Building school spirit and pride is a big part of colleges and universities. T. Nichole Phillips and her sister, LaShanta Taylor, want to start this process for youngsters as early as possible with the small business they recently launched. Phillips and Taylor are business partners at HBCU Pride & Joy, LLC in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The company was formally established in the summer of 2012, and they began offering products for sale in August 2013. HBCU Pride & Joy operates an online baby boutique at www.hbcupridejoy.com. The retailer specializes in selling upscale, high-quality collegiate spirit apparel for infants and toddlers sizes 0 to 5/6. This apparel is adorned with the logos and colors of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Currently, the store offers items for Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University, both of which are located in the Sunshine State, with plans to expand to additional schools in the near future. Phillips explains what inspired she and her sister to realize that starting a business for this purpose was the right move for them to make. “We are committed to the next generation of HBCU students,” Phillips says. “We offer t-shirts, dresses, jerseys, and related accessory items, all designed to capture the collegiate experience and pass on the HBCU legacy. This small business stems from our own experiences as graduates of Florida A&M University, as well as a personal need to find apparel for infants and toddlers in our family. We soon realized that there was a void in the variety in the product selection for this market. We decided to fill the void – and HBCU Pride & Joy was born.” From her perspective, the fact that this small business is targeting HBCU alumni and families of young children who may not often find the types of apparel it sells will ultimately make it successful. Plus, the company only sells officially licensed collegiate gear and offers a unique twist with the money it earns on sales. “For every purchase made, a contribution is made to each respective educational institution, thereby providing support for current students and those to come,” Phillips explains. All small business owners point to various tasks and abilities they learn and enjoy through entrepreneurship when starting a business and maintaining it over time. Phillips talks about what these are for them. “We enjoy the autonomy and ability to share the legacy of these institutions with a broader market of customers,” she says. “We hope that we are doing our part to increase awareness and promote the value of these schools.” In addition to operating HBCU Pride & Joy, both Phillips and Taylor hold other jobs. As such, they share responsibility for the day to day operations. Phillips handles more of the operational duties of running the company, while Taylor manages the financial responsibilities.
Although Phillips and Taylor aren’t overwhelmed with direct competition at this point, they believe more will likely come down the road. However, they have no intentions of straying from what their true values are. “We do plan for potential competition in the future. We believe that imitation is the highest form of flattery, so we focus on our core competencies and our mission to provide the best and most creative products we can, coupled with top-notch customer service. We intend to stay true to our mission of providing high-quality products.” To make others aware of HBCU Pride & Joy, the two small business partners have turned to online marketing. The company has a website – www.hbcupridejoy.com – and pages on social media sites that include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Accounting for challenges and finding ways to get through them is a large part of small business ownership. Phillips talks about the main challenge she and Taylor have encountered. “The biggest challenge we faced was coming to terms with the fact that all aspects of the business are ultimately our responsibility, and the requirement of managing it all,” Phillips says. “We’ve had to figure out which tasks to keep in-house and which to delegate to 3rd-party companies. We also hope to hire employees and grow our business in the near future.”
Phillips gives some advice for entrepreneurs based on her experience of starting a business. “Capitalize on the knowledge and skills you currently possess. Seek help when needed, be persistent, and work smart.” She adds that there are both advantages and challenges to self-employment. “The big advantage is having the final decision-making authority of the products we produce,” she says. “We’re in control of our image in the marketplace. The biggest challenge is managing all functional and operational tasks. Staying on top of the legal aspects, making sure we’re organized, and handling everything else can be a bit overwhelming.” Phillips explains how she has been very happy with her experience as a client of 1-800Accountant, the nation’s leading accounting and consulting firm for small business owners. “1-800Accountant has been very helpful to us with the formation of our business and ensuring our LLC and related paperwork were filed properly. They helped to simplify the process. I would definitely recommend 1-800Accountant to others looking for accounting and business support.” Photo credit: The photograph of the company’s product was provided by HBCU Pride & Joy, LLC and is used with permission.