Our Blackness. Our Story. Our Business
* The goals and mission are being worked on *
My name is Teanna Willis. I am the Founder of Our Noir. I am happy to detail how Our Noir started and share some of my work experience. The head-shot was taken by Nadia Batchelor, a DMV photographer.
In 2016, two of my friends and I created Our Noir. Since then my friends have started The Harlem Dress Collective. "The Harlem Dress Collective is a non-profit organization that works towards the development of lower-income high school-aged students and their families living in Harlem, by providing support in the form of free prom dresses, shoes, and accessories" (Facebook).
Our Noir has evolved in many ways before the control was in the hands of one person. The website started solely as a brand that would sell accessories to women of color. The idea came from the possibility of becoming a millionaire by flipping wholesale items and making a profit.
Many brands would solicit my help, as a YouTuber, to sell products that they purchased through wholesale vendors. They would offer to pay me money in exchange for promotion. I turned down those opportunities because I usually did not believe in the product. I wanted to find products I actually liked to sell and promote myself. I was getting tired of foreign brands making money off of content creators of color and I did not want to be used. My audience is primarily Black women, so I care even more about what I am asking them to consume. Many of the time I would be asked to promote a product that was clearly a gimmick for a pretty penny. I knew that I could create a business without exploitation and reasonable prices.
When I had the idea to start a business; I had a group chat with my friends, and I could not just work on this project without asking for collaboration. Together we brained stormed names and vendors to make Our Noir happen. I believe it took about a year until launch. I remember long nights during my sophomore year in college and multiple attempts taking product shots. It was very hard running this business because not only were we inexperienced; there was no accountability of roles and I did not have guidance or a motivator to keep going when things were stagnate. I would ship the products, price them, promote them, and photograph them primarily by myself. The work almost led me into a depression. I use mine and my parents money to sustain it till this day. I needed help then and still need help, but the kind of help I did not have to socialite or spearhead myself. Sometimes when you own a business or lead a group, you want someone to help lead and spearhead getting things done. You want someone to check on you and provide you with the harsh reality of running a business.
I started to realize that it's okay to control the conversation, demand collaboration, and follow up in a timely manner. However, in order to learn those things I need to create "buy-in". People have to feel like they have a stake in my dreams as much as I do.
I would not change this experience at all. This experience allowed me to be introspective. Now I can be more intentional about my business and future team. If I did not start Our Noir back then. I would not have been able to sell wigs, clothes, and cool products that have produced products that got me through hard times. I want to continue to lay this foundation, so that I can reap the benefits when the time is right.
Right now I want Our Noir to be a resource for people and to help guide them in the best directions. I want people to be empathetic and authentic, so I am working on ways to reflect that in my business.