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Wilbourn Sisters Designs

Owner: Janice Wilbourn Woods, Atlanta, GA

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Wilbourn Sisters

Janice Wilbourn started her day on March 31 like so many others: She opened the doors of Wilbourn Sisters Designs on Atlanta's Peachtree Street, a fashion boutique that she operates with her business partner and sister Carolyn.

But that day was different from others. Peaceful demonstrations protesting the police killing of George Floyd began had erupted into destructive upheaval in downtown Atlanta. The Wilbourn store, which contained photos, original art and other memorabilia from the family's 40-year career in fashion design, had sustained heavy damage. All of the front windows had been broken.

After several decades of creating couture designer fashions and running two mall-based boutique stores, the sisters had amassed enough memorabilia to fill a museum. The walls of the boutique are covered with photos of high-profile African Americans who have worn their designs, such as Susan Taylor, former editor of Essence magazine, and life coach and television personality Iyanla Vanzant. 

While Janice focuses on the space in Atlanta, Carolyn oversees the purchase of fabrics and clothing manufacturing from Los Angeles. There, Carolyn also organizes food distribution to help address the homeless crisis.

The Wilbourn sisters were recipients of the NAACP-BeyGOOD Small Business grant, awarded to minority business owners who were impacted by the 2020 pandemic and civil unrest. They plan to use the grant to replace the store's windows, doors, flooring, carpeting and for equipment upgrades, said Janice Wilbourn. 

The entrepreneurs also plan to create a teaching hub for young and upcoming fashion designers and a community event space.

"It is a community grant," said Carolyn Wilbourn. "This means they love us, support us and they have our back. It was a blessing and it was a good feeling to get it from the NAACP."