Seniors majoring in business administration, Shaleena and Zina Campbell aim high for a career in entrepreneurship. They've had a strong start, with small businesses in high school and now a prom dress collective that earned them a top honor from organizers of Harlem Fashion Week.

What an honor last weekend from Harlem Fashion Week -- the Cultural Fashion Groundbreakers award!

Zina: Without Harlem Fashion Week, we wouldn't have a lot of resources for our Harlem Dress Collective. Once they posted us (as award recipients), we started to blow up inside of Harlem! Companies that wouldn't respond to us before started saying, "Hey, let's help." Many people and businesses have helped.

Can you tell us a bit about the Harlem Dress Collective?

Zina: We are starting, like, a library, where girls will take a prom dress, wear it, get it cleaned and put it back in our stock. It’s a revolving thing. It’s good being able to uplift the community through the dresses. Why miss out on an experience because you can’t afford a dress? Right now, we have (collected) about 80 dresses for girls who can't afford a prom dress. We're shooting for 100. We've even gotten new dresses from David's Bridal and Faviana Couture!

Who on SUNY Oswego's campus has assisted this effort?

Shaleena: Sarah Bonzo has been a tremendous help, guiding me through a lot of the processes, helping me with contracts, keeping me on deadlines, pushing me out of my comfort zone to talk with companies. We are trying to get 501(c)3 charitable status. On campus, a few of the students have donated dresses and spread our flyers on their social media accounts. A graphic design major, Mercedes Buhner, made our logo. So many people have helped in Harlem.

Do you have a storefront in Harlem?

Shaleena: All the dresses are stored in our house right now. The Neighborhood Thrift Collective agreed to be our drop-off location, so that was helpful.

Zina: We are having our giveaway event on April 27 at the National Black Theatre in Harlem. To prevent (overflow demand), we're reaching out to guidance counselors at high schools all around Harlem, searching for about 30 girls to sign up for the event. It’s going to be a closed event for those girls. They’ll try dresses on, put some makeup on, take photos. We need a lot of dresses so they get one with the right fit.

Shaleena: That will leave us with more dresses. We may try to hold another event after that one; we haven’t really thought about that yet -- maybe a first-come, first-served type thing.

Let's deal with the fact that you're twins. Fraternal or identical?

Both (in unison, same inflection): Identical! Zina: We were born in Harlem Hospital, five blocks from where we went to high school. Harlem seems big, but it’s actually quite small.

Do people often confuse your names?

Zina: Oh, yes. It really doesn't bother us -- we're laid-back people. Sometimes, they’ll call me Shaleena and I’ll answer. It doesn’t really matter. (Laughs.) The only time it does bother us is when it happens with someone we know on a regular basis. We dress different regularly. We have very different styles. But for Harlem Fashion Week, we’re going to try to go coordinated. We’re so different -- but at the same time alike.

How are you different, including on a deeper level?

Zina: Once people get to know us, I think, we have a different sense of humor. She likes to watch a lot of TV shows that I would never watch. Hmmm … I think we're very similar on a deeper level. I have no idea -- you’d have to ask someone else if we act different. (Laughs.) 

Shaleena: I really have a love of language learning. I’m learning Portuguese. I think now that we’re getting older, we’re more able to live our own lives. We just want people to try to get to know us on a deeper level. Don’t just call us “the twins,” maybe just figure out our actual names and get to know us as different people.

Did you think about going to different colleges? Why did you choose SUNY Oswego?

Zina: We thought about it, but we ultimately started applying to the same schools. We both have a lot of the same interests. We both want to be entrepreneurs. We thought Oswego had a really good business school. 

Shaleena: And I got a good financial package here through the EOP program, so we just chose to come here. We just wanted to be away from home.

What do you think of your professors at Oswego?

Shaleena: I think the professors have been great. Sarah Bonzo was my operations management teacher. Before that class, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with business administration. But after that, I thought, "Well, I guess I can go into operations management.” She has pretty much been my mentor ever since then. Also, Ranjit Dighe, he’s an economics professor -- that’s the first time I really understood supply and demand. 

Zina: Dr. (Raihan) Khan was really good. He is so personable. Isiah Brown, he’s a really good professor. Mary Rodgers, she’s a great accounting professor. Last semester, I went to the first meeting for Launch It! (entrepreneurial competition). I met the dean (Richard Skolnik) and we talked. That’s the thing about the business school, even though he’s the dean, he was interested in talking. I brought up the Harlem Dress Collective. 

What do you think of your fellow students at Oswego?

Shaleena: Our friends that we’ve made here, I feel like we made them at the very beginning through the EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) summer program, which is like a four-week thing. We have kept them till now. Everyone else has been pretty nice. 

Zina: Pretty welcoming. When you have group projects, people for the most part do their work, and when they don’t, they let you know ahead of time so you can make up for their work. (Laughs.)

What other things have you kept busy during college?

Zina: We went abroad together to London for a semester. We both got the same scholarship, the José Ramon Pérez International Scholarship through CAPA (The Global Education Network), and we got to go.

Shaleena: CAPA is an amazing program. We met a lot of new friends in London. Zina’s roommate that we became friends with was from Minnesota, so we visited Minnesota last summer. We visited the St. Paul area and it was really fun and beautiful.

Zina: We made a lot of Somalian friends, as well. There’s a large population of Somalis in Minnesota. We made a side trip with them when we were in London to go to Florence, Italy. One of the Somalian girls visited us in New York City. She came down to Harlem and we toured her around our neighborhood.

Zina: We are both in Cut the Craft. I was vice president last semester and Shaleena was treasurer. It was dying down when we took it over; before, there were only three people coming. After we got back from London, there were about 20 people each session. We also were inducted into Vega (Women's) Honor Society last semester, and Chi Alpha Epsilon National Honor Society.

Shaleena: I’m currently president of Chi Alpha Epsilon and Zina is vice president.

Zina: I was an EOP peer leader one summer. I did Mentor-Scholar last semester, with the CiTi/BOCES kids. And we were both writing tutors.

Shaleena: I’m still a writing tutor. We did Vega Safe Trick or Treat. We've done tabling for them.

Zina: With the EOP program, we went to a men’s shelter in Oswego and helped with their brunch and talked with them. We wrote cards for (Jaclyn Schildkraut’s project) for children of the victims of shootings, and we also did cards for sick children through Vega. Cut the Craft did an event with Mentor-Scholar kids; they came in and did a lot of arts and crafts and then afterwards we went to their school and did Thanksgiving turkey pinecones with them.

How did you become interested in entrepreneurship?

Zina: We always loved Russell Simmons, ever since watching his reality TV show called “Running Russell Simmons,” where he was showing how he ran his various businesses. From watching that show, I thought, “Wow, I’d like to run my own business.” In high school, I started making my own nail polish and had my own formula for ChapStick. I always knew I just wanted to make something and do something on my own.

Shaleena: In high school, we were making T-shirts and customizing them and having our friends buy them, and eventually that died down. After that we partnered with our good friend from high school to create Our Noir, an online boutique that launched our freshman year of college. 

What do you like to do in your down time?

Shaleena: I just started watching a lot of anime Japanese TV shows. I’ve also been reading fan fiction, tied in with the anime. We both really enjoy baking and cooking. We also really enjoy doing DIY projects like making facemasks and painting.

Zina: We like food. On our free time in New York City, we go to restaurants and we like to participate in Restaurant Week. We watch shows about the best ramen or the best things to eat.

Shaleena: … and then we go eat them! (Laughs.)

Zina: Sometimes we do try to make the food we see. I’d say we have pretty experienced palates.

Shaleena: I really liked the food in Italy, it was so fresh! The cheese was too sharp for my taste, but I’m glad I got to experience it.

Zina: We have a dog that lives with our mom, and when we're home, we play with her. She’s a Chihuahua. Her name is Snicker, because she’s brown like a Snickers bar. She’s got a lot of behavior problems. (Laughs.) She’s a jumper. She likes to growl at people. Because she’s a small dog, people mostly just laugh.

What can you tell us about your family? 

Shaleena and Zina: Our mom, Sandra Davis, is a special education teacher. She’s done that for like 15 years. She’s from Boston. We have a weird family dynamic. We’re all women, so a lot of petty arguments and catty stuff happens. (Laughs.) But she’s really supportive of anything we want to do.