By Megan Sayles,
AFRO Business Writer,

Five, local Black-owned small businesses will venture into the airport retail space as part of the Launch Pad program initiative at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). Launched in 2017, the program provides minority business owners with an internship in BWI’s concession’s space and to attract customers from all over the world. 

This year’s cohort includes Zaaf, an African artisanal brand; Pamper Me Please, a spa and beauty, health and wellness company; Drama MaMa Bookshop, a stationery company; Different Regard,  a sustainable men’s and women’s boutique; and Abrin Fashion House, a jewelry and accessory store. 

“This year’s Launch Pad class represents some of the region’s most creative entrepreneurs,” said Faraji Whalen-Robinson, vice president of BWI concession’s manager Fraport Maryland. “Fraport is extremely proud to have partnered with BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport on this long-term initiative to provide small local businesses an opportunity to reach an international audience. Come welcome these new business owners and salute supporters and advocates that have been part of promoting small business at BWI Marshall Airport over the years.”

The Launch Pad program was created as a result of BWI CEO Ricky Smith’s vision to provide ongoing support to small, minority-owned businesses in the Baltimore-Washington area. Aside from retail space, chosen entrepreneurs will receive business development training and resources. 

Here’s a look into the new airport vendors:


Abai Schulze launched this brand in 2014 to foster economic empowerment for African artisans.  The Ethiopian native currently operates her flagship store at the National Harbor in Maryland and a showroom and manufacturing facility in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Schulze’s products include leather wallets and bags, jewelry and men’s and women’s tracksuits made by the continent’s skilled artisans. 

Pamper Me Please

Established in 2003, Pamper Me Please is a mobile spa service. Rolandmarie Turner started the company to deliver beauty, health and wellness treatments to clients’ homes, offices, hotels and more. Pamper Me Please’s services include massage therapy, reflexology, facials, waxing, manicures and pedicures, and nutritional counseling. In her store at BWI, Turner will also offer beauty and wellness retail products to customers. 

Drama MaMa Bookshop

Alisa Brock was inspired to open this Baltimore-based shop in 2016 out of tragedy. After a close friend’s death, she began binding journals and writing to deal with her grief. The handmade journals were stamped with empowering affirmations that represented how Brock wanted to feel. 

“My grief led me into journal-making for myself, and then I decided to do it for others,” said Brock. 

Drama Mama Bookshop manufactures and sells custom notebooks and journals and holds book-binding classes. Brock is looking forward to attracting a wider customer base during her time at BWI. 

“The Launch Pad program is more than just popping up in the airport. It’s a fine tuning for our businesses and makes us hyper aware of where we are as businesses and what we need in order to be prepared to operate in a place like the airport,” said Brock. “I have high hopes.”

Dominick Davis is the owner of Different Regard, a lifestyle brand that sells men’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothing. Davis both manufactures and designs his products in Maryland.

Different Regard 

Started by Dominick Davis in 2011, this Baltimore-based lifestyle brand locally designs and manufactures sustainable ready-to-wear clothing for men and women. 

“Different Regard has been acknowledged by the Maryland Department of Commerce as the first and youngest African American fashion company that both designs and manufactures its products in the state,” said Davis. 

His products include suits, dresses, dress pants and swim wear, and 90 percent of them are made in Baltimore. Davis thinks the Launch Pad program will help him advance in turning Different Regard into a global brand. 

“I’ve always had visions of becoming an international brand, and I believe this is another step closer,” said Davis. “Being in an international airport catapults me even closer to my goal.” 

Abrin Fashion House 

Aquilma Kamran launched this online business in January 2023. Abrin Fashion House designs one-of-a-kind women’s products, including purses, jewelry and shawls. Each product is created with high-quality materials, and they are designed to be both functional and beautiful. Kamran also ensures that Abrin Fashion House can serve women of all ages. 

Megan Sayles is a Report For America corps member.