This editorial was brought to you in partnership with Target. Target is proud to support Black businesses, Black creators and HBCU’s this Homecoming season and beyond: Black Beyond Measure
The HBCU Culture Shop has made history as the first Black-owned HBCU clothing brand to be sold at Target stores. HBCU Culture Shop owners Danielle Riley and Stephanie Walters created a brand that honors Black history, colleges and universities.
“HBCUs they are a part of Black history yesterday and today,” Riley said to WFLA.
As a little girl, Riley dreamed of having a black-owned brand. At eight years old, she gained inspiration from the NY billboards and digital ads for her future ideas. In 2017, she opened her first shop as the founder and creative director of the clothing brand.
“I wanted to be an advertising executive when I was little,” Riley said. “It was odd because people would be like, not a firefighter or a police officer? My dad would take me to Times Square, and I was like, I want to make those. I was just so fascinated by all of the ads,” she explained.
Riley grew up surrounded by the rich legacy of HBCUs, all thanks to her parents, who are HBCU graduates — especially her dad, aka Pop, as Riley calls him. Riley’s father is a Civil Rights Activist who assisted in integrating Alabama schools.
“He actually was a Civil Rights Activist,” Riley said. “He integrated schools in Alabama, so he would always tell me about the importance of HBCUs and the Black experience.”
Embarking on her higher education path, Riley attended Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, graduating with a degree in graphic design. Later, her career took an alternate route after discovering her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her career began in corporate America, but one obstacle changed her course.
“My mom was really sick and had stage three cancer,” Riley said. “The only thing that made me happy at that time was graphic design.”
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In 2016, her friends asked her to create FAMU’s homecoming shirts, and she obliged. Using the opportunity to show off her skills, Riley made a landing page where students could order online. From that day on, the HBCU Culture Shop was born.
“I’m extra, so I said of course and created a landing page,” Riley explained to the publication. “I said hey, just order your size and stuff on the page. One hundred orders later, I said is this a thing? This happened in a week. That’s when it really hit, getting that feedback from people saying this means so much to me; it’s not just a shirt, it’s really a message of my values.”
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The HBCU Culture Shop is now in more than 20 Target stores nationwide. The partnership happened after vending at an HBCU event in Birmingham. Riley met a Target buyer associated with the U.S. Open, and they loved her merchandise.
“Target is a true partner for us, and they really allowed us to be super involved every step of the way,’ Riley said.
“I’m enjoying the impact of what it is we are actually doing. What I really hope is people are able to resonate with HBCUs or even feel inspired to look more into HBCUs. This is really for the culture,” she added. “This is really a labor of love.”