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‘Tis the Season: PagerDuty Shops at These Black Women-Owned Businesses

by Jasmine Ward December 23, 2020 | 7 min read

The holiday season is here! To commemorate this—and to help support small shops while many communities are still under stay-at-home orders—two of PagerDuty’s Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), SisterDuty and Array, launched a grant program and Cyber Monday shopping experience. The event gave Dutonians (PagerDuty Employees) the opportunity to learn about local black women-owned businesses and take care of some holiday shopping—all in one place.

Together, we knew we could give back to the communities that have given us so much.

Early this fall, we launched a nomination process to identify local black women-owned businesses that could benefit from this award and opportunity to share their stories.

The SisterDuty and Array joint grant committee selected 3 businesses among dozens of employee-submitted nominations to receive the award. The $2,000 grants were sponsored by SisterDuty’s annual program budget.

We’re honored to introduce our winners and share with you their stories.

Owl n Wood

Rachel Konte’s OwlNWood started as a brick-and-mortar store. Today it has evolved into O.N.W., a line of her own design focused on comfy, classic basics that “you can wear at home relaxing or throw on a blazer and be able to dress up and walk out of the house and still feel cool and comfortable,” she explained.

A perfect example is Konte’s sporty Heart Oakland sweatshirt, an oversize top depicting a graphic heart above the city’s name in lowercase letters.

Although Konte initially limited her online inventory to her own sweatshirts and t-shirts, earlier this year, she expanded, adding red-checkered Maasai shuka cloth scarves from Kenya and products from some of the smaller brands she once curated in her store, like patterned socks from Ghana and Belgium sunglasses in strong silhouettes.

And Konte isn’t the only entrepreneur in her Oakland family. Her husband, Keba, founded Red Bay Coffee and her stepdaughter, Jessica, recently opened beverage shop Alkali Rye. To see more, shop at Owlnwood.com.

Q: What impact did you feel through this initiative and the opportunity to share your story with us?

Rachel Konte: First of all, it is an amazing feeling to be acknowledged and I am so grateful for the honor. It can, at times, feel isolated to run a business as a small-business owner. With social media and flashing websites, it often doesn’t tell the real story of the hard work and challenges small business owners and entrepreneurs deal with on a daily basis. And we can’t really shout out to the world that we sometimes need help. So to wake up and find an email that tells you that you received a grant has been such a beautiful experience. It’s a good feeling knowing that there are people out there that pay attention to what you do and that it pays off to keep going.

I am excited to put the grant to good use for OwlNWood. I have some upgrades and improvements that I have to do to my website. The website is currently the lifeline for my business these days as having a storefront is not an option. The grant came right on time and I am really appreciative of the generous give from PagerDuty.

SustainAble Home Goods – LaToya Tucciarone

After working for a fair-trade jewelry company, founder LaToya Tucciarone made it her mission to help foster sustainable jobs for Black and indigenous makers around the world. Her bright, second-floor shop at Ponce City Market is layered with colorful patterned pieces, from Oaxacan pottery to Guatemalan textiles, Rwandan baskets, Hopi jewelry, and images of the artisans themselves that truly connect the buyer to the maker. Vintage furniture, a kids collection (featuring empowering books and wooden toys), and nontoxic, beautifully packaged cleaning products that round out the mix. Tucciarone has long sourced products for the TV and film industry and offers design consultations for your own complete home refresh. Shop her products at Yoursustainablehome.com.

Q: What impact did you feel through this initiative and the opportunity to share your story with us?

LaToya Tucciarone: Your people showed up! Thank you SO much! It made for a great day of sales. The impact of the grant is huge. Not just financially, but like Rachel said the day of the event, it’s feeling seen that is SO important. It has been such a crazy year of ups and downs. I am sure that almost every small business owner has questioned whether they should keep going or not to some extent, so when you are nominated for and win an award like this, you feel so seen and you feel like what you’re working so hard for really is important!

I think that was the greatest impact for me, but of course the grant definitely helped lighten the financial load of the growth we have seen. We have had to scale quite quickly, and while that is exciting, it is simultaneously terrifying and financially burdensome. So thank you again for helping me to feel seen and for lightening the financial burden!

A Different Book List – Itah Sadu

In the early 1990s, Itah Sadu told one of her stories at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. It was about a boy’s messy room, and the audience was rapt. “There were librarians and teachers lining up to buy this book that didn’t exist,” said the Scarborough-born, Barbados-raised Sadu, “It was the coolest feeling ever.” That tale would eventually become the Canadian children’s lit classic: Christopher, Please Clean Up Your Room!

Sadu began writing children’s stories “because I wanted to see more of us in books,” as she explained. And for the past 23 years, she and her husband, Miguel San Vicente, have made such books available at A Different Booklist, a store in Toronto’s Annex neighborhood that specializes in titles from the African and Caribbean diasporas, as well as the global South.

Soon after opening, her shop also became a gathering place: people came to connect with the community, learn about the area’s Black history, and just talk with the couple about current events. So, in 2015, Sadu and San Vicente opened A Different Booklist Cultural Centre: The People’s Residence, so named by a customer who wrote the phrase on the windows one day. A community space and nonprofit organization focused on the rich cultures of Black Canadians, its wide-ranging programming goes well beyond the literary. Aside from book launches, there have been senior groups, art shows, film screenings, workshops for budding comedians, and even terrarium-building classes. It is truly a space that welcomes everyone. Check it out and shop at ADifferentBooklist.com.

Q: What impact did you feel through this initiative and the opportunity to share your story with us?

Itah Sadu: The event experience was fun! It was designed with the recipients as the focal point and it was fabulous. The networking, awareness of others, women in leadership, and cross-border conversations. It was a template for future initiatives and collaborations. I was thrilled to be a part of the experience and happy to hear the “oohs and ahhs” of the shopping expeditions. We are confident that the awareness of A Different Booklist will spread as we are a destination for great books.


One of the best ways to keep up the momentum of this movement is with our support and awareness. I hope this is one small step we can make to do better, be better, and educate ourselves and others.