Rego Park resident Courtney Wiggins is one of four female entrepreneurs of color selected to participate in this year’s Bank of America Small Business Spotlight program to showcase and sell her products at the Winter Village Holiday Shops at Bryant Park in Manhattan.
Wiggins is the owner and artisan of the Black-owned brand The Winsome Apothecary, creating small-batch holistic body products, from face and body oils to clean deodorant. Her unique scent combinations and products are designed to evoke the senses with floral, citrus and earthy notes.
As a beneficiary of this year’s Bank of America Small Business Spotlight program, Wiggins is selling her products at a rent-free booth in the Winter Village Holiday Shops until Nov. 13. Shoppers can visit The Winsome Apothecary booth during the weekday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Small Business Spotlight Booth can be found near the fountain, close to the 41st Street and Sixth Avenue entrance to Bryant Park.
For Wiggins, it’s a glorious opportunity to showcase her brand and to interact with other vendors, she said.
“To be able to be part of this group of female entrepreneurs who are all women of color is truly an honor, and to be able to build a relationship with them is invaluable and I’m truly grateful for that,” Wiggins said. “Most importantly, I’m also able to speak directly to my customers and get to know them, and they get to know me and my brand. I am grateful to Bank of America for this opportunity that has expanded my reach and brand.”
Offering local entrepreneurs and businesses the opportunity to reach new customers at one of the city’s top winter shopping destinations, Bank of America covers shop rent and coordinates the basic build-out of the shop.
Last year, the approximately 170 holiday shops, including the four Small Business Spotlight vendors, generated about $30 million in sales during the season.
“Small businesses are an indispensable part of the city’s economy, and their growth and success positively impact New Yorkers and local communities across the five boroughs,” said José Tavarez, president of Bank of America New York City. “Given the success of past years, we look forward to continuing to lift up local entrepreneurs with free access to the Small Business Spotlight holiday shop space. The businesses selected this year join a network of 13 other New York City-based minority-owned small business owners who have benefited from this program since we launched it in 2020.”
New York City’s small businesses continue to navigate the devastating impact of the pandemic, which disproportionately affects minority-owned businesses.
According to Bank of America’s 2022 Women and Minority Business Owner Spotlight, 59% of women business owners say they must work harder for the same level of success as men, and less than half of women business owners (48%) believe they currently have equal access to capital.
Designed to empower business owners by addressing the many inequities and barriers to success – such as access to capital and resources – that women- and minority-owned businesses often face, the Small Business Spotlight will help drive economic growth and opportunity for these local entrepreneurs.
According to Wiggins, she first learned about the BOA Small Business Spotlight program shared on a message board by a member of the NY Handmade Collective, a group of artisans who create products and share the love of local handmade goods.
“I’m glad I decided to apply. When I received the call, I was away on vacation with my family. I remember feeling really happy. I didn’t even tell my family until we got back to New York; I wanted to make sure it was real,” Wiggins said. “Once I realized it was the real thing, I began to feel how immense this opportunity is.”
Wiggins had always dealt with creating her own oils and healing products, but she never thought of it as a business opportunity. In 2021, amid a global pandemic that had brought forth change and devastation to millions of people, Wiggins created her own happiness.
“The Winsome Apothecary was born out of creativity, necessity and my desire to bring the love that I felt to other people,” Wiggins said. “I want people to feel good and attractive when they use my products.”
Wiggins’ homemade products include body balms and face oils that range from $25 to $30; coconut oil-based body scrubs ($30); perfume oil ($20); a calming balm ($16); and clean deodorant ($10.50) made with four ingredients. She is planning to release new products in 2023, which includes a paw balm for dogs, and a facial cranberry scrub and jasmine scented body balms for people.
As a small business owner, Wiggins encountered obstacles along the way, and says she is still dealing with challenges.
“Starting a business is something that I’ve never done before to this scale. However, I was able to find resources online and I have a wonderful business mentor and BOA and other banks have educational resources for small businesses that were very helpful,” Wiggins said. “It’s also reading and listening to podcasts and making mistakes.”
Wiggins’ advice to those who are considering opening their own small business: Do not be afraid to make mistakes and be open to trying new things.
“You have to get out of that and be okay with not knowing, and being open to learning and trying, and if it works, great. If not, then pivot,” Wiggins said. “That’s one thing that has served me well — not being tied down to one idea and being open to everything and just giving it a try, and doing the best you can.”