Family-owned Tacoma community space, book and plant store Parable has received an outpouring of support after its owners posted online Wednesday that due to financial issues they might not be able to continue operating without “significant” financial support.
Within 24 hours, Parable raised nearly half of its $31,000 goal on GoFundMe. As of Friday morning, Parable had fund-raised over $13,000.
Co-owner LaKecia Farmer, who uses they/them pronouns, said they woke up Thursday to about 100 messages from people in Tacoma expressing their support of Parable and asking how they could help.
Farmer, who owns and runs the business with their cousin and sister, said since January business had slowed.
Although Parable is hosting a number of events, including many during Black History Month, Farmer said the workload for their family was unsustainable and Parable didn’t have the funding to expand.
“All of us are not making money off of it. We’re just running it. We all have separate jobs,” Farmer said. “So we made the difficult decision [to post about it]. It was very vulnerable. You know, it’s hard to admit that you’re not doing as well as you want to be, especially as a business. But we were like, you know what, we’ve been there for the community, maybe the community will be there for us. It was just a question mark. We didn’t know at all. But in the first 24 hours, it’s just amazing. We got half of what we were asking for. Like, that is incredible to us.”
Because of financial concerns, Farmer said, Parable had to reduce its hours to weekends. Now that could change.
“This is the first time we’ve been hopeful in a long time,” Farmer said. “We get to add capacity. That is incredible.”
Farmer said Parable wants to hire an event planner and another staff member so they can expand hours and allow more people to visit the business.
‘WE KNEW THAT IT WAS RISKY’
In the United States, only 4% of Black-owned businesses survive the start-up stage, even though 20% of Black Americans start businesses, according to a 2020-2021 national entrepreneurship assessment from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor.
Farmer said they were aware of that before starting the business, “and I was like, but hey, we can be the 4%, right?”
“We knew that it was risky. And we just wanted to risk it for our mission, not necessarily because we wanted to make money,” they said. “But now we have kids, it’s like maybe our kids can continue this legacy, too. So it’s not just about us, it’s definitely about the greater community. I say it a lot, but it benefits everyone really.”
During social unrest in 2020 after George Floyd was murdered by a white Minneapolis police officer, Farmer said, there was a shift in people wanting to support Black businesses and the Black community.
“And it was just amazing, obviously, because it’s not been often where Black folks have been centered. But just like anything, waxing and waning, you know? It was like, for six months we got support, and then it just dwindled,” Farmer said. “And so, we were kind of sad about it. Not in the first year, but maybe in the second year we noticed the change and a shift. But I think the greater community of Tacoma and everyone has proven that theory wrong in the last 24 hours.”
Farmer said their family founded Parable in 2020 after noticing there weren’t many community spaces in East Tacoma and the McKinley neighborhood. Parable was built with the help and support of their friends, family and neighbors, Farmer said.
“We came from Spokane, all three of us. And my cousin came first, about 20 years ago. Me and my sister came about eight years ago. And we just love the Tacoma and Seattle area because they just gave so much to us. And one of the things that they gave was community building,” Farmer said. “That was our mission. And that’s always been our mission.”
Parable makes an effort to sell products from small businesses and artisans in the Tacoma, Seattle and Portland area.
“Most of them are [Black, Indigenous, people of color] or women. And then we also sell books that are either BIPOC authors, disabled authors, queer and trans authors – it’s just our mission to make sure that people who have been on the outskirts for so long have their voices heard,” Farmer said.
HOW TO SUPPORT PARABLE
Farmer said anyone looking to support Parable can donate to their GoFundMe site, share and talk about the business on social media, visit the storefront and show up to future events.
This Sunday Parable is hosting a “Caribbean Queens” pop-up event from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the 3502 McKinley Ave., Suite A storefront. There will be food, music and crafts.