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Black History Month Spotlight: Skyler Kelley

By Luke Fichter

In celebration of Black History Month, we sat down with Skyler Kelley, owner of Brij Coffee located in Water Park. Skyler is a symbol of resilience in the community and her journey from being a single mother experiencing homelessness in D.C. to a budding entrepreneur is nothing short of remarkable. Skyler shared her transformative journey with us and her vision for Brij Coffee.

Tell us your story and how you landed here, in National Landing.

Getting into National Landing was a mixture of favor and connections. My amazing broker Lisa Banusiewicz was able to find out about the Water Park project and got me in very fast.

So why coffee?

My mother introduced me to coffee in my later high school years and early college years. I have always loved how coffee connects people. From coffee dates to catch-ups and study groups, being in the cafe scene and seeing people congregate over coffee has always been something I knew I wanted to be a part of. I also love to serve others. Hospitality is my thing, so I thought, 'I love coffee. I love people. I love serving. Why don't I open a cafe?!'

What advice do you have for others who might consider starting a small business?  

I'd say try to get a mentor in the field you want to be in and remember that Youtube University is always free! It also helps to be a people-lover if you want to go into business. I have to remind myself that customers are serving me by giving me their money, so I do my best in providing quality products in return.

How does your identity influence your work?

There are not many Black people in coffee, let alone black queer women such as myself. It is so important for me to understand that this industry is quite competitive and my identity makes it even harder in the game. I am proud of who I am and who I am becoming, and will always let that motivate me to push harder.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you hope to inspire other Black entrepreneurs to start their own business?

I find inspiration in being around people. As I was planning Brij, I would go out and sit at a cafe or restaurant and just write down all of my ideas, plans, and goals. This really helped motivate me and prepare for what was ahead. I absolutely hope that bmy [Black] people find inspiration from my story. I started in the middle of the pandemic with literally no money. I made no excuses and got to work! We have barriers that we have to break down, but once they are down, there is no stopping us!

What's something about coffee (or your business) that people might be surprised to learn?

Brij exists for more than just coffee. I am working to be able to give to local organizations that deal with those experiencing homelessness here in the DMV, especially organizations that help the LGBTQIA+ community. I self-identify as a social entrepreneur and plan to give to my local community as much as I can. So when you buy from Brij, you're actually giving back to the community!

Interested in connecting with Skyler? Brij Coffee is open everyday from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. at National Landing Water Park. Get triple rewards during Black History Month when you use the Open Rewards app