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We are so thankful to Artisan Guild member, and founder of Kay Kay’s Fashion, Kelechi Uchendu, for sharing her experience of being a Black fashion brand owner in the US. 

Nest: Have you experienced racial injustice in building your maker business as a Black female business owner?

Kelechi: Thankfully, I have not experienced any blatant racial injustice while building Kay Kay’s Fashion and I am grateful for that. However, I have had some people not take me seriously (especially at the beginning of my business) and it made me wonder if it was because I was inexperienced, a woman, or Black. I have had to fight to prove myself and to show people that my business is not a hobby.

Nest: Do you have a personal story of overcoming injustice that you want other BIPOC makers to hear, and of course, white and/or privileged people to learn from?

Kelechi: Yes. I have many stories. However, this story sticks out to me a lot because I learned a valuable lesson that day. When I was a junior in my predominantly white high school, I was studying for the AP US History exam and would attend review sessions that my AP US History teacher would provide. I loved AP US History and during the review session, I was practically the only student answering questions that day. The teacher asked the class a question about W. E. B. Du Bois and no one (including myself) knew the answer. The teacher then called on me and asked me (the only Black person in the class) if I knew the answer to the question. The tone in her voice was so blatantly condescending and contemptuous that I immediately felt uncomfortable. When I told her that I did not know the answer, she immediately said in front of the class in a rude tone that I did not know my culture. The whole class began to fill with laughter. It was disgusting. I wish I could say that I reported her and that I told her that what she did was racist, but instead I kept my head down. After the situation, several people came to me and told me that they felt sorry for the racist experience that had happened to me. However, none of these people reported the situation or said anything when the incident happened.

I want other BIPOC makers to know that they should not just keep their heads down when they are experiencing racism because doing so is very dehumanizing. Also, white people should use their privilege to stand up for BIPOC when they see injustices. White people should also make sure that they are not perpetuating racism covertly or overtly.

Nest: What other BIPOC makers and artists deserve to be celebrated?

Kelechi: I absolutely love JackBai Custom Designs! Such an amazing, creative, and talented brand!

Nest: How do you want to be supported right now, and always, as a Black business owner?

Kelechi: The best way to uplift and support black businesses is to buy from Black businesses. Retailers should focus on carrying a significant number of products from Black-owned businesses. In addition, other brands should actively try to partner and collaborate with Black-owned businesses.

Nest: What new projects do you have coming up?

Kelechi: I recently wrote a book called Bully Friends, which will be released July 2020. I dealt with bullying and bully friendships during grade school. Bully Friends teaches everyone about how dangerous bully friendships really are. This book covers everything from defining what a bully friend is to how to heal from a bully friend relationship. Along the way, I also share personal stories of my experiences with bully friends and how I went on to find myself and form healthy relationships now and in the future.

Nest: What is something that retailers and customers should know about Kay Kay’s Fashion?

Kelechi: Kay Kay’s Fashion offers several collections of scrunchies and headbands and can also create custom collections for customers. In addition, Kay Kay’s Fashion can make orders as low as 30 pieces as well as orders that are in the thousands. Also, our products are made in The United States of America. Finally, Kay Kay’s Fashion is very excited about the brand partnerships that we currently have and welcome more brand partnerships for the future.

Photo Credit: Kay Kays Fashion