Tag Archives: Entrepreneurs

Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs of the Week: Kijafa Vick and Blair Sandlain, Owners of PNK Elephant

11 Sep

PNK-Elephant-185x300

http://www.blackenterprise.com/lifestyle/entrepreneurs-of-the-week-kijafa-vick-and-blair-sandlain-owners-of-pnk-elephant/

Kijafa Vick, 30, and Blair Sandlain, 28, launched “PNK Elephant” in 2010 with a mission to provide affordable accessories and clothes to women. They initially started out with a web store but in 2011 transitioned PNK Elephant into a trendy clothing boutique in Philadelphia.

Sandlain and Vick (who is the wife of NFL Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterback Michael Vick) purchase clothing and accessories from wholesalers and select fashion designers. With prices ranging from $20 to $200 for clothes and $5 to $50 for accessories, PNK Elephant generated over $775,000 in total retail sales during the first two years of the store’s operation. The company grossed $240,000 in online sales revenue.

This is the second time around owning a boutique for Sandlain. She ran a retail store in Detroit but had to close shop when things didn’t work out financially. But a friend encouraged her to continue with the business. Sandlain was introduced to the owner of “Websetup.com” and decided to set up shop online, reading various books such as, Million Dollar Websites, as a resource for running a web store.

It was about three years after Sandlain’s Detroit boutique closed when she met Vick through a fashion designer and mutual friend. When the two signed on as business partners, they agreed to open a store in Vick’s hometown of Philadelphia.

After going down several paths, the ladies found success online and offline, creating a huge fan base, referring to their customers as “PNK party girls.” They also created the “Hustle Hard” campaign, which includes their line of “Hustle Hard” t-shirts featuring different city names on them. They donate proceeds from sales to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Philadelphia chapter. The business partners used the word “hustle” to represent women in a strong sense, whether it’s working two jobs, maintaining school, or holding a household together. Other philanthropic ventures include their PNKdress Foundation, which is dedicated to helping teen girls who can’t afford to attend their prom. This past spring the foundation gave away 15 prom dresses.

BlackEnterprise.com interviewed the duo about their entrepreneurial journey.

Does PNK Elephant have any outside investors or is it totally self-financed?

Sandlain: Before we opened, we spoke with a lot of potential investors. Some that were interested and many that didn’t believe in our business plan. It was difficult in the beginning because we wanted to offer our customers so much more, but we had such a small budget because we were using in-house funding.

Why did you open another brick and mortar store after what happened in Detroit?

Sandlain: At the time, financially, I could manage an online store. Call me old fashion but I still love the in store experience. I like to visit stores and try on things there.

What made you settle on your current store location in Philadelphia?

Vick: I am from Philadelphia. The city is supportive of me and the brand. There was a big demand for PNK Elephant to open a brick and mortar store here. The city kept its promise and supports us 100%. We have a large customer base in Philadelphia but I also wanted to add jobs to the market. I knew South Street would be the perfect place for the store, because it is a popular area where young people hang out, to go to bars and restaurants.

What have been your biggest challenges running the business?

Sandlain: It was a struggle finding employees for the boutique with real work ethic. Now we have four full-time employees who work in the boutique and three freelance employees who mainly work on the website. Another challenge was compromising and splitting the responsibilities. I’d like to think of myself as super woman. It’s really hard for me to delegate duties to my staff because I like things done a certain way, even down to the way our money faces for nightly deposits.

Was it the same set of challenges for you?

Vick: I’m learning to communicate better and trust the people who are helping the business grow. My challenges were different because of my personal life as a wife and mother (trying to find balance between work and life). I have two daughters. My children are still young and need me. Some days I would stay at PNK Elephant all day, and my family would need me home to make dinner.

How have you grown PNK Elephant’s customer base through social media?

Sandlain: Social media is the new age and way of advertising; but even with social media you still have to be honest and true. People can smell a fake from a mile away. We post at least five to seven times a day whether it’s clothes or pictures of our personal lives.

What are your plans to grow and expand the business?

Vick: We started off with Blair selling things from her car. She stuck with her vision and now we have a beautiful 2,500 sq. ft. store in Philadelphia and a booming, e-commerce business. We are moving into a new warehouse for online because we out grew our old location, and we are also opening a new retail store by the end of 2014.

Link

The Fellowship Open Continues to Inspire Youth

11 Sep

The Fellowship Open Continues to Inspire Our Future Entrepreneurs
Black Enterprise Teenpreneur Conference shows kids a ‘brighter future’

Fellowship Open

The Fellowship Open Continues to Inspire Youth

http://www.blackenterprise.com/event/inspiring-tomorrows-entrepreneurs-today/

The Fellowship Open, one of the country’s largest diversity charity golf outings, has raised more than $800,000 in support of more than 60 organizations that have made a positive impact on the lives of young people. The 13th annual outing is scheduled for August 16 at the Silver Spring Country Club.

The Fellowship Open’s efforts include sponsoring a teenager to participate in the Black Enterprise/Teenpreneur Conference, which encourages youngsters to pursue and realize their dreams, and particularly consider careers in business. At the conference, the teens heard from successful entrepreneurs and participated in workshops that gave the teens advice on how to run a successful business, and make their business reach their maximum potential. By the end of the conference, the youth developed and presented a proposal for their business idea. According to the Fellowship Open website, the teens that are chosen to attend the conference will later share their experience, with their peers.

ReDonna Rodgers, director of the Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship and coordinator of the Fellowship Open/Black Enterprise Teenpreneur Conference partnership, says they select which teen will attend the conference through recommendations received from teachers and community associations, for students who are in business programs in school, church, or a community organization.

“Students are interviewed to ascertain their knowledge of Black Enterprise/Teenpreneur and what value they believe such an experience would offer,” Rodgers said.

Alex James, was operating his own lawn care business, “Year Round Yard Work,” when he was selected to attend the event. James said he gained a lot from the Fellowship Open.

“I have been able to see things I never thought I would, such as the BE Entrepreneur’s Conference, and also meet people I never would have like Judge Hatchett and Keith Murphy,” James says.

According to James, the BE Teenpreneur Conference helped him open his eyes to a brighter future outside of the daily struggle.

“I’ve pretty much always had the entrepreneurial spirit, but being in that environment just added fuel to the flame.”

As a recipient of the Fellowship Open scholarship, James was awarded a cash prize which he used to buy new business attire for the conference, as well as pay transportation costs.

James Kirk, who was also a member of the Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship, was chosen by the Fellowship Open to attend the 2011 conference in Atlanta. Kirk said it was wonderful to see so many black business owners and power shakers; and the event broke the stigma that all business owners are White, Arabic, and Asian.

“I’ve dedicated my life to serving my community and encouraging my generation to step it up and follow your dreams. Seeing and being a part of this reassured me that my hard work is not in vain,” Kirk says.

Kirk described what he gained from the Fellowship Open is “mind blowing,” and seeing people share both their wins and losses encouraged him to do the same. Since the conference, Kirk has started a new organization, “Man 2 Man Youth Development,” in which the youth meet powerful, educated, and determined individuals; who come from the same community as them.

Alonzo Kelly, a mentor of the Fellowship Open youth mentoring program, was Kirk’s mentor. Kelly, as a mentor, was also inspired by the conference. He said the advice he took from it was, “go for it.” Kelly also said Damon Dash inspired him to launch his own merchandise website called, “My Own Truth.”