By Paul Holston
Posted 11:30 PM EST, Weds. Mar 23, 2016
Updated 6:50 PM EST, Sun. May 1, 2016
With ambient lighting all around the boutique, vibrant colors on international fabric spread across clothing racks, and a sweet, comforting aroma filling the room, Nubian Hueman is culture. Nubian Hueman is Black. Nubian Hueman is ethnic.
Nubian Hueman is an ethnic-centered boutique located within the Anacostia Arts Center in Southeast, Washington, D.C., and its creative founder and curator, Anika Hobbs, has plenty to take pride in as a successful entrepreneur who has brought the boutique into the district spotlight.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts and growing up in Cambridge, Mass., Hobbs was raised in an international and very multi-cultural environment.
“Most of my friends were first generation [migrants] or born in another country, which influenced me a lot. My mom [who has a Cameroon background] also influenced me…it was a bit international all across from where I grew up.”
During her childhood, Hobbs said her goal during that time was to be an architect, as she was the type of girl that played more with Legos and less with Barbie dolls. She soon went on to attend Syracuse University in New York to study environmental design.
“Going to Syracuse felt like a nice sunny day,” she said. “It [Syracuse] was very maturing and challenging at the same time. It was an interesting, dynamic time attending a PWI [prominent white institution], but there was still a large population of African-American students.”
During her time at Syracuse, Hobbs became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a black Greek letter organization known in its mission statement for being “college educated women committed to constructive development of its members and to public service with a primary focus on the Black community.
“Growing up I wasn’t always around BGLOs [black Greek letter organizations], but I saw it. When I got on campus [Syracuse], Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. spoke most to me. The women there were dynamic.”
After graduating from Syracuse, she became a sales associate for H&M, a now popular clothing store across the U.S. and internationally, which sparked her mind into being interested into interior design.
“It was the best thing that could have happened and was the kick off to my interest,” she said. “By being able to see what did work and didn’t work during my time working with H&M, as the company grew, I grew.”
As she continued her journey with H&M, eventually moving up to being a district-level visual manager, Hobbs fell in love with fashion. And so she began to start saving her own money to consider running her own business.
“I started taking notes when I was at H&M,” she said. “I wasn’t always into interior design, but wanted to eventually start getting into entrepreneurship.”
In 2011, she did just that by opening Nubian Hueman first through online e-commerce and side events in various cities. After leaving her job in 2012, Hobbs focused on building her brand through website creation, finding real estate, researching designers to collaborate with, and most importantly, networking.
“I was living and breathing this ridiculously,” she said. “A lot of it is putting money where you mouth is and it is a huge risk, especially internationally.”
After two years of selling online, Hobbs finally got her advancement into her first physical store in September 2013 at the Anacostia Arts Center in Ward 8.
“The boutique is a reflection of people of color. Most of our brands are from people of color,” she said.
According to Nubian Hueman’s official website, its mission directs the business to drive and sustain growth in these categories: People, partnerships, product, principle, place, and profit.
Ebone McCloud, operations and sales strategist for the boutique, expressed that Hobbs has been the best boss she has ever had. “She’s amazing,” she said.
From the store’s bio, “The aspiration of Nubian Hueman is to flourish into a multi-faceted lifestyle brand that provides a retail conduit to a target market of ethnic-oriented fashionistas and enthusiasts alike. Nubian Hueman not only believes in its mission to influence physical appearance, but also its ability to improve quality of lives.”
“This is honestly the beginning, which keeps me going because it’s just a start…a stepping stone of what it’s going to be and to expand and blossom into what it can do,” said Hobbs.
Already Hobbs has been recognized during her tenure at the store, as President Barack Obama recognized her for small business as Congresswoman Eleanor Norton (D-DC) presented a letter to her by President Obama during her first year opened.
“It’s great to know that people are starting to know who we are…we’re 500 square feet and are reaching further than we think,” Hobbs said.
In a recent article by Capital Community News, Kate Davis, Anacostia Arts Center’s director, highly praised Hobbs for choosing to have her boutique in Anacostia.
“I love the fact that she chose Anacostia,” said Davis. “It’s a type of store the area doesn’t have.”
Camile Kashaka, Anacostia Arts Center’s event coordinator who’s been at the job since Oct. 2014, said that Hobbs and her boutique are really beneficial to the center. She expressed that the center looks for really artistic business owners and Hobbs was beyond that expectation.
“She very pleasant and really easy to work with,” said Kashaka. “I’m hoping store owners like Anika will stay in Anacostia and Southeast when the time comes that she moves on to new ventures. This area in itself welcomes these types of businesses.”
Moving forward, Hobbs hopes to continue to develop her philanthropy and community development in her upcoming boutique events that not only create a network for fellow designers, but also opening the conversation to the community.
“By me supporting and helping other businesses within my own business, that speaks monuments versus just going out and giving a check to someone,” she concluded. “Being able to open doors for others mean so much more than the tangible stuff because it’s organic and appreciative. I believe there’s something out here I’m here to do, which is something great. As long as you have the drive and believe you can do it, anything is possible.”