Joede Brown originally just wanted to create a flag to help her father show his patriotism, but she ended up creating a successful business that enabled her to quit her day job.
“After 9/11, I made an American flag afghan to show support for my dad, who dedicated over 25 years of his life to the military as a military policeman and anti-terrorism expert,” said Brown, owner of Black Pearl Creations, a company that makes crocheted products. “My mother promptly confiscated it for her own use. I made another and sent it to him. She took that one, sold it, sent me the money and told me to start a business.”
She took an interest in crocheting when she was a child living in England.
“My parents took me to the Nottingham Lace Factory. I was enthralled with the doilies and the intricate lace work,” said Brown.”My mom told me I could do the same with crocheting and she started to teach me.”
Brown, who lives in Manchester, N.H., used that initial $300 to fund her business, and it took off from there. The business has been so successful that it enabled her to quit her regular job as an accountant.
“I went full time in 2010, two years after my first cancer diagnosis,” Brown said. “Sitting in an office, making someone else rich, losing time with my family, was not why I beat cancer. I still remember the day I told my job I was quitting to run my business. They actually asked, ‘How can you do that? You’re a single mom!’ Here I am six years later, able to provide for my family and spend time with them.”
One of Black Pearl Creations’ main selling points is unique design.
“Other crocheters take mass-produced patterns, create the item and sell them,” said Brown. “No problem, but their customers get the same item as the next person. I designed my lace maxi skirt. There is not another out there like it. I know many were trying to create a crocheted Africa appliqué to attach to scarves or hats. I designed that appliqué, and as far as I know, I am the only one who has done so. My USA oversized sweater was created from a vision I had, and no one has attempted to create the same thing. Many of my items are produced in very limited production runs. That keeps the mystery of ‘What is she going to produce next?’ And to be honest, I have a fabulous design in the works for summer right now.”
The company has achieved great financial success. According to Brown, her company saw a 1,000 percent revenue increase from 2010 to 2015. Black Pearl Creations has also received several honors, such as being named Designer of the Year by Boston-based TV show Style it Up. The company was affiliated with New York Fashion Week via the Kitten Lounge in 2010, and USTrendy called their cowls a “must have” fashion item in 2013.
Black Pearl Creations has also developed a loyal band of pleased customers.
“I was gifted with a scarf from Black Pearl Creations, and I am 100 percent pleased!” said Laquitea Vaughn of Visions by Vaughn. “The ordering process was easy, Joede was very professional, and my scarf was simply beautiful.”
Brown said the financial success of the company has allowed her to comfortably provide for her two children, who also help with the business.
“I’m proud to say my daughter and I live comfortably because of the business,” she said. “We vacation about twice a year along with donating time and money to charities closest to our heart: breast cancer and homelessness.”
Running Black Pearl Creations has taught Brown valuable lessons about entrepreneurship and some of the challenges Black business owners face.
“As a Black entrepreneur, you will have more obstacles to overcome,” she said. “From lack of obtaining funding to challenging stereotypes of what you do and/or provide. You must think outside of the box. Your white counterparts may say, ‘Go to the bank for a business loan.’ What they do not know is your credit is only 610 and the bank wants three years of business taxes. You must think of other ways to get your business off the ground. Provide pre-order discounts, talk to other related businesses for assistance.”
However, Brown tells Black entrepreneurs running your own company can often be a lonely job. You have to be your own cheerleader.
“You have to know how to motivate yourself. If you wait to have support before you take action, you won’t make it,” she said. “Not everyone is made for the life of being an entrepreneur, and that’s OK. If it was easy, everyone would do it.”