Black-Woman Owned Firm Selected To Develop And Operate NYC’s $25 Million Innovation Hub For Black And Woman-Owned Businesses

Last updated on Mar 7, 2024

Posted on Mar 7, 2024

According to a 2022 report by McKinsey & Company on Black Representation in the Beauty Industry, Black consumers are responsible for 11.1% of total beauty spending; yet, Black brands make up a mere 2.5% of revenue in the industry. While Black consumers possess a penchant for Black brands, only 4 - 7% of beauty brands carried by specialty beauty stores, drugstores, department stores and grocery stores are Black brands. The report further reveals that, even though products from Black brands are 2.2 times as likely to work for Black consumers, these consumers are also “three times more likely to be dissatisfied than non-Black consumers with their options for hair care, skin care, and makeup.” These statistics not only underscore the overwhelming racial inequity within the beauty industry, but also illuminate the consequences of such disparity. 

Against this backdrop, NYC Mayor, Eric Adams, just announced a $25 million investment in a business incubator hub - AYO Labs - that will catalyze a long overdue positive change within the health and beauty industry. This project will be developed and operated by R.F. Wilkins Consultants, Inc., a full-service development and management consulting firm. 

Founded by Francilia Wilkins Rahim in 2011, R.F. Wilkins Consultants is in the top 2% of women-owned firms and 0.1% of African American women-owned firms in the nation. A “staunch advocate for diversity in procurement, development, and management”, CEO Francilia gets things done - just take a look at her many accolades: Next Generation Builder (Women’s Builder’s Council); 2019 WMBE Executive of the Year (NY Tri-State Chapter of the National Association of Minority Contractors); 2021 Power Woman of Queens (Schneps Media); and, 2022 Emerging Leader in Diversity & Inclusion (Crain’s Excellence in Business Awards).

Francilia Wilkins Rahim, Founder and CEO of R.F. Wilkins Consultants, Inc.

AYO Labs, located at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, will establish a business ecosystem for the provision of “comprehensive resources, mentorship, and physical infrastructure for Black & Minority owned businesses to scale throughout all phases of the scale journey.” Designed specifically for Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) and women-owned companies, which remain significantly underrepresented in the beauty and healthy industry, this state-of-the-art facility will create a space for BIPOC entrepreneurs to develop their products, expand their businesses, and have the requisite manufacturing and packaging resources at their disposal. By helping BIPOC- and women-owned businesses launch and grow in NYC, this project is working towards dismantling the status quo in the beauty and health sectors. 

“Small businesses are the lifeline of New York City” – Francilia Wilkins Rahim 

The project will be completed in two phases, with the first expected to be completed in 2025, and the second in 2026. Once complete, AYO Labs will be “one of the country’s largest Black woman-owned contract manufacturing facilities anchored in a business incubator and accelerator.” This initiative is not just another example of Francilia’s commitment to action, but also a manifestation of the saying “be the change you wish to see in the world.”



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