Over this past week, I had the immense pleasure of conducting an interview with Tamara, the Owner and Founder of Designs by Tee, a faith-based, socially conscious, and uplifting company. Tamara ensures that her purpose in life, to help others, is transferred into the mission and the activity of her business, as 10% of all sales (whether it be of a t-shirt, tote bag, or mug) goes to assisting disadvantaged families in Brooklyn, NYC.
The questions we discussed below range from Tamara’s origins as a Social Worker to her recent experience of navigating her business from within this pandemic. We are so proud to have such a motivated Black business owner and brand listed on our site! We should all take a lesson from this brand and strive to be more socially conscious in our words, actions, and intentions as we work to make the world a better place! In the words of the late, great U.S. Rep, John Lewis, let us all aim to get into “Good Trouble… And help redeem the soul of America.”
Make sure you shop with this Nilist, Designs by Tee, using the discount code TEENILE10 to receive 10% off your next purchase!
What drove you to start Designs by Tee?
I’m a Brooklyn Social Worker. I love my job and I love my clients, but I realized that I wasn’t able to give the individuals I came into contact with the assistance that they really needed in many cases due to budget. After a discussion with a colleague, I decided to find a way to fund my efforts independently.
How difficult was the transition from a Social Worker to an entrepreneur? Are there any similarities or differences between the two professions?
As a social worker, I am comfortable speaking and communicating with people. Entrepreneurship requires excellent communication skills. Just a different type of communication.
Where do your ideas for your designs stem from?
As an Afro-Caribbean female, my designs tend to be Afrocentric, but mainly positive and motivating. Anything that will look good. Anything that you can wear to work on casual Fridays and then out with your friend/bae.
I also know that your business engages in a lot of community outreach, due to your work as a Social Worker. So, in regards to community outreach, what organizations does your business contribute to/are you affiliated with?
As a medical social worker in a community hospital, I interact with many agencies on a day to day basis. However, no, I have not partnered especially with 1 agency. I see the impact of poor/lack of housing in Brooklyn New York. I was an intern previously at a local shelter. I saw the dynamics and what families needed. They need concrete things, toiletries, laundry detergent, and basic essentials.
How has community outreach affected your approach to business?
I have collaborated with a small startup nonprofit. This approach has helped me to network and enter into new circles.
How important is it that your business give back to the community and engage in community outreach?
It’s extremely important! This is the core of who I am. Community engagement is the core of social work.
What does being “socially conscious” mean to you? (Both with respect to business and personal affairs)
Being socially conscious means to be able to help the community and grow my business strategically and simultaneously. Socially conscious means to be able to fight for social justice and human rights!
How has Designs by Tee adapted to the pandemic?
The pandemic has forced me to focus on 100 percent online sales. Leveraging social media (Instagram, Facebook) and other African-American platforms like The Nile List has been helpful in increasing brand awareness, visibility, and traffic to my website.
What do you think others who are just beginning to build their businesses should know?
Having a business plan, a business mentor, and a network of individuals that are educated and skilled in areas that you have a knowledge deficit. You have to network constantly and always enter new places and spaces with an open mind and eye. You have to be strategic and resourceful. You have to constantly educate yourself. Make a plan for the year and every day, week, and month make it your business to learn something new. This will strengthen your business.
Don’t forget to shop with the code TEENILE10 on Designs by Tee’s website to support Tamara and her dope Black-owned business!
-- Sarah, born and raised in Massachusetts, is student activist and organizer, and supporter of all things Black-Owned!