African-American Guide to Applying Steampunk Patterns to Hood Business Models

In a previous article, we spoke about IBM analytics group predicting steam punk will be big in 2013 and from our worldwide research, we seeing the same trend also. In order for African-Americans to truly progress, our people must look worldwide for practices and patterns we can apply to our hustles and to the hood. In this article, we are going to explore some real world examples of applied steampunk elements we probably can apply in branding and retailing ventures for the hood. Steampunk is an anachronistic appreciation of the Victorian era and the early rise of the rise of Industrial period through the use of steam-powered engines. Many African-Americans would probably scoff or make their typical "that's not us" ignorant comments but to not realize many African-Americans including Elijah McCoy made contributions during this period followed by Garrett Morgan in the early 1900s. In fact, during the Victorian era and early Edwardian era are probably the most outstanding Black history era of Black inventors and go-getters during anytime in Black History. As the real McCoy in the 21st century when it comes to technology, I think it would be an honor and proper tribute to pay homage to our Black ancestral inventors, entrepreneurs and tycoons and embrace elements of their lifestyle. I know for example, here in Atlanta the big fad among women is not only to wear their hair natural but reclaim many of the freewomen natural hairstyles of the Victorian area. Chicks be looking like a runaway slave with her hair like that but I’m getting used to it and digging it. Not only that, but I would go far as in the same thread as steampunk and say “what if” and start changing the script. What if we brothas and sistas can apply some of the Victorian era technology back then and apply it and embrace some of it right now? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate anachronistic interpretation of the Victorian era? Where we show what our brothas and sistas back in the 1800s could done if they had the opportunity – I appreciate that and why I choose to spend time discussing this. What we discovered is a pattern of applying late 1800s packaging and using late 1800s machinery to offer boutique services but apply the technology to offer modern day services. That is the true anachronistic nature of steampunk and I strongly, very strongly believe from what I’ve been seeing in the marketplace that if African-Americans apply steampunk Victorian elements to their branding, it will be very attractive, hip and the in-thing. There are a few things African-Americans should understand about our hoods and steampunk. First of all, many Black neighborhoods been around since the late 1800s and we still have factories, buildings and even old machinery. In addition, we can re-apply some of the old techniques to create a revival to start up these steampunk inspired operations that make use of creative manual labor, steam and machinery to do everything from manufacturing to branding. Midwest cities like St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland for example are a goldmine for this stuff. Second, and due to the economy, maybe it’s time for us brothas and sistas to go back to the basics and apply anachronism and discover the lost arts and bring those processes back to modern day standards. The art of being a butcher, artesian, the art of alchemy creating soaps and lotions and hair oil, the process of leathering, rolling cigars or paper packaging. We don’t need an advanced degrees and intellectual snobbery roundtables to take back our blocks that were built in the 1800s and start reviving old school business models from back in the day to encourage local spending. Let’s go into real-world case studies to understand and extrapolate patterns and practices brothas and sistas can apply to hood-based operations or retailing and branding efforts. What I want to show you is how we can create retail operations and our hustles and apply the branding and techniques of the Victorian as well as 1900s era to pay anachronistic homage to our ancestors who lived during that period and revive many of our hoods. Hangtags and Labels Before I go in, let state the obvious thing – a lot of designs and patterns from the 1800s are no longer in copyright or patented form and public domain. That includes logos, design elements that you can incorporate into your own branding. So let’s look at some images of some modern hangtags and labels we discovered: Do you see the lines and curves and the typography in play that looks Victorian era? This is a technique called calligraphic where the art of the feather tip pen would create lines for calligraphy to modern typography fonts. Here is a secret – you can find a lot of public domain books and art books online that have these calligraphic design and patterns you can copy and apply to your branding. In some cases, you can apply artwork but focusing on calligraphic elements and serif fonts would be good enough. Kraft Paper Packaging My favorite gift wrapping is not the glittery patterned wrapping paper but plain kraft paper and hemp rope, like the old Charles Dickens days. Many new retailers are embracing kraft paper for their packaging to give that anachronistic feel that they are starting out small just like a small shop in the Wild West or Victorian Era. Kraft paper gives that nice brown feel but we can add a modern twist to bring out an anachronistic design. Brown packaging is the in-thing and you can apply colorful stickers and labels to plain kraft paper to modernize your old school packaging. This is how you can start packaging some of the things you want to offer or sell as a boutique or if you are starting a new line of products to sell in places like specialty grocers or make a killing at farmer markets or trade shows. This is also great for mail order packaging to have a brand people can be amazed at. Glass Bottling Many glass containers out there are using the old school jars to store beauty oils and other liquid based products in. Also you should see many bottles have a rubber stop top design to give a 1800s look and feel of the old bottling beverage days. I see plenty of these bottles and jars at the arts and craft shop. So it is possible to buy a large container of beauty crème made in Africa (thanks to President Obama Free Trade Treaties) from natural oils and fruits and package them in these containers and give it an old school look. Notice how the jelly jars have kraft paper and rope, giving it that Victorian era packaging. The steampunk crowd as well as anybody else would love this design nowadays because it looks and feel different and Victorian. Retail Design If all of the stores out there, I cannot help but admit Aesop is one of the most impressive to me. They use simple wood shelves and appear to look like an old 1800 medicine shop with bottles of elixirs shaped products. There are other shops that use this simple design and they all seem to sell beauty cream and have this steampunk style look like you walked back in time and trying out stuff. The hood definitely can apply this retail design and sell homemade soaps, homemade lotion and crèmes made on the spot and even have a viewing window where people can see the old school churning machines. I do not see a lot of complex elements here except buying a lot of wood and metal pipes. You don’t need a college degree to build this stuff or run this type of operations. Plenty of cats hustle homemade soaps and beauty crèmes. This is the level we African-Americans need to be at instead of selling some damn smelly oil and homemade soap on the street vendor level. I can easily see a brotha or sista create a similar design like this based on Victorian era shops and sell crème and oils from those kind of bottles and create franchises in all hoods around the country – that is a serious global business model. Case Study – Casa Del Agua Casa Del Agua in Mexico City is one of the best business retail models me and 30 Rotten Dissidents agree that we encountered in 2013 and is definitely a global pattern and practice we can take back to the hood or any urban commercial zone. Many of you guys don’t know but Mexico City is considered an emerging growth economy and they are very rapidly growing new business models and economic development down there. What we love so much about Casa Del Agua was how they put passion in the art of bottling water like a distillery. I used to own a marine aquarium and know about using reverse osmosis to create super clean filtered water. And to make the water taste pleasant to humans, minerals are added and filtration techniques. Then you see in the pictures how the bottles look old school where people can take a big bottle home and drink all day or they can chill and relax in a garden in the back. A place like this will attract tourist and people who are attracted to the brand and the legend of the place. The name will spread around fast and steampunk cats will love looking at how the bottle waters are produced, especially Mexico City that still retain some of the Wild West roots. I strongly believe this can be done in an urban hood area and will become an instant attraction. I also believe a premium price like Fiji or Acqua Panna water is warranted and justified to cover the costs. Case Study – Hand Cooked Kettle Potato Chips Now after you read all of this and you sitting around thinking about what kind of steampunk anachronistic business model you can bring to the hood, you think of the old school kettle potato chip process. Then you decide to create a hand cooked potato chip store and create a store in the hood where the kettle chips are made, seasoned and packaged in the store to compete with those popcorn shops. You can hire cats in the hood to cut up the potatoes and they do it in full view of the customers. Or better yet, get a steam-powered stirling engine that can slice up the potatoes in a steampunk fashion! Then you use a steam kettle also known as "jacket kettle" to steam/fry the potato chips and then spread the chips out to be served. Customers line up at the store and ask for their chips to be seasoned with homemade salt mixes in powders like sea salt, garlic salt, salt and sour, buffalo wing powder or bbq powder and so on. They can even buy the salt mixes you packaged up in bottles. Then you wrap up the chips in kraft paper bags that have the light grease at the bottom, put your calligraphic logo sticker on the bag and let people know they just bought fresh made potato chips they can take home, just like the popcorn shops. So what you going to do with all of that grease? You have a food truck that runs on vegetable oil and sell packages of your chips at events and promote your store at the same time. But if you commit to steam punk 1800s era and the craft of making chips from that time, people will flock to the store out of curiosity. Summary As African-Americans should realize, we don’t need to do the latest and greatest ideas that are original and novel, but we can revive old school business models from the 1800s and apply steampunk anachronistic touches to modernize many old processes to build businesses. We still got a lot of 1800s buildings in our community and can reuse them. We can do thousands of hustles right in the hood manufacturing things with steam engines, creating food the old way and bringing back old Black 1800s traditions the old fashion way or we can embrace doing things we couldn’t do back in 1800s and start doing it now and change history and put it in their face we can do it in 2013! The beauty of adopting steampunk and anachronistic Victorian elements in our hood operations is we all know they did not want us Black folks running these types of operations back in the 1800s. But we can not only embrace those elements, we can improve on them and be creativity and have those 1800s bigots spinning their bones in their graves while we brothas and sistas in 2013 honor our ancestors by applying our contributions in an anachronistic fashion to the Victorian pre-industrial era.

2 thoughts on “African-American Guide to Applying Steampunk Patterns to Hood Business Models

  1. Ed, you are right in time, this is simply the best, I love this post. The opportunity is thru reverse osmosis. History, HIS STORY, Our story is showing us it’s a new day and opportunity for African Americans. Our, His story is so diverse and well invested, that what ever, we want to do with the future is now and in the best interest of all to come after us. It’s time to reacquaint our-selves by getting back to the basics, keeping it simple and traveling light, lighter than we are today.
    We can use our own genius, about right now. Best of to all who are seriously considering this post. Thanks Ed!

  2. for anyone looking for a spot to get fonts… try dafont dot com or just type victorian fonts. Ed I wanted to test the reception for fashion so I went out after reading the first post on the topic…looked at some images on google and through on a wool vest,matchin cap, shirt and tie with sleeves rolled to the elbows, cargo pants and some corchoran boots…crazy!! Sistas were feeling it. Which brings me to the first post and the opportunities in customized clothing or accessories…I’m. Gonna test on some goodwill watches first and try out some brass paint from michaels, might even try the goggles…so many hustles thanks for the info bro

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