- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2019

Travelers on the hunt for souvenirs have made the newest kiosk at Ronald Reagan National Airport — Made in DC — a standout that outsells its nearby rivals.

The kiosk is the first of its kind in the airport — owned and operated by a collaborative of 12 local women- and minority-owned businesses.

“We hope the Made in DC pop-up shows all the travelers who think Washington, D.C., is a federal government company town, that a lot more goes on here than creation of laws and federal policies,” Jack Potter, president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, said Thursday at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the kiosk.

The airport authority partnered with the D.C. Department of Small and Local Business Development and the Pop Up Collaborative to create and open the kiosk in Terminal B at Reagan National last month.

Pop Up Collaborative founder Rahama Wright said the kiosk has made nearly $20,000 in its first five weeks, selling handmade jewelry, homemade healthy snacks, belts produced from bicycle parts and socks with custom patterns.

Made in DC’s competitors — eight nearby kiosks — sell mostly electronics and D.C. souvenirs, and generate about $100,000 in monthly revenue combined, Ms. Wright said.

The shop’s first customer was Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey, a Democratic presidential candidate who happened to be passing through the airport on May 8, she said. The airport serves about 24 million travelers a year.

“The exposure has been fantastic,” Ms. Wright said. “At the airport you not only have folks traveling from D.C. but also a national base people love the idea of supporting local.”

“This is the best manifestation of what we had hoped for our makers,” said Kristi Whitfield, director of the small business department and founder of Made in DC. “Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of eyes are on our products.”

Pop Up Collaborative member Leigha Hollis said her “passion for socks” motivated her to found Culture Socks, which sells custom-made hosiery to express personal beliefs. Socks with African prints, classic patterns and social themes such as #MeToo make up a large part of her inventory.

Before joining the collaborative, Ms. Hollis said she didn’t find opportunities to sell to people outside her race and gender. But the Made in DC kiosk has changed that.

“It’s not just black women buying my socks,” she said. “I would venture to say white men are buying my socks and not thinking about, ‘Oh, this is a black woman’s business.’”

Topaz Terry, another collaborative member, said she felt like she didn’t have a place in the business world as a biracial and queer woman. She owns Bicycle Trash, where she uses recycled bike parts to make wallets, belt buckles, bottle openers and more.

During the four weeks she’s had her products at the airport kiosk, Ms. Terry has fully restocked twice.

“What this pop up is doing is putting us front in center as a collective group of very diverse people and very diverse products,” she said.

Made in DC is located near the pre-security Terminal B entrance and is expected to run through July 31.

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