How A Former U.S. Marine Is Planning To Win With African American Themed Stationary
Black women are getting "seriously creative" with reclaiming their time & managing their priorities.
Today’s busy black woman makes a list before she leaves the house. She wants to ensure she has everything that she needs to get through her day and to properly manage her time. Her list might look like this:
· Coffee (or tea)
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· Cell phone
· Cosmetic Bag
· Her deluxe planner adorned with trinkets, stickers, her favorite pen (plus an extra one, because it’s cute), which is neatly stored in her planner bag (with backup planning supplies).
If at first, this seems odd, or maybe even over the top, but let me caution you that it’s not—especially for the 15,000 plus black women who make up an entire group called Black Women Who Plan and Create. These women spend most of their time, and their dollars, organizing their planners and supporting black women who design and sell stationery products. One of those women is Jame'sha Bazemore.
Bazemore didn’t really set out to be a stationery designer. In fact, she’s a U.S. Marines veteran, who uses very technical software to design products for engineers. Her career path wasn’t progressing towards designing spiral notebooks with beautiful brown faces on the cover or tote bags featuring women with billowing afros or African tribal print. The two worlds didn’t seem to collide. However, at her core, she’s a designer who can create images from scratch and, even more importantly, she’s a black woman who saw severe under-representation of black faces and positive black images in the stationery marketplace.
Seeing the void was one issue, but feeling the lack of cultural awareness was another. As a mother to four girls, Bazemore wanted to reinforce their beauty and uniqueness beyond her own verbal affirmations to them. She wanted them to carry it around with them and reflect on it throughout the day. She knew the perfect way to execute her agenda—by creating an agenda of her own. An agenda with brown-skinned characters and positive quotes. This would be the perfect way to keep her school-aged children organized and on track to a successful school year. However, creating the agenda was like opening Pandora’s box. A whole new world was exposed to her—one filled with notebooks, pens, backpacks, totes and more.
She started creating any stationery item she could think of that she could plaster brown faces on. And at first, she served the kids’ market by developing products that they could use in school. However, the parents of her kiddie customers began making requests for items with more grown-up themes. Suddenly, she was reaching children and adults, and providing both market segments with powerful stationary imagery that they could take to school and work.
“I want [my customers] to feel comfortable placing their culturally inspired notebook/planner on the conference room table during a meeting. I want children to see the words "I Matter," "I Am Loved" and "I Am Beautiful" on top of an African American inspired image so they are reminded daily that they matter, they are loved and that they are beautiful. Our current climate makes this so very necessary to keep our children uplifted in-spite of what's going around [them],” Bazemore speaks. And she’s not alone.
The planner community, which has typically been void of black and brown images, has taken notice of the need to represent people of color. Not only are more black women dabbling in their creative talents to bring more items and awareness to the marketplace, but shops which didn’t previously include images with melanin have begun to either see the recoil of their decision, or are now much more inclusive.
Bazemore opened her Etsy shop, Cocoa Twins, for business in 2016 and says that she hasn’t gone a week without sales. To her, this means that she’s definitely on to something but, even greater, that there are tons of black people who have been waiting for products that speak to their stationary interests.
It’s important to note that for now, Bazemore leads a family-based team. She spearheads the concepts, drawings and overall operations, while she faithfully relies on her daughters, husband, sister and nephew to manage the manufacturing and shipment of her products. Running this home-based business is a major feat for women like her, who are dedicated to their families and are most likely also full-time employees, because they make up a large segment of the black stationery suppliers. However, she doesn’t let all of the hats she wears stop her from delivering quality products and superior customer service. Perhaps that’s the Marine in her that won’t let her give up or get tired. Or better yet, it’s the “planner” in her, which lets her organize her business in artistic and representational stationary products so that she can plan to win.