Ama, thank you for taking out the time to be featured during the launch of the Black Women Inspired Blog! You are a woman who does not hesitate to take action when she has a goal that she wants to achieve! Your background is very interesting. You are an attorney yet you have recently released a beautiful children’s book which teaches kids to celebrate different forms of beauty. Furthermore, you own an online shoe store for children and you are launching a dating website for black women and those who want to date them. You are truly an inspirational woman!
How did the idea come along for a children’s shoe store?
In 2010 when my first son, Jojo, was born, my husband and I felt really inspired by this magical being in front of us. We became obsessed with everything relating to babies including baby shoes. We also were struck by the fact that some babies, such as our own, have so much while others all over the world have so little. I think that both of those observations collided and inspired Joojos, our artisanal children’s shoe company. We were obsessed with finely crafted vintage baby boots and could not find them in the U.S., so we created them ourselves. Our shoes are made from the finest Italian leather and many styles are partially handmade. A lot of love goes into making the product. We understand that there are many children in the world who do not have shoes and suffer from foot-borne illnesses, so we decided not to skimp and to make sure that our shoes were finely crafted so that the shoes would be worth passing on through a shoe recycling program. It has been such a rewarding experience so far. We have made many mistakes and we have learned a lot.
What was your goal with the book celebrating the texture of African hair for children?
Jojo is now three years-old and I have another baby boy named Miles who is 1 year-old. One day I took Jojo to a barber shop and I specifically asked the barber not to shave off all of his hair. I know that shaving all of the hair off is the easiest thing to do for an active little boy. But I do think that Jojo looks better with hair. The barber then proceeded to basically have all of Jojo’s hair and when I protested he basically said that Jojo was a real “nig***” and did not have pretty hair so shaving it off was best.
I was deeply hurt and troubled by the experience. In so many instances we as black people have been brainwashed to believe that kinkier hair textures and darker skin tones are hideous. I know that I have struggled with issues of beauty and self-worth as a dark-skinned and kinky haired woman. I was just so horrified to see those issues being thrust upon my son at the tender age of three. I prayed and prayed on the situation and God moved me to write a book entitled Sunne’s Gift. Sunne’s Gift is about a magical being named Sunne who has spirally hair that grows towards the sun and who also has the power to make the sun rise and set. Sunne’s three siblings have straight hair and have other powers. One day Sunne is bullied for being different. Sunne is so distraught that Sunne attempts to straighten the spirals of hair. But when Sunne’s hair becomes straight, Sunne loses the power over the sun.
The goal of the book is to inspire pride in afro-textured spirally hair. But more importantly, the book aims at teaching the lesson that there is beauty and power in difference. We have to fully embrace the unique gifts that God has given us in order to let our light shine and in order to illuminate the world. I have named my publishing company Milestales so now both Jojo and Miles have companies that are named after them.
Tell me about the dating website for black women that you will be launching in the future?
Loveessence is a dating site for black women and all men that I originally launched in 2011. It was a labor of love because I was tired of all of the negative publicity surrounding black women and love. I wanted an internet dating space where black women would feel honored and where men who black women could meet them. Unfortunately, I experienced many learning pains. As a non-technical tech founder I had to put my trust in others to program the site and basically, the site was riddled with problems. We are working slowly to fix those problems but it is taking time. But thankfully, I have learned a great deal and I plan to re-position the site as a real place where people can disregard stereotypes and preconceived notions about who they think that they want to be with and really open themselves to love in all of its forms. I’m really excited about that.
Do you think that it is important for women to generate their own source of income?
Absolutely! I have been married for six years and I pray that my marriage last forever. But, nothing is promised for tomorrow, not marriage, not health, and not even life itself. I feel very responsible for being able to support myself and support my children and I will continue to try to develop multiple income streams in order to make sure that I am financially secure. I think that it is important that women are economically independent so that they have the greatest autonomy and flexibility with respect to their life choices, their futures and the futures of their families.
How do you handle challenges and obstacles?
That is a really good question. I think that the first step is acceptance. I kind of expect that there will be challenges and obstacles. I expect that not everyone is going to agree with me. I expect that I will have to learn new things. Acceptance allows us to refocus on actually overcoming the challenges and obstacles instead of being paralyzed by shock and anger.
What advice would you give ladies who want to start their own business but are hesitant or fear failure?
I would first advise them to read a book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly. I think that the book is a great read regarding how to make sure that you live your life to the fullest and that you don’t allow fear to paralyze you and prevent you from being who you want to be and living the way that you want to live.
With respect to specifically starting a new business, I would advise them to think big but start small. The most important issue in starting a successful business is finding customers. Today, you do not need money to find your customers. You can start a blog about something of interest to the people who would purchase the product that you want to create. You can develop a following with your blog and then when you finally have your product you will already know your customer. That is just one way in which you can start small. Additionally, you don’t even need money to create your product. You can use crowd-funding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter to raise the funds that you need. The sky is the limit. You just have to gather the courage to dare to pursue your dream.
What motivates you?
I think that I’m motivated by three things. First, I would like to leave the world a better place for my children. I love my two little boys and all of my nieces and nephews and it is of great concern to me that they live in a world where they can feel devalued for so many reasons. I feel sad that they living in a world where so many things are thrown away and where we consume and consume without any regard for our planet. I would like to change that. Second, I’m motivated by money. I would like to be financially independent. Third, I’m motivated by my own desire to feel the joy of being the fullest expression of myself as a human being.
Links to Her Sites
www.loveessence.com - Loveessence www.joojos.com - Joojos www.milestales.com - Sunne's Gift