Photo above: Fairmount CDC PHL TCB Cleaning Crew in uniforms purchased from Beyond the Seams, a neighborhood business.
This post was written by Nagiarry Porcena-Meneus, the Department of Commerce’s Program Manager, Office of Neighborhood Economic Development.
In the fall of 2020, the City of Philadelphia kicked off the Philadelphia Taking Care of Business (PHL TCB) Clean Corridors Program, a $7 million economic development initiative that expands the Department of Commerce’s existing commercial corridor cleaning efforts from 49 commercial corridors to 85 throughout the city.
In addition to removing trash from neighborhood sidewalks and creating jobs, PHL TCB helps increase sales for local businesses.
In North Philadelphia, the Fairmount Community Development Corporation (CDC) employs two cleaning ambassadors who clean sidewalks on Girard Avenue between College Avenue and 31st Street.
As part of the launch of PHL TCB last fall, the Fairmount CDC partnered with the neighboring Centennial Parkside CDC. The two groups coordinated on a bulk order of uniforms for their cleaning crews from the local small business, Beyond the Seams, which is owned by the husband and wife team Yasin Abdelsalam and Idalia Adan.
Officials at the Fairmount CDC met Yasin and Idalia in 2020 when they offered a community grant to support Fairmount businesses struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
“They have such an amazing connection to the community. Idalia is patient, detail–oriented, and such a pleasure to work with. We are thrilled with our beautiful, high–quality uniforms produced right in our neighborhood,” said Sarajane Blair, Executive Director for the Fairmount CDC.
Yasin and Idalia are devoted to seaming creativity to match their client’s visions.
When fabricating the PHL TCB uniforms, Idalia said, “It is the quality of our embroidery, the meaningful relationships that we share, and thoughtful communication that is so vital. It means a lot to us that Centennial Parkside CDC made two more bulk orders for the cleaning crew recently.”
Beyond the Seams: Growing their Business by Building Community
Beyond the Seams has a holistic approach that strongly reflects Yasin and Idalia’s personal commitment to the larger community. Their long-term vision is to be a one-stop shop for the marketing and printing needs of all their clients.
Yasin immigrated from Alexandria, Egypt at a young age and was raised in South Philadelphia has a background in graphic design. Idalia, who was born and raised in North Philadelphia, has a background in interior design. Yasin and Idalia use their knowledge and expertise to teach local kids how to start and sustain their own businesses.
“The kids keep us going, and we guide them as much as we can. As an immigrant who worked multiple jobs to survive, I’m aware of the extra hurdles many entrepreneurs face. So, I strive to help the children in the community who have dreams of a business to succeed,” said Yasin.
In addition to embroidery and screen-printing, the boutique has a community space, which the owners used to host art shows, open mic poetry events, and space rental services before the pandemic. The in-person events are currently on pause.
The pandemic taught Yasin and Idalia the importance of diversifying their income streams in creative ways using their skillsets.
Yasin said, “We learned that foot traffic and word of mouth make a difference. If you are selling free iced tea in front of your business, someone will stop and ask questions. People remember and appreciate great customer service.”
“I am proud to be a woman business owner. I come from Puerto Rican and Cuban parents. Growing up, I did not see women owning their own businesses,” Idalia added. “My single mother raised six kids and worked tirelessly to ensure our basic needs were met. Representation matters, so business ownership can inspire the kids in our community to dream big. We would not be where we are without Fairmount CDC and The Merchants Fund grants that helped sustain us during the pandemic.”
In addition to providing uniforms to organizations for the PHL TCB program, Beyond the Seams is also located on the Broad Street corridor served by the cleaning program and experiences its benefits first-hand.
“We are grateful for the PHL TCB program because the North Broad Renaissance crew cleans in front of our boutique,” said Idalia. “This aesthetic change increases foot traffic. In the summer, we give the cleaning crew water to say thank you. And while we’re appreciative of the cleaners, we also know it is important to take care of our streets as business owners. That’s why we sweep in front of our storefront too.”