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Sisters Kimberly and Keyondra Lockett are both strong Black women in their own right. Kimberly works as a wardrobe stylist, and Keyondra is a gospel singer-songwriter. In 2019, they pushed their creative heads together to create an ecommerce store, Jolie Noire, and they’ve learned that together, they’re pretty much unstoppable.
Their brand sells what they call elevated athleisure wear: clothes that are comfortable to sit on the couch in, but also look great when going out for a meal or out on the town.
The sisters started their brand because they believe that representation matters. Their apparel includes images of beautiful Black women because as Kimberly puts it, “We want all Black women to know that we are here in this entrepreneurial space. “We’re not just sitting around letting things happen. We’re making them happen.”
Things didn’t happen overnight, however. The sisters admit to making a few mistakes in the beginning. For example, offering t-shirts with their logo before anyone really knew about their brand.
“We knew we wanted to sell apparel, so we started printing our logo on t-shirts,” Kimberly says. “At first, it didn’t do too well because no one recognized our brand name.”
After that, the sisters decided to take a step back and do some more research about how to move forward in the ecommerce space. They learned a lot, and most importantly, made their brand a success! Here are their best tips.
Jolie Noire means “Pretty Black” in French, a nod to the sisters’ roots in Cajun Louisiana as well as to the idea that Black is beautiful.
On their About page, Jolie Noire says, “We are primed to think dark colors (specifically black) are negative and light colors are positive. In an effort to level the playing field, we’re working to shape the minds of onlookers and change the meaning, emotions, and values associated with black. Color is something that doesn’t come pre-labeled, we label it… At Jolie Noire, we choose to believe that black, like other colors, is beautiful!”
In order to share their brand story and make their business more recognizable, the sisters spent time researching their customers.
“We basically created a mood board,” Keyondra says. “We sat down and thought about our customer: Who is she? Where does she shop? Where does she live? Is she college-educated? In the end, we decided that she’s really a combination of us!”
Kimberly and Keyondra wanted to create apparel that represented them, in both color and size.
“As plus-size Black women, we know as well as anybody that representation matters,” Keyondra says. “When I know that a brand took the time to think about me and my size and my color, it makes me want to shop there.”
Kimberly says the plus-size market is wide open these days, and she encourages ecommerce store owners to be inclusive when it comes to what size clothing they offer.
“We don’t want something that’s unique for us as plus-size women, necessarily,” she explains. “Especially when it comes to something as basic as t-shirts and sweatshirts. Our customers are excited to see that we offer smaller sizes all the way up to 6x. It’s really put our brand ahead.”
Jolie Noire works with influencers to promote their products, but Kimberly and Keyondra recommend that new ecommerce store owners be careful when it comes to choosing which influencers to work with.
“We thought that working with popular influencers would yield more results,” Kim says. “It’s true that they can bring a lot of followers and a lot of awareness, but that doesn’t always convert to sales. We’ve also run into issues where an influencer didn’t necessarily do what we agreed upon, and that’s been one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced as a small business.”
The sisters admit that working with micro-influencers can sometimes be more profitable.
“We can send them a free shirt, and they might send 100 people to shop with us,” Kim says. “We’re not running million-dollar ad campaigns here. We don’t have that luxury. If we want to see our product in the Bahamas, we have to ship our product to the Bahamas and say to an influencer, ‘Hey, can you get some pictures on the beach?’ That will give us evergreen content we can benefit from for a long time.”
The sisters say they chose the print-on-demand model so they wouldn’t have to worry about stocking, printing, and fulfilling their products. Instead, they’re able to focus on other areas of their business like sharing their brand with their customers and providing excellent customer service.
“Kim worked in retail for a few years,” Keyondra says. “She learned how to do really well with customer drive and help people with their problems. We’re here to serve, and we want to help our customers.”
Kimberly agrees, “We want to be able to manage every part of the customer service experience, and that’s really hard when shipping is slow. We created customer service templates and stayed in contact with Printful and with our customers.”
The sisters say their biggest piece of advice to new ecommerce store owners is to keep learning about the industry and to keep working hard.
“We spent a whole year not really going for it, and being kind of negative about our business,” Keyondra says. “If you want to do this, you’ve got to dedicate yourself to the work and stay accountable.”
Caroline is a former journalist turned marketer. She is a content marketing specialist at Printful and is becoming increasingly obsessed with social proof.
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