Oakstop’s prices range from $50 per month for basic membership to the coworking space to north of $3,000 for particular office rentals. Event space can range from $30 to $300 an hour. And Parham says those numbers are flexible. He hasn’t run into anyone who fundamentally disagrees with the business model or the approach.
When it comes to the contentious idea that African Americans can achieve liberation through economics, he says, “It was economics that got us in this position in the first place… The tool to undo our lack of liberation is economics.”
But beyond the business philosophy, it’s the relationships and reputation that have carried Oakstop.
Visual artist Brette Sims attests to that. In 2014 she contacted Parham about his space. At the same time, unbeknownst to her, her father met Parham and was talking to him about Sims’ work. The result has been a decade-long partnership where Parham has allocated coworking space, assisted in mounting and selling her work—specifically her colorful psychedelic series of paintings, Alice in Hennyland. He even helped write the description cards that accompany her artwork.
“Black artists, a lot of us, we create from the bottom of our hearts,” says Sims, “but too often, we’re not given the space and the recognition we deserve.” The founder of STUK Designs, a nonprofit that empowers young women through art, Sims says she’s benefited from taking notes on the business model Parham has created. After mentioning how racist and sexist the art world can be, Sims says, “Oakstop is a space that grants us opportunities that we never would have.”
“It’s motivating to know that we’ve been able to tap into a network of people who want to build,” Parham says. “It’s important for us to create institutions where people feel that it resonates with their whole soul.”
Expanding Oakstop’s Footprint
After its founding in 2014, the original footprint of Oakstop grew from 4,000 square feet to 24,000 over the course of a few years. In April 2018, Parham and his team acquired a space on 14th Street between Alice and Harrison Streets. The building has three floors and a basement, but they only occupy the second and third floor, a total of 10,000 square feet.
The third location came in April of the following year. Parham and his team thought a building adjacent to Richmond BART would make a good spot for a cafe, given the foot traffic that comes through the station. But the pandemic hit, BART’s ridership plummeted and they had to pivot.
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