The Lounge spotlights Black businesses and entrepreneurs.

Peyton Sims, Life and Arts reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the November 2 flipbook.

Growing up on the basketball court, Kiara Kabbara admired LeBron James. Now, as UT’s student body president, Kabbara has brought James’ influence to campus through The Lounge. 

“LeBron is my idol, (my) favorite person in the world,” Kabbara, a government senior, said.

Kabbara organized an event called The Lounge — an opportunity for UT’s Black entrepreneurs to come together and showcase their work —  based on LeBron James’ HBO show  “The Shop” where he and his friends  meet at a barber shop to discuss relevant topics in the Black community. In the Union Ballroom on Oct. 29, Black students set up booths to provide haircuts, manicures and  makeovers. Self-made brands also  displayed their talent for sale to  the public.  

Finance senior Ayo Oluyemi gives a haircut at his booth at The Lounge. Oluyemi started giving haircuts while at the Jester  dormitories in his freshman year, and he hopes to open his own barber shop in Austin.

“It means the world for us to be  here … In the future, I want to get  more people to come out, and possibly make this happen every semester,” Kabbara said. 

Among the many booths, studio  art junior Naja McDonald displayed  her vibrant paintings made to empower Black men and women. 

“I make my art to show the  different sides in males and females, like femininity within males and the different cultures of  a Black woman,” McDonald said.  “This event is great for me because  I’ve actually never got out of my  comfort zone to sell my art, so now I  can share my art with everyone.” 

For many of the entrepreneurs,  The Lounge provided their first opportunity to sell their work. With  balloons tied to her clothing rack  and strawberry candy sprinkled  across her booth, Aisha Lee, a race,  indignity and migration junior,  debuted her brand called Strawberry Girl, where she sells prints, key  chains, clothes and art commissions. 

“It means a lot to me because it’s  my first time ever selling anything,  but I’ve had this brand idea for a really long time, but (The Lounge)  gave me the push to actually print it  out and do it,” Lee said. 

At studio art senior Tenille West’s  booth, she displayed everything  from business cards to an array of  jewelry items to promote her brand,  Floral Sea. 

“Floral Seed is focused on creating a whole new fashion that’s unapologetically colorful, culturally-driven, and  of course, floral,” West said. “This event means a lot to me as a Black entrepreneur at UT because I usually don’t see a lot of representation of people who look like me. I’m grateful to have a platform to showcase what  I can do as an entrepreneur.” 

When finance senior Ayo Oluyemi moved to Austin, he found it hard  to find a job as an international student. Starting his freshman year, Oluyemi discovered his passion after he began cutting other students’ hair  in Jester dorms for extra money, and  students kept calling him back for more. Oluyemi offered his services  at The Lounge and said he hopes to  expand his business further. 

“In the future, I want to open  up my own barber shop in Austin,”  Oluyemi said. “Bringing Black businesses and students together at The  Lounge is wonderful. I love seeing  everybody have a good time, while  also giving back to the community.”