Tell us about yourself
I am a recording artist, entrepreneur and humanitarian. A *true* artist — I am classically trained in piano + cello, sang alto in my choir, and I also sing/song write and emcee. I’ve been a musician basically my entire life.
As an entrepreneur, I own an e-commerce apparel business for women (PANALOVE.online). My store is for strong, sexy, fashion forward women who appreciate a good budget. I am currently transforming my business to house all African-print high-end fashion. I work with local artisans and tailors and in this way provide sustainability in the local Ghanaian economy. It’s exciting!
As a humanitarian, my work centers on skin cancer in Africa due to skin bleaching. I speak to people all around the world (particularly the youth) concerning this issue. I am constantly pushing for change for our continent.
What inspired you to start your e-commerce fashion business?
Back in November of 2020, the man I loved (and worked with) passed away due to Covid. I was absolutely devastated. I lost my love, my faith, my sanity and my income all at once. Depressed and grieving, I didn’t have much to do but stay at home. Being online often, I noticed people constantly complaining about late packages. This let me know that despite the lockdown online business was BOOMING. This inspired me to do a deep dive research on e-commerce. I took a bootcamp course for several weeks. Upon graduating, I started my business. I was inspired by my own love for fashion and the financial situation I was in. I wanted to still look chic and look GOOD, but budgeting had become the highest priority for me. I wanted to create a space where the fashion girls who live on a budget can find pieces unique and inspiring that speaks to them. Now, my business model is transforming to represent the modern African woman. Even the name itself; PANALOVE represents this. It is the splicing of PANAFRICAN and love — together.
How did you identify the gap in the market that your business could fill?
I identified that gap as a consumer myself. I was always struggling to find the kind of wearable art I would see on the runways — but couldn’t afford. I was constantly looking for a place that spoke to my unique tastes — but also wouldn’t cost me a kidney lol. Fashion speaks for you before you even open your mouth. So finding fashion that expresses who you are is so important to me. My brand represents modern black women in Africa and the diaspora who own their beauty, strength and prowress. The kind of woman you never forget, and always respect. The kind of woman who isn’t afraid to make a bold statement. The kind of woman who moves with a grace, class and uniqueness that is so rare. THAT is the PANALOVE woman.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced when starting your business, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge was definitely capital. I started out with a humble budget and used that to create all the aspects of my brand. A lot of what I made the first year was reinvested into marketing, advertising and client-outreach. I think most new businesses struggle in this area. As my brand grows and more investors take notice and support me, these challenges become more seamless and easier to navigate. But as a new business I still have ups and downs in terms of capital.
How did you build your brand and create a unique identity in the competitive fashion industry?
I am my own brand — which made breaking out into this lane a lot easier. My consumer base is largely made up of people who were fans of my music and want to support all of my endeavors. I am so grateful for them. I studied marketing at Emory University so I had a strong marketing background. For a few years I did marketing work for Calvin Klein in New York. As an artist, I have always been very intuitive and styled myself for all appearances, shows, videos and shoots. For many years I attended fashion week in NYC, Paris, London, Lagos and Accra. So my vision and my eye for fashion is very refined due to all of my experiences in the business. People already knew me as a “fashion girl” and knew I would do something in this space in some capacity, at some point. None of it was forced. It has all been a very organic process. I know it is a highly competitive industry, but I also know I’m serving a niche market. That market needs me, and I need them too. They have a voice, and I feel like my clothing expresses that unique voice.
How were you able to handle the pressures of being a woman in your industry?
I am a strong and outspoken woman. I had a great upbringing where my parents encouraged this disposition. I have never allowed men or elders in this industry to intimidate or bully me. I work very hard, and my work speaks for itself. But in those times where my work isn’t loud enough — I am there to set the record straight. As a woman, there are challenges. Like condescension, sexual exploitation, et al. Most industries have these circumstances. But it’s important to stay prayerful, stay grounded and always remember why you started and where you are going. With those tools in hand, absolutely NOTHING can stop you!
What advice would you give to young professionals willing to run in the same industry?
I would say firstly — DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I didn’t just jump into fashion blindly. I had years of experience and training in different areas of the business before I even attempted to go out on my own. Once you educate yourself, no one can discredit you. Do internships, check out fashion shows, browse the websites, check out potential competition. Study what they did right and what they did wrong. Create a powerful mission statement that will keep you focussed on your goals. Secure financing via bank load or investment before you start (I did not do this, but my situation was very dramatic and unique. I would suggest preparing financially first). Be kind, be gracious, be wise. Take your time.