Here’s What Happened Day One At Essence Festival 2024’s Soko Mrkt Stage – Essence

On the first day of the 30th ESSENCE Festival of Culture, an array of brands were present, all thriving with shoppers visiting their booths throughout the day. Crowds grew, eager to support these businesses, while panels on plus-sized fashion, inclusion, and authenticity created an inspiring buzz among attendees in New Orleans.

Witnessing such a rich culture of Blackness in all its forms supporting Black-owned businesses was an encouraging and inspiring sight. NGYA African Art had beautiful paintings, while Tea Botanics attracted customers with sample tastings. Conversations flowed easily between the founders, who expressed their stories.

Karen Piggins, owner of Body Harmony, shared her journey with us. Despite initial doubts, encouragement from her cousin led her to apply for SOKO MRKT. After attending the ESSENCE Festival for 20 years, this is her first time as a vendor. Founded in 2006, Body Harmony features clothing and accessories such as handbags, hats, and jewelry. 

“I saw myself being here. My cousin was the one who was saying you should apply. I was like, ‘I’ll never get in, but I’ll go ahead and apply. Out of all the businesses around the United States, why would someone pick little old me?’ But, I’m here, and I’m excited,” Piggins exclaimed. To prepare, she said she wrote a list to check off and made it happen step by step. “At first, I didn’t think I was going to have all the money and everything, but I just took my time,” she added. 

Being at the festival made her realize that anything is possible, inspiring her to dream bigger. Her story is inspirational, having worked on her brand for over two decades as a single mom with a fluctuating income. “If I was gonna tell somebody else that was starting their own business, my number one piece of advice would be: don’t ever discount yourself or count yourself out because had I been stuck with that train of thought, then I wouldn’t be here,” said Piggins. Her other main piece of advice was never to give up.

This year is a special time to support these brands. If you are in New Orleans this weekend, visit these Black-owned brands at SOKO MRKT. Stories like Piggins’s are why we’re highlighting brands like hers, so they can receive their long-overdue flowers.

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