T-Shirt Designer Shari Neal Explains How Empowering Black Women Can Be Great For Business5/22/2012
In only a few years, Chicao-native Shari Neal has turned her t-shirt side-hustle into a successful ...
In only a few years, Chicao-native Shari Neal has turned her
t-shirt side-hustle into a successful small business. Since its launch, Bon BonVie’s sleek designs and empowering messages have become blogger favorites.
(Like everyone else, we adore the Brown Skin Lady tee.)
SN: I left my job in August 2011.
SN: It was interesting. At first it was very scary. I was at that job for 5 years, so I didn’t know what the future held. I had some savings, so it was less scary on the financial front. I just didn’t know. It was all in my hands at that point. It was exciting yet scary.
SN: It got to the point where I enjoyed working on my business more than I enjoyed going to work. I take pride in what I do wherever I’m working. It got to the point where I wasn’t able to put 100 percent in because I was trying to put the effort I once put into my work into my business. It got to the point where I knew I had to pick one.
SN: I definitely have a strong brand identity. I feel like my shirts represent the good life. I try to bring that out in everything that the brand does. I feel like the positive messages I put out on my shirts are nothing new, but it’s the positivity along with the fact that I take a lot of pride in the design, and I wouldn’t release anything that I wouldn’t wear. I put a lot into the shirts, and I try to research what my customers would like and so far that’s worked for us.
SN: When I first got started, I called in every favor I had. I asked every friend I had who had a blog to blog about my shirts. I didn’t know what was going to come of it, but it turned out very well. One of the first things I did was post a coupon code on blackgirlwithlonghair.com. I designed that site, so I asked Laila. I also put a banner ad on her site. Because of that, I had sales the first day I put my site up which was amazing
SN: I was. You never really quit your job to start a business if you think it’s going to fail. At the same time, there’s always that fear of “What if no one buys my shirts. What am I going to do?” I expected it take off, but I was also afraid that it would. I always had that faith that it would
SN: Definitely that you will make mistakes. Mistakes are ok. No matter how much research you do or how much planning you do, things will go wrong. You have to tell yourself it’s going to be ok.
SN: I don’t know if I would call it a failure, but I kept both my job and my business for too long. There were periods where I would get completely burned out and my business wasn’t getting enough attention as it should have.
SN: I know deep down I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to do whatever I can to continue doing this. I love the freedom that entrepreneurship brings. Paying my bills is also important. That definitely motivates me. I love being able to make something from scratch and watch it be successful. Walking down the street and seeing people wearing my shirts is such an awesome feeling.
SN: In 5 years, I definitely hope Bon Bon Vie is still going strong. I’d love to have larger distribution. I’d love to branch out into other things -- not just t-shirts but other types of fashion.