Celebrating Black Entrepreneurship in the CO.STARTERS Community

For Black History Month, we're highlighting five amazing Black entrepreneurs from our CO.STARTERS family.

Juliandra Jones is painting her canvas black and white

While their businesses range from art to medical research, all of these entrepreneurs are doing exciting work in their communities, and we’re so honored and glad that CO.STARTERS has been part of their journeys.

Juliandra Jones Owner of PBJ Customs

Juliandra Jones // PBJ Customs

Supported by Own Our Own


Juliandra Jones, an artist based out of Pittsburgh, owns and operates PBJ Customs, a mural business that offers both individual and collaborative projects. Juliandra explores social justice through her work and focuses on working with community leaders and members to create bright and inviting public spaces. “I believe in the power of people and art to elevate all voices,” Juliandra explained. When a mentor suggested that she sign up for CO.STARTERS to further her art and entrepreneurship, Juliandra joined the program in hopes of cementing her goals and turning her passion for art into a business. “With CO.STARTERS, I gained the confidence needed to take the leap and take my art to the next level,” Juliandra said. Check out Juliandra’s work, and read more about PBJ Customs on Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter at @pbjcustoms.


Jessica Doaks Owner of Black Candle Company

Jessica Doaks // Black Candle Company

Supported by Corner to Corner


When Jessica Doaks started making candles at home in 2021, she had no idea that she was embarking on an exciting entrepreneurial journey. Less than a year later, Jessica signed up for CO.STARTERS to learn more about the fundamentals of running her business. Since then, the Black Candle Company has become a successful home fragrance collection specializing in affordable luxury. “Through CO.STARTERS, I have been able to determine the best legal structure for my business, ways to scale my business in order to grow, and a plethora of other business components,” Jessica said. Today, The Black Candle Company has had several pop-ups in home goods stores like West Elm and Pottery Barn and offers a variety of minimal, vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-friendly products. Follow The Black Candle Company on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and shop her candles at her website!


Tyler Kelly Owner of The Emerald Plate Experience

Tyler Kelly // The Emerald Plate Experience

Supported by Village Launch


Since graduating from CO.STARTERS, Chef Tyler Kelley has served as the owner and executive chef of his six-year-old business, The Emerald Plate Experience LLC. The Emerald Plate Experience is a catering company that includes private and personal chef services, culinary demonstrations, and cooking classes. Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Tyler’s business caters and hires chefs for weddings, corporate events, and culinary classes. Tyler signed up for CO.STARTERS to get help with marketing, expanding his business, clarifying his demographic, and renegotiating his prices. Today, Emerald Plate chefs have traveled as far as New Orleans and New York in their mission to provide exemplary culinary service across the East Coast. Check out The Emerald Plate Experience’s website at their website!


Otis Knowlton Owner of O'Buttonz

Otis Knowlton // O’Buttonz

Supported by Corner to Corner


Otis Knowlton calls himself the King of Buttons. His business, O’Buttonz, is a pin-badge and button company that specializes in custom, digital, and unique pin-badges. While he had started his business a year before enrolling in Corner to Corner’s Business Academy, which uses CO.STARTERS Core, he realized that he had lots to learn during the program. “I’ve gained tons of business knowledge from the CO.STARTERS curriculum,” Otis explained. “From planning to marketing strategies, CO.STARTERS was very helpful.” Today, Otis is working to pioneer the field of near-field communication (NFC tags) through his Smart Buttonz, which are pin badge buttons that can bring up any link or phone number on your phone with just a tap. Check out O’Buttonz on Instagram and Facebook, and shop pin-badges and buttons at his website!


Jay Pitts Owner of ClinCept

Jay Pitts // ClinCept

Supported by StartUP Columbus


Jay Pitts and his company, ClinCept, are on a mission to bring greater diversity to clinical research. By prioritizing the inclusion of Black people and other marginalized groups in his clinical studies, Jay seeks to repair the damage wrought by an unjust healthcare system. Jay joined the CO.STARTERS Core program at StartUP Columbus for help with starting ClinCept. “The most important thing I took from the program,” Jay said, “was the question: are you serious about your business or not?” StartUP Columbus and CO.STARTERS Core also helped Jay understand what it means to be a business owner—how to consider business costs upfront, manage people, and see running a business as a way of life.


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