Brown Girl Gifts
Brown Girl Gifts
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!"