amber Lehman was planning to open MyTàque just like any brick-and-mortar establishment. But when she saw how vastly people’s lives—not to mention the dining experience—had changed, it inspired her to re-imagine her business.

Lehman now offers properly distanced in-home cooking sessions, private food concierge services and personalized catering. She also uses the MyTàque (pronounced my take) Instagram feed to focus on three objectives—know, grow and share—and participate in the #blackownedpgh community, which was started by Pitt junior Kyley Coleman in May of 2020 through the @BlackOwned.pgh account.

Coleman’s account has amassed more than 22,000 followers of customers and businesses alike, and both Coleman and participating businesses have been featured in Pittsburgh magazine, NEXTpittsburgh and Made in Pittsburgh, as well as on WESA radio.

“My experience with BlackOwnedPGH has been nothing but great,” said Lehman. “Kyley’s vision for all that she helps is unmatched; she has single-handedly provided a platform for Black-owned businesses in a place where something like this never existed.”

Coleman, a junior at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, says she has always been involved in activism. Last year, she read about Black-owned businesses in an article that noted many people don’t know where or how to start.

“And I thought, all you need is an Instagram!” said Coleman. “People can just use it as a resource.”

The timing coincided with the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, when Black Lives Matter protests were occurring in and around the city of Pittsburgh, as well as nationwide. “There was a lot of racial tension,” Coleman said, “And I thought I wanted to add on to the support and create a strategic way to continue to be beneficial to combat racism.”

In each post, the BlackOwnedPgh account shares the name and contact information for a range of businesses, from photographers and artists to life coaches, restaurants and hair and makeup brands.

During August, Coleman raffled off gift cards to be used toward upcoming inventory expenses to a puzzle company, a hair care business and a glass and retail shop. In February, Coleman dedicated her 20th birthday and Black History Month to focusing on “urgent needs for local, Black-owned businesses,” specifically those in need of crowdfunding support.

One restaurant on the brink of closing experienced a surge of business-saving traffic after Coleman posted about them; others have found support in applying for pandemic relief-funded small-business loans.

And businesses aren’t the only ones to benefit from the initiative. Coleman—who was majoring in biology before starting the account—recalled her “epiphany moment” after discovering she didn’t have a passion for pharmacy, her planned career path.

“I think I’m really good at marketing, especially when I can market things that I’m passionate about,” said Coleman.

That passion was evident to Lehman, who noted that one of the most powerful things she took away was how young and determined Coleman is to make a difference and aspire for change.

“All in all, her influence has vastly changed the way that both businesses, and the Black community communicate and thrive. She has truly built a platform set up for success,” Lehman said. “I cannot wait to see how far this goes.”