This week, I’m featuring my interview with Jasmin Foster, owner of Be Rooted Co. – a brand she built from the ground up to empower and inspire black women through stationery.
For the last several months, I’ve been highlighting some incredible small businesses in the Twin Cities and around the country. To learn more about why, read the first article in this ongoing series: How to Help in the Pandemic.
You can also read previous interviews with: Cardigan Donuts, Sprinkles & Confetti, Gus Dean Coffee, and Inspire Dance Studio.
I’m a huge fan of journaling.
It’s a great way to process what you’re thinking and feeling – and it is for Jasmin too. But, she never felt a personal connection with any of the other stationery brands out there.
That insight led Jasmin to build Be Rooted Co.
“I didn’t see myself, my friends, or my community reflected in stationery. When I sat down to share my inner thoughts with my journal, I wanted to feel like I was talking to someone who understood me, uplifted me, and encouraged me to be better.”
I believe that deep personal insights like this are only possible when we sit down and intentionally wrestle with what we’re experiencing.
That’s why reflection is an essential skill for new and aspiring entrepreneurs – to continually push yourself to move forward on the startup journey, you need to be clear-eyed about what it is that you want and why you want it.
Journaling brings clarity.
And, when you order your new journal from Be Rooted Co., you can use these 3 reflection questions to get started.
QUESTION 01: HOW WILL YOU KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS WORKING?
Consumer feedback is really important when you’re starting and growing a business.
Get it early and often so that you can fail when it’s cheap – at the beginning, when you haven’t invested a ton of time and resources into the project.
Prototypes help. Let them hold what you’ve built. Experience it. And, use it. Otherwise, how will you know what you’re doing is working?
“I knew I wanted to build a brand that was embedded with people who also understood inclusivity. So, I partnered with black and brown graphic designers to help bring my designs to life. And, then I wanted to get feedback from people who were going to be my core consumers. Early on, before I took anything to print, I got feedback from a focus group to ask: What words or designs are resonating with you more? What designs are really speaking to you? – to make sure that I was putting something out there that people would enjoy.”
“Part of the process is understanding that when you have an idea, there’s going to be a lot of work to bring it to life but if you really believe in it and if you’ve tested it out and gotten some good feedback, then press forward. There are ways to do that that are low cost, like I did a very small batch run on my first order of designs, just to make sure that before I go all in and order thousands of these, let me make sure that people like them and so I was able to get a really good response. Right now, I’m going back to do my bigger order based on which designs people really liked.”
QUESTION 02: WHAT DOES THIS MAKE POSSIBLE?
There will always be obstacles in your path as an entrepreneur. But, COVID-19? It’s a big obstacle with real consequences for millions of people around the world.
It would be easy – and reasonable – for an aspiring entrepreneur to say: no, not right now. But, on the other hand, maybe it’s the perfect time to get started.
Entrepreneurs need to spot both risk and opportunity.
They need to ask: what does this make possible?
“There’s a lot of things I’ve learned – especially launching a brand during COVID and getting COVID myself, but it’s been a really fun, challenging, and interesting journey for me. It would’ve been really easy for me to say, you know I’m tired, I’m sick, the worlds going – I don’t even know where it’s going – like, just give up. But I’m so so glad that I didn’t. I always had a goal to launch in June and July [of 2020]. And, who would’ve known that there would be this huge movement to go shop black owned brands. And so the timing of pushing through COVID to launch in this big moment we’re having in America. It was just kind of designed to all happen at the same time.”
Here’s another example from Jasmin:
“To get better costing a lot of the brands in my space source from Korea, China, and Vietnam. And, then COVID happened and a lot of the suppliers were shut down. Getting answers back on quotes became extremely difficult. There just wasn’t that level of communication to be able to work with a manufacturer in the way that I wanted. So, I had to quickly pivot and start investigating domestic vendors. I knew that would come with a higher price point but it was really important to me to not give up and to stay true to the launch timeline that I was looking to achieve. Now, one thing I’m working towards is being able to give back to black and brown communities. And, owning a stationery company allows for me to have immediate access to low cost school supplies – and I was like, well, you know me building relationships with domestic vendors might help me with my give-back component as well, because they’ll be more invested in giving back to communities here vs. me partnering with more international partners. So, it ended up being a blessing in disguise.”
QUESTION 03: HOW WILL YOU MANAGE YOUR ENERGY?
With everything going on in the world right now: a pandemic, social unrest because of police brutality, an economic recession, a political season – just being in the world is exhausting.
And, then, on top of that new and aspiring entrepreneurs are building their brands and businesses. That’s a lot of stress to manage.
But, to continue to tap into their creativity and flex their superpowers, entrepreneurs need to keep their batteries fully charged.
I asked Jasmin how she manages her energy. Here’s what she said:
“Just reminding myself of my greater purpose. When I first launched it exceeded my expectations, not only from a sales standpoint, but just the outpouring of support and outreach from customers and that reaffirmed why I’m doing what I’m doing. Just reading the reviews of people saying ‘I bought this for my daughter and their eyes lit up because they now have a journal or a notebook that looks like them,’ – people just really appreciating the reflection of themselves in what I’m doing. I’m hearing from people who either didn’t know they needed this or people who have been looking for something like this for a long time and now they’ve finally stumbled upon my brand. So, I think what keeps my energy up is that what I wanted to do from the beginning is coming true – and I’m hearing it from people that are engaging with my brand.”
ORDER YOUR JOURNAL FROM BE ROOTED CO. TODAY
Be Rooted Co. is open for business. You can order a journal, stickers, pencils, and more on Jasmin’s website. This is a great opportunity to support a new black-owned business.
Be Rooted Co. is just getting started. In the words of an old mentor: watch this space.
Stay tuned for more, right here on the 321 Liftoff blog.
Learn more about my work and how I help my clients start and grow their businesses with confidence.
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ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line.
It can feel messy – it zigs and zags, it starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok.
It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself.
And, that’s why it’s worth it.