BUFFALO, N.Y. — This year, we are featuring the women who are leading Western New York's resurgence in our City Shapers reports. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik highlights an entrepreneur who is celebrating culture and breaking down barriers by encouraging conversations.

Phylicia Dove is the owner and designer of Black Monarchy, and she grew up in Brooklyn, New York. College brought Dove upstate, and love brought her to Buffalo.

"I'm a graduate of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York, and that's where I met my husband, Avril Dove, who is born and raised in Buffalo, New York," said Dove.

A trip to South Africa in college inspired Dove to start her own company.

"Black Monarchy is a global artisan and fashion boutique," she said. "We specialize in African fashion, custom fashion, and we carry fabrics and pieces from all over the world."

Black Monarchy opened two years ago on Buffalo's West Side.

"We were actually here prior to the revitalization of a lot of different parts of Buffalo, specifically speaking on the West Side, so many amazing things have happened, new businesses are splurging up, and we are so excited to be a part of that splurge," she said.

Dove is also a graduate of the Minority and Women Emerging Entrepreneurs program at UB.

She finds her fashion all over and sources it right from the community.

"We have about 68, 69 different dialects just in this area, so we grew organically just by some of the community members that would come in wanting to see themselves represented," she says. "They would reach out literally back to their families back home. Send items here. We now have built several relationships in different parts of the continent of Africa, so we work directly with families here and abroad sourcing, creating items, hiring within the community, and creating all the beautiful things that you see."

She's also all about starting conversations, even when the topics can be uncomfortable.

"Today's climate is a little bit hectic, especially when you think of issues surrounding xenophobia, so Black Monarchy wants to create a safe space, a cultural space," Dove says. "When you're speaking about things like race and culture, it can lead to just looking at a lot of differences., But if you put it through fashion, which is my medium — I think I'm a fashion activist — it gives people the comfortability to have the conversations and to really experience different cultures, being able to touch them, being able to feel them and hear their stories. And I think that's what's going to really help bridge our continent back together."

If you would like to nominate a City Shaper, send Kelly an email.

Check out our report on City Shaper Rebecca Brady:

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. - All year, we are celebrating the women of Western New York in our City Shapers reports. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik takes us to Cheektowaga, where a transplant from New Zealand is growing her healthy snack company.

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