Nairobi, Kenya -- September 08, 2022 -- In continuation of our interview series with Black women founders who are marking their marks in history, I sat down with three amazing entrepreneurs who work across different parts of the United States. Each of these trailblazers provide valuable products and services to their target markets.
It was interesting to see how some of the insights they shared paralleled with the findings from our recently published research report, The State of Black Women-Owned Businesses. Black women continue to push boundaries and create space for themselves, despite the numerous odds stacked up against them. We absolutely love to see them win!
I hope you enjoy learning more about each of their stories. Let's jump right in!
Aprile Serry, Founder & CEO of The Sleek Wardrobe | Miami, Florida
Casey: When did you first feel the inkling to start your own business, Aprile?
Aprile: From a young age I enjoyed exercising my creativity - whether I was sketching clothing designs or writing. It was empowering for me to bring my ideas to life and share them with others! Engaging in these pursuits helped me to envision the possibility of becoming my own boss and set the foundation for becoming an entrepreneur.
Latoya Pitcher, Founder / Executive Director & Quality Assurance Manager at Family Equity Partners | San Francisco, California
Casey: Latoya, how about you?
Latoya: When I was 15 years old. That was definitely my AHA moment!
Tamira Wells, Owner & Virtual Wardrobe Consultant at New Heritage | Los Angeles, California
Casey: When did it happen for you, Tamira?
Tamira: I was exposed to the world of fashion at an early age by my late aunt Cynthia Belinda Wells-Jones, who was a trunk model for designer Michael Kors! My aunt played a significant role in my life, as she would often dress me in designer clothing. I always wanted to live a life where I could be fabulous and do what I wanted to do.
Diving deeper into their stories.
The Sleek Wardrobe - taking the styles of busy professionals to the next level.
"I launched The Sleek Wardrobe, my personal styling venture and lifestyle blog, to empower individuals to develop their personal style in an intentional way. My services are ideal for driven, time-pressed individuals who want to take their style to the next level and appreciate quality pieces," said Aprile Serry.
The Sleek Wardrobe is a brand that offers personal styling services (including event styling for specific occasions), wardrobe refreshes to keep outfits current, and full wardrobe makeovers for clients looking for complete style upgrades to match their lifestyles. In addition, the brand sells a collection of rare, vintage gems called Nuu Bijoux which is available online at www.nuubijoux.com. This year, they also launched Endulzarr, a luxurious body scrub made of natural ingredients - available at www.endulzarr.com.
Casey: Okay Aprile, can you tell me about a typical day in your life as an entrepreneur?
April: As an entrepreneur, I have the ability to set my own schedule. I strongly believe how you start your day sets the tone for what's to come for the remainder of it. I enjoy beginning my day with prayer and meditation.
When it's time to work, I spend time brainstorming ideas, planning and developing content, executing styling engagements, and researching to gather inspiration for my creative projects. These projects may include exploring art at a museum or spending time in nature. Also, I take time to strategize where I want to take my business (based upon insights I've gained) and pursue collaborative engagements.
As I move forward with my business ventures, it's important for me to maintain a sense of balance. I renew my energy by going hiking, practicing yoga, and dancing.
Casey: I just love when Black women entrepreneurs take lean into softness despite demanding schedules! The balance in your day is definitely goals! So tell me, did you have any fears about launching into entrepreneurship?
Aprile: Before launching my business ventures, I had an extensive career in the financial services industry. During that time I was able to hone my broad skillset by leading strategic engagements. However, I knew I eventually wanted to become my own boss. My greatest fear was leaving the predictability of my 9-to-5 to embark upon a more fulfilling path that aligns with my passion and purpose.
Casey: I totally feel that! That 9-to-5 comfort can be difficult to let go of - especially when the income is stable, but being steeped in passion is so much more worth it. Final question - what does your support system look like as an entrepreneur?
Aprile: I'm grateful for my family, friends, and members of my community who have been supportive of me and the growth of my businesses.
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According to our 2022 State of Black Women-Owned Businesses Report, 88% of Black women entrepreneurs cite better alignment to passion as a top motivator for starting a business. Increased flexibility (88%) and being their own boss (75%) were also in the top three. Aprile's story closely aligns with this trend. As her story suggests, following your purpose is a great reason to be a founder. Read more insights from our report here.
Family Equity Partners - supporting the economic sustainability of Black businesses
"I created this business to offer organizational infrastructure, technical assistance, executive leadership coaching, strategic partnership development, and social capacity building to Black businesses," said Latoya Pitcher.
Family Equity Partners is on a mission to support the economic sustainability of Black businesses by providing technical assistance, as well as organizational & social capacity-building services. The firm serves Black businesses and Black leaders through a suite of services including; Organizational Infrastructure Support, Curriculum Development, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Training, Strategic Partnership Plan Development, and Executive Leadership Coaching.
Casey: What does a typical day look like for you, Latoya?
Latoya: I'd typically spend my day consulting, in meetings, managing relationships, and networking.
Casey: Sounds like quite the busy day! What does your support system look like as you go through your entrepreneurial journey?
Latoya: My Board of Directors have really been my biggest support system on the journey to building this company.
Casey: That's awesome, Latoya! Only 3% of Black women in the United States are running mature businesses. This signals that our demographic typically lack Boards of Directors, C-level leadership, and similar support functions. I'm thrilled for you!
Okay, finally - I'm sure you had your fears going into entrepreneurship. Which was your biggest one?
Latoya: F-A-I-L-U-R-E, Casey! I turned my fear of failure into my eagerness to learn through on-the-job training!
One of my favorite things about Latoya's story is her willingness to learn (and build) as she has gone along. I call it "building the plane as you fly it!" Perfectionism holds far too many brilliant minds back - and it's a costly mistake. The best thing we can do to validate our ideas in the market and refine our solutions with real feedback is LAUNCH! Latoya is definitely leading by example.
New Heritage - creating 90's inspired fashion for deeper dimensions pf generational wealth.
"My mission is to create generational wealth. The brand is from the 90's, so it suits anyone who loves that era. New Heritage was created to pay homage to my late aunt and uncle - the original founders of the brand," said Tamira Wells.
New Heritage is a fashion brand that creates 90's inspired t-shirts, hoodies and accessories. Originally founded in 1988 by fashion designers Cynthia Belinda Wells Jones & Rodney Jones, the brand produced popular street wear for its era. It was known for its bold graphic designs on gear, t-shirts and snap hats - showcasing appreciation of African American culture and promoting Black Awareness.
New Heritage gained a following by figures in the entertainment industry such as Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, and the Wayans Brothers. With the brand's awareness on the rise, the company grew to be featured on television shows such as Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Martin, The Bill Cosby Show, Living Single and Living Color.
The current owner, Tamira Wells, is the niece of the two late founders. She always admired the work of her aunt and uncle, as well as the company they managed to create. She aspires to continue their legacy by inspiring people to know and build their own heritage from generation to generation.
Casey: Tamira, you are deeply inspiring. I love that you pay such fervent homage to your family. It's equally as intriguing that you are continuing a brand that had already started. What does your own typical day look like?
Tamira: A typical day is filled with answering emails, creating social media marketing campaigns, sending out orders, and thinking of designs and styles for the next season.
Casey: Boss moves! Sounds like you're moving and shaking, Tamira. Your vibe screams vibrancy. Did you have any fears when stepping into the ownership shoes of your brand?
Tamira: My biggest fear was starting the brand and also creating historical pieces that resonate with people.
Casey: I feel you on that, sis. Deeply. Starting is often the biggest hurdle - especially when the vision it means so much to us! I'm happy you went for it. My last question for you - what does your support system look like as an entrepreneur?
Tamira: Strangers. Ha! It's surprising just how much support I have received from people I don't even know. I'm super thankful for each one that has supported my business!
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I'm left in chills. Our stories matter so much. They must be amplified - as they give us reassurance that there are people who are desperately waiting for us to show up. We are not alone, even though common forms of representation seem perpetually monogamous. If we continue to press forward, combining with the wind that those around us are undoubtedly making - we will write a new story that shapes history, present, and future. I'm deeply grateful to have met Tamira. I am so proud of US.
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