b&b196 DDJA Black Accessory Designer Alliance: creating a network for minority designers
Welcome to the Dead Day Job Army, a monthly Brunch & Budget series where entrepreneurs and freelancers of Color share their stories and talk about the real.
It’s not easy to start your own business and it’s even harder when it feels like you have to explain to your family what you do every time you see them, when you walk into an event and can count on one hand the PoC in the room, when you try to ask for what you’re worth, but don’t want to get passed over for the next person.
This episode’s guests are Velvet Lattimore and Wilbur Pack Jr., founders of the Black Accessory Designer Alliance. BADA’s goal is to Empower Black and Minority Accessory Designers and to Help Facilitate Their Prominence in the Fashion Industry. badaunite.org
Both are also business owners:
Velvet owns Vedazzling Accessories Boutique, which has a storefront in Brooklyn and also features other Black accessory designers. “This industry is cut throat and it is especially hard on African Americans who are typically undercapitalized and have difficulty securing orders from mainstream retailers.” vedazzlingaccessories.com
Wilbur owns SKWilbur – in 2013, after being consistently asked by curvy women to offer his elegant designs in larger sizes, Pack set his sights on creating better wardrobe options for the full figured fashionista. He is now winning over both men and women with his line of handcrafted bags made in NYC. skwilbur.com
Wilbur: It’s all about networking. I think networking is really really important. We’re probably not going to get the loans. We may not get the money, but we can reach out to somebody who can then reach out to somebody who may know somebody else who can get us maybe a micro-loan, or maybe help us with our kickstarter campaign, or help us with our digital marketing.
Wilbur: It is a major financial drain if you don’t have someone investing in you, or if your grandmother didn’t die and leave you a pile of money…it’s really difficult to become the next Marc Jacobs, so to speak…So it was Hurricane Sandy here in New York, it was also my birthday…and I was sitting in the dark in my mother’s house, and I was like “God, I can’t do this anymore, and I’m very angry with you, and you need to show me what the next step is, because I really don’t think you gave me this ability, this skill, this talent, for nothing, and so I need you to reveal it to me because I can’t do this. I was like $10,000 in debt, and it just wasn’t working. And I had struggled the whole 15 years, and that struggle is exhausting, exhausting, and so my sister sent me an email….and she said “For your birthday, I wanna send you to this one day bag making workshop.” And I said “Okay, God, I hear you.” And so 5 years ago that part of the journey started, and I sew all the bags myself, I had to get over that fear of the sewing machine.
Velvet: I have friends that are 9-5ers and they just don’t understand. You have to have friends that are creatives. …For the last two years, I [have been] in a neighborhood that’s transitioning. And my store is struggling: we don’t have leases anymore ‘cause they want us out, so we’re on the month to month, and I’ve been so stressed…and I mentioned it to a friend of mine, and this person [has] a 9-5 job…and the person said to me “Well, if you just closed, things would be better. Why don’t you just close the store and go find another passion?”…And the next week I talked to Wilbur and Wilbur came up with some other ideas…That’s what people in your community who get it are like. They get it. So they’re like “Oh, girl, you can do it. Why don’t you try getting a part time job and doing this and doing this.”
Velvet: We try, from the venue to the drink sponsor to the food, everything has to be a person of color or be in alignment with what we do.
Wilbur: Women have organizations where they can build each other up that men are not invited to…because women have been, I’m not even sure the word, they do not get full respect, they don’t get equal pay, we could go on and on. I respect that they have their own groups to elevate one another. So why can’t people of color have their own group too?