Photo provided by Destinee Stark
Destinee Stark can’t wait to explore her new neighborhood.
She moved to Plain Township with her husband, Aaron Jackson, a 2007 GlenOak High School graduate, in December. By March, they were sheltering in place with the rest of Ohio and haven’t really gone out much since.
But the Akron native has been finding ways to connect with her neighbors near and far and to promote other Black business owners like her.
“Through everything going on in our society right now, it’s important to elevate Black-owned businesses,” said Stark, 29. “They don’t get as much attention, and it’s harder to get loans. There have been studies done that show that. As (a business owner) myself, it’s also important for me to connect with others.”
Stark, a photographer and graphic artist, in June compiled a list of more than 250 Ohio Black-owned small businesses in sectors ranging from restaurants, to artists, bloggers and creative types to professional services to salon and beauty and health and fitness professionals.
She posted the list to her blog at DestineeStark.com, as well as her associated social media platforms. The post quickly drew local and national attention.
Stark said she’s received messages from a few companies thanking her and telling her they gained a customer because they had been featured on her list.
“That was really rewarding for me that people were actually going to the places,” she said.
The list has grown to more than 360 businesses, featuring companies from Canton to Cleveland to Columbus.
More than 50 of the businesses are based in Stark County. She also included her two businesses: Destinee Stark Photography and Destinee Stark Shop.
Stark, a 2009 Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy graduate, started her photography business in January 2014 after realizing that college wasn’t for her.
“It was always in my mind that I wanted to own my own business,” Stark said. “I never wanted to work under anyone else, and I wanted to make my own hours.”
The self-taught photographer largely focuses on high school seniors, college grads and their families. She also works with local bloggers, creatives and small business owners who need help with visual, branded content and product photography for their online sites.
Due to the pandemic slowing down her photography business, Stark has turned her focus to her online shop.
In August, she began selling her first curated collection, dubbed The Resistance, that features shirts, art prints, stickers and more with a bold design centered around social activism. A portion of the sales was donated to the Know Your Rights Camp, which is the campaign for youth funded by former NFL player Colin Kaepernick intended to raise awareness about higher education, self empowerment and how to interact with law enforcement.
This month, Stark’s collection still will visually represent her passion for social justice activism but it is taking on a fall theme, tying in Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Destinee Stark’s local favorites:
Scratch Steakhouse & Lounge in Louisville. Her favorites are the potato bombs appetizer and the bone-in rib-eye with a Caesar salad and garlic mashed potatoes.
“They have the absolute best steak and the most quality food. I’m actually really critical of food, but everything is so flavorful there.”
Favorite thing to do:
“Lately, staying home in my pajamas.”
Local CEO or business owner you admire most:
“I admire Kylie Bricker of Curate & Co. in Hartville for the creativity she brings to the community. … The store is so cute; she has so many cute gift ideas. It’s adorable.”
Most memorable spot for you:
Hartville MarketPlace & Flea Market in the summers.
“It’s always really fun there, and I’ve collected some really good vintage finds.”
Favorite place to shop locally:
Best Bib & Tucker consignment shop in Hartville.
“You can find really quality pieces there for really affordable prices.”
Favorite indoor activity:
Dave & Buster’s.
“I always love going there. I really like feeling like a kid again, getting the tickets and going to pick prizes and trying to get on the leader board.”
Favorite lunch spot:
Smoke the Burger Joint. She prefers the grilled cheese sandwich called “The Wisconsin Big Cheesy” with a side of loaded fries or tots.
“It’s amazing and really affordable. Their grilled cheese is so good, and their cheesy fries are delicious.”
Favorite local event:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival Balloon Classic.
“I just like watching them. It’s so cool. … It’s so pretty to see all the different colors.
Favorite local theater:
“Canton Palace Theatre for its beautiful architecture.”