The first T-shirt that Kubrat “Kubi” Salaam ever made featured a simple bubble-letter design etched out using pen and paper. She crafted it for her father.
The 20-year-old Riverside resident was in sixth grade at the time and, after watching a YouTube tutorial on how to design T-shirts, began selling her creations to family, friends and fans.
Eight years later, Kubitees is officially a business, formalized in 2016, and Salaam has expanded the featured items on her Etsy site to include artwork and greeting cards. The UC Riverside third-year business administration student’s goods reflect her two cultures.
“I am a Nigerian American woman, “she said, “so African fabric mixed with American styles, that’s what Kubitees is now.”
As Salaam’s business has grown, so has her desire to forge a bond with other like-minded business owners and artists. She recently launched the Young Creators and Visionaries Collaborative, an initiative that aims to help millennial entrepreneurs and creators of colour connect and work together to gain experience and exposure.
“As a creative, there are obstacles,” Salaam said, “but as a creative of colour, it is harder to get your foot in the door.”
The hope is to plan an event quarterly and to eventually host one monthly, she said. It’s important to show creatives and entrepreneurs that forging relationship and sharing resources can help them succeed, she added.
“You don’t need to invest your life savings to make your dream a reality,” Salaam said. “You just have to find people who are like minded. It’s great to see young people making this happen.”
The collaborative’s first event was in August and featured about 30 creatives and business owners from fields such as photography, marketing, fashion styling and modeling. The one-day event included flash fashion shows, photo shoots and short video shoots.
Zara Oparagu, who runs L.A. African, a social platform designed to increase the visibility of people from the African diaspora, was a contributor at the collaborative’s event, providing gear for the models.
Oparagu, 22, recently graduated from UC Irvine and divides her time between Orange County and her parent’s Rancho Cucamonga home. She met Salaam when the then high school teen came to UC Irvine to participate in a culture show put on by a Nigerian student organization on campus.
“I immediately recognized her as someone who was absolutely a phenomenal human being,” Oparagu said. “She was so young and already had a business going.”
Gabriella Layne, 26, worked with Salaam on the collaborative’s event, helping to scout locations, coordinate the move from place to place and style the models.
The Long Beach resident does public relations and marketing through her company, Strut Glam Lane. She also has an online fashion magazine called Strut, in which she interviews black designers.
Layne said she follows Salaam’s brand on social media and so when she saw a post looking for creatives to be a part of the collaborative, she knew she wanted to get involved.
“More than ever so many young people who are taking their future in their own hands and wanting to create something they own that belongs to them. It’s difficult when you feel you are on an island and don’t have anyone to bring you up,” she said. “With this, creatives get a network of resources, can share knowledge and wisdom and they can build those connections organically.”