SlimPickins Outfitters makes waves as first black owned outdoor outfitter in the nation


Photo courtesy of SlimPickins Outfitters

Pictured from left to right: Bill Murry, Heather Dawes, Silas Dawes, Finis Dawes and Jahmicah Dawes

When COVID-19 struck the nation, the life of small business owners changed drastically all over the nation. However, the quarantine pushed people to shop small and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement encouraged the support of black businesses all over the world. One of the businesses struck with an increase in online sales was none other than Stephenville, TX outdoor outfitters, SlimPickins.
SlimPickins Outfitters was founded by Jahmicah and Heather Dawes and opened its doors on March 2017. Jahmicah and Heather’s vision gravitates towards meeting the needs of outdoor enthusiasts while also reflecting their culture. These values and their love for Christ is what motivated them to live by their vision statement, “Act Justly, Love Kindly, Serve Humbly.”
Being a person of color and owning a business can present a number of issues when it comes to promoting business. Another issue that comes with owning a business as a person of color is the problem with racial stereotypes clouding people’s judgment. That issue is especially present in the field of agriculture. Fortunately for the Dawes family, the world of outdoor outfitters welcomed them with open arms.
“It was very welcoming, but it’s been difficult to get the support to know how to do this kind of business, because it’s not just any kind of business. We didn’t have mentorship, because no one had come before us. We had and have people who pour into us from the outdoor industry, but they’re not coming from a black perspective. Although there are people that are helping , I don’t want to give this idea that we were out here on our own, we aren’t, but it’s the fact that the lack of representation means there’s a lack of consideration. We are navigating through uncharted waters, and I think what that means is that we’re gonna have to make mistakes, and that’s what counts. That’s why we need support not only from our local community, but the outdoor community and the black community,” Jahmicah Dawes said.
Owning and operating a small business is a large accomplishment within itself. There a number of factors that contribute to the success, or failure, of a business. There are also a number of steps to take prior to opening the doors of a brand new business.
“For other men and women that aspire to own their own businesses, I would say find a black owned small business to shadow, and volunteer your time. Find someone or a business, to pour into. Then, also know that there are resources out there, but don’t be afraid to challenge what is being done you’re not just advocating black-owned businesses, but minority-owned businesses. That’s going to impact the woman-owned, veteran-owned and Latin American-owned businesses. It has long been believed that society was established completely by affluent white males, but what is that line from Hamilton?
‘Immigrants, they get the job done’,” Jahmicah and Heather said.
Black History Month means different things for different people. For leaders in society, it is a time to exhibit activism. For students, it is a time to excel and immerse themselves in the culture. For small business owners, Black History month can mean a number of things.
“With black history, I think if you think it’s just, we as a people overcame slavery and endured through it, and all that, then you’re missing a great opportunity, and then you literally don’t know black history. This is not a time to talk about slavery, it’s just not, because it’s relevant every single day of the year and it will always be, because it’s wrong. This is a time to really focus on black excellence and what people did even amidst slavery, oppression, prejudice and segregation to further, or to establish, black excellence and to encourage black excellence, and to represent black excellence. So, this is a month to be reminded how beautiful it is to be young and to be black. It is a month to be focusing on those that are gifted and black – not only those of the past but of the present,” Jahmicah said.
SlimPickins is the first black-owned outdoor sports store not only in Stephenville but in the nation. The Dawes family has paved the way for small businesses as well as black-owned businesses in the agriculture industry.
“That was definitely not intentional. I mean, I am intentionally black, [but] I did not get into this to be the first black-owned outdoor shop in the country. I really was surprised. I was saddened by it, but also encouraged; I was and am proud that we were the first. So, like, not knowing or doing it intentionally doesn’t take away how impactful it is to us. Hopefully history will be made, and our story will be told, but at the same time that also awakened me to, Why is that? That shouldn’t be,” Jahmicah said.
So, that’s kind of our mission in this industry: we want to leave it better than we found it, right? And one of the kinds of cardinal rules of being in the outdoors is leaving a trace; this is an area where we want to not only leave a trace but a legacy. That was encouraging to us, but it was also a challenge that we are meeting and are intentional about facing and then changing. So, whenever our time in this industry is done, we hope we can say it is better than we found it by diversifying the outdoors and the outdoor industry,” Dawes said.
Although the store has made great impact on the black community, they have also faced a few struggles due to COVID-19. The inability to travel and participate in group activities has hindered a number of businesses and SlimPickins was no exception.
“Our revenue is down 50%. So, obviously, that’s a big hit to us. We have ramped up online sales. We did a lot of online in December. That’s one way we encourage people to shop small, is checking out how you can support [small businesses] online. And, before you shop at a big box store, check and see if a small business carries it first, remembering that, like, ok – it’s two dollars more at a small business. Is that two dollars gonna make or break you? Probably not. Is that two dollars gonna make or break them? Maybe. So, just remembering that when you’re supporting small businesses, you’re supporting families and people. Like, when you’re shopping with us, you’re getting our kids swimming lessons. You’re helping us do that. When you buy from a small business, your money just means more. It does,” Heather Dawes said.
As a part of their “serve humbly” initiative, SlimPickins will be introducing their Slim Swap event this month. Both Jahmicah and Heather are Tarleton State alumni so they understand the struggles that come with being college kids. The Dawes family believes that everyone should have the opportunity to look their best without breaking the bank. The Slim Swap event encourages students to look and feel their best while also maintaining sustainability.
“We do our best to recycle at the shop, and we thought, hey, why don’t we do this with clothes? That started with Slim Pickins Vintage, which I started while I was still a student at Tarleton. So, we thought, let’s not just stop there. We are trying to lean into that conservationist attitude, because a lot of these pieces still have life left in them. By doing this, we can specifically cater to our community of students great brands at a discounted price. We’re excited to see where this goes,” Jahmicah Dawes said.