Two and a half years into my business & I'm having another sleepless night ~ sitting on my couch, burning the midnight oil. Sequoia, Della's photographer, and my faithful comrade, sits next to me, editing what seems like a never ending array of images on her laptop. We are less than two weeks away from launching products in "the" Apple store. I have no idea how we got here, it all seems pretty amazing.
In Ghana we have a fully-functioning facility: 20+ employees, healthcare, social security benefits & literacy courses are offered for everyone who works with us. In LA however, it's me. And Sequoia. And a small team of interns.
I begin to have a panic attack: what if Apple is the biggest we get? What if we are a one-hit-wonder and these amazing woman who I've grown to love don't have a job next year? This can't happen. I won't let it happen.
Then a crazy idea hits me, the next step is to contact Urban Outfitters. We have a team of skilled seamstresses, my passion is fashion (pardon the cliche) and young consumers want to purchase a product with a purpose. This is the perfect fit.
As many in the industry know, the world of Urban Outfitters is a hard egg to crack. You can call, send letters, ship them pretty packages wrapped nicely with custom packaging, yet they are highly secretive & rarely reply. Over the past few years I had half-heartedly tried with no avail. But this time it was not about me, nor my ego that was secretly afraid of rejection; this was about Della.
I decide to google search the only Urban Outfitter's contact name I had. The results instantly connected me to Linkedin. Now, I'm not a huge fan of social media. And the idea of joining Linkedin and having another digital obligation made me uneasy... but I perused anyway. By 2 am I had composed my pitch and had written draft emails to about eight random contacts.
The next morning I woke up & sent the emails. By the afternoon I had a response. Yes, a live, real-person, two paragraph response. This was pretty amazing considering that every professional relationship I had already built took several, persistent (yet friendly) emails, often sent week after week with no reply.
Before I knew it I was given twelve days to do the following: create two full clothing collections including storyboards, line sheets, samples & price lists. I had a meeting set with the Urban buyer in New York on July 20th. Now keep in mind that I am swamped, a one-woman show, already focused on our launch with Apple & running all logistics, distribution and marketing from my uniquely small apartment in Los Angeles. Yet, I knew we could do it.
The new clothing samples were made in Ghana & shipped via FedEx. None of this would have been possible without the magic of modern technology and the steadfast spirit of our team in Ghana. Arriving literally 4 hours before I left for the airport, the new samples were beautiful.
I arrived in Brooklyn and stayed with my cousin Stephanie. She has continued to be a huge support for me, opening her home every time I take a "spontaneous" business trip to NYC. In between various meetings and visits to Apple stores, she & her friends helped me scout out photo shoot locations and models for our new project. Three days before our big meeting, Sequoia arrives in New York. She has come to help me complete the storyboard and presentation. That afternoon we take over the streets of BedStuy, it makes a perfect setting for an urban-inspired photo shoot.
Needless to say, after a couple sleepless nights and a few too many fresh-baked cookies from the Doubletree Hotel, we did it. Our meeting was a huge success, and the victory walk home in the rain was even sweeter.
A full Della collection of clothing and accessories will launch in Urban Outfitters today. It has taken a lot of hard work. Perhaps more than one could ever imagine. I often equate building a business to an old-fashioned courtship. It is a slow progression of communication, building trust and proving your worth. Then there is the follow-through. None of this would have been possible without our amazing team in Ghana, who worked together towards our shared mission. Thanks to this partnership we have been able to expand our impact, working with artisans outside of our general region. I am both in awe and humbled by this opportunity. My dream has always been to bridge art and humanitarian work, and this collection is the first step in realizing that dream.
I can only hope that this opens more doors, not just for the Della community but by setting an example for others who seek to use their talents to bring about change.