The Journey to Pamoja
How did I get here?
In undergrad, it was my dream to work in the fashion industry in NYC, and I did just that! Charting new territory in a new city, this small town girl took on her first full-time job in Merchandising/Buying for Men’s Shoes for a department store. It was an amazing experience!
HOWEVER, in the back of my mind, I knew there was more in store for me. I struggled with the fact that I was working at a place where we were continuously enticing the customer to buy more things (s)he does not need and selling things that are not designed to last - constantly putting out promotion after promotion to get the customer in the door, because “it’s such a good deal not to pass.”
After four years, I went back to business school full-time, taking on the opportunity to reflect on the next, knowing I ultimately wanted to launch a leather goods brand that counters that bottom line business objective—to design quality product not defined by trends that is made to last for you.
Failure creates defining moments—it's about pivoting.
To give you some perspective, it took me four years to get here. I started sketching bags, but I had no clue how to turn this into an actual physical product. I had to do my research and learned I needed a tech pack to provide technical specifications to the manufacturer. My first round of sampling (pictured above) was very disappointing and costly, but I prevailed.
I’m a little embarrassed to share, but it’s humbling to show where I started. I’m actually still working on making this bag a reality to this day. Obviously it will look 1,000% better than this! I’m close but stumbled upon a design hiccup once again…sigh. I was just dumbfounded the manufacturer thought this was a bag someone would actually buy. Through this experience, what I’ve come to realize is that I will not always be successful in my first attempt. In fact, I should never be successful with the first sample, because there will always be opportunity for improvement. That’s why wear testing is so important!
Another challenge was trademarking my name. I originally had the name EMI, which stood for Empowering Meaningful Impact. Unfortunately, this was not approved due to “likelihood of confusion.” I had to go back to drawing board and came up with the name Pamoja. At the end of the day, I believe Pamoja is a better suited name for this brand. Things happen for a reason.
I’m working on a few exciting things, with the upcoming projects involve working with artisans in Nigeria, Kenya, and Spain. It’s so amazing to support small businesses globally throughout this process. I cannot wait to share more with you!!!