When you think of #BlackExcellence, what comes to mind? I think inspiring, resilient, and creative at all costs. Meet Destiny Lawson, the creator of Ushindi22, an apparel company that celebrates people of color, and exudes black excellence! Destiny has turned her headwrap business, into a full force apparel line, educating people through her designs. Within each design is a unique representation of black people and the victory of afro-culture. Let’s dig deeper into the motivation behind Ushindi22, and get to know the Destiny beyond the brand!
ED: Paint a picture for us of the time you decided you were going to create a brand/merchandise celebrating black culture, and the Afro-diaspora?
DL: Starting last year (2016), in my then boyfriend’s home (now husband), I wanted to start a business focused on headwraps, turbans, hijabs, basically a marketplace for all things associated with wraps in the afro-diaspora. Dabbled in jewelry, men’s ties and bow-ties, and then t-shirts. Now Ushindi22 has branched to include headwraps, t-shirts, mugs, pins & patches.
ED: What is behind the name ‘Ushindi22,’ and what is the significance?
DL: Ushindi22, pronounced oo-shindi, is Swahili for victorious. The name originally intended for signifying a victory for women adorned in wraps. I kept the name through re-branding and transitioning, because my products still show the victory of the afro-culture that has laid foundation for many cultures, and decades of art and perseverance.
ED: What is the inspiration for the designs of your merchandise?
DL: Most of the inspiration comes from music, honestly. As my husband and myself are big music fans. The Ushindi22 main focus is old school afro-culture, centered from 70s-90s. So, usually I look around to see if something has been done, if not, how can I make it stand out and bring it to life.
ED: In creating Ushindi22, do you feel that it is important that we continue to create businesses that celebrate people of color and provide positive representation?
DL: Of course! The market needs that. But, what I believe I am trying to do is celebrate POC with products that everyone can wear, you know? Sometimes we as a culture have to realize we are often duplicated, because we are admired. So why not let people admire through a product created by a POC woman? Plus, I try to educate through every product, and provide some information that was not known; best way to mess us the system lol.
ED: Let’s learn a little more about who you are beyond your brand. Can you tell us a little about your background and where you grew up?
DL: I am from Atlanta, GA originally, moved when I was 13 to Savannah, GA, then Jacksonville, FL. I have a Bachelors in Sociology & Criminology. Thought I wanted to be a cop or a lawyer (still battle that sometimes). Married at 23 on June 24th 2017. Always loved things related to black culture and I’m a history nut.
ED: Did you always know you were going to be an entrepreneur?
DL: I figured it would happen eventually. Coming from a long line of entrepreneurs, or hustlers lol. Great-grand was liquor swinger and ran numbers, my grand-dad the same, and had parking lots for Falcons and Braves games. Cousins did hair and makeup, aunties sold plates, and did baskets for Easter and Valentine’s day. See the pattern?
ED: As a black female entrepreneur, do you feel that you have to work a harder than others to reach success?
DL: I would say we have to work harder to be noticed among ourselves, because there’s a lot of businesses that do the same thing, so you want to stand out. I just learn from everyone. I started Ushindi22 without much knowledge and help, so I do have some growing and learning to do. And, you can learn from other POC entrepreneurs.
ED: Since starting your business, have you faced any challenges? If so, how did you overcome them?
DL: Most challenges any entrepreneurs face is financial. It takes money to make money; whether spent on inventory or marketing, etc. You have to have a clear vision and make some hard decisions. I have overcome most of these challenges by pushing forward and being creative/innovative. Like for example, I rarely hire a photographer, I do all photography myself and invested in a nice DSLR camera.
ED: What is your proudest moment since creating Ushindi22?
DL: My proudest moment was seeing a headwrap I gifted to Amanda (@comptonsveryown) in Cosmopolitan. Although I did not sell that particular style on my site, the fact my wrap I made for her was there!
ED: What advice do you have for black women who are interested in opening a business, but don’t know where to start?
DL: I would say, do not hesitate, but focus. Write down your vision and goals, understand your market and plan. There is no clear path to opening a business. I just always say, be legal in your state first, and you can do other things later like (trademarking, etc.) BUILDING AN EMAIL LIST and ANTICIPATION with sneak peeks etc., will help in the long run. Shoot, start on Etsy until you have cash flow to move to a site. Be innovative. There are many things done already, but how are you different?
ED: In reading the interview, what is one thing you want the readers to remember about you and Ushindi22?
DL: One woman show is still poppin! Ushindi22 is very transparent, honest and real. We go above and beyond for our family (customers).
Where can we keep up with you and shop your merch?
In creating her business, Destiny has used her creativity to impact a community through fashion. Ushindi22 is more than just a brand, it is a since of empowerment surrounding the afro-diaspora. You’ll be investing inmerchandise that will speak volumes and spike the curiosity of your friends. Each product will create a conversation worth having, and educating those around you. Why not inspire and set trends at the same time?