Featured Success Stories
When Melissa Lee’s 10 year-old daughter took up dance lessons, Melissa was excited to re-decorate her bedroom in a ballerina theme. Melissa wanted her daughter to see herself in the beautiful, self-assured dancers that would decorate the space, and she was determined that the images reflect her daughter’s beauty and pride as a budding African-American ballerina. Unfortunately, Melissa soon discovered that not a single major retail store carries bedding or home décor sets featuring young African-American women. She realized that this hole in the market was indicative of a larger problem; young women of color did not have access to a variety of products and images that celebrated their beauty, reflected their potential and reinforced their self-esteem. From this realization came Brown Girl Gifts. Melissa, who has a background in marketing, immediately contacted her cousin Drake Newkirk, who has a background in design and illustration. What began as a discussion of possible logos for the company evolved into plans for a whole line of products, ranging from t-shirts to laptop cases. Within two days, Drake had designed a full collection, with each item featuring the company’s first logo, a profile of a young African-American girl with puffy-tails. After collaborating with Melissa on the collection’s design, Drake decided to join the project as Melissa’s business partner. Together, they have since created a whole line of products, clothing, and accessories featuring positive affirmations such as “I Love Me,” “B Brown,” “100% Me,” and “I am the Club.” Each of these products is made in the United States and features the iconic brown girl silhouette - though she now comes in three different hairstyles and three different skin colors, re-affirming Brown Girl Gifts’ commitment to celebrating range and diversity in physical features, skin tones, and hair textures. In May 2012 Entrepreneur Works provided the Brown Girl Gifts team with a small business loan to help them with marketing and inventory needs as they launched their business. With the help of this loan, Brown Girl Gifts has expanded and grown; the business hopes to create at least 1.5 jobs within the next year. "Entrepreneur Works helped us get our business off the ground,” Melissa comments. “We are so grateful for their help and support throughout this process!"
Leah Delfiner has been making her own clothes since she was 16 years old. She was a part of the Young Artist Workshop program at Moore College of Art and Design when she was in high school and her love for designing clothes grew from there. She attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and during her time there, Leah interned for local up and coming designers. After graduating, she interned for Betsey Johnson and the itch to start her own business grew. In the beginning of 2013 Leah was accepted to the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator program with Macy’s Center City. This program helped her take her business to a whole new level. She had a studio space in Macy’s and was able to meet with other entrepreneurs and mentors to help build her brand and turn it into a sustainable business, Pretty Pretty Rebel. Leah came to Entrepreneur Works through the Macy’s Incubator program last year. Leah has found that starting a business within the creative economy can be a challenge, but Entrepreneur Works has given her guidance and has been instrumental to the growth of her business. Leah comes to Entrepreneur Works before making business decisions. The biggest challenge has been getting in front of the right people at the right time. There are so many talented designers, but sometimes it only takes catching the eyes of one influential person. “Once you get that one person, a bunch of other people will come!” When asked what her favorite part about running her own business is, Leah Delfiner says, “I am absolutely in love with what I do! I have the freedom to do that, and it makes me happy every day. I am so excited about my line and my business, and I feel it will take me so much further than I ever imagined!”