In 2008, as the mother of a preteen girl, Shawntée observed a need to nurture her daughter and her friends. She noticed how vulnerable the girls were at that age and how they struggled with identity issues facing them. As she continued to observe the characteristics and personality traits the girls displayed, she was inspired to start a business that would help address these concerns. Thus Harlem Hugs was born!
As a native New Yorker and true “Harlemite”, Shawntée knew there would be a large population of young girls in and around the Harlem community that could benefit from her efforts. During the first two years of starting the business, she organized two Tween Pageants and had a great turnout. These events were not focused on highlighting the physical beauty of the girls. Instead, they were intended to showcase the tweens’ talent and to help foster courage and a heightened sense of self-esteem in the preteen girls. It was a platform that promotes their ability to talk about themselves and enables them to feel confident about performing in a public forum, through the display of something they were passionate about.