le magazine noir: Bene`

Dear Pennies & Pens,

I am in a Slack group called Minorities in Media and while working on this issue, I posted in the group that I was looking for artists and entrepreneurs to feature. Somehow, Michelle Blue and her business partner Sasha Matthews discovered my post and reached out to me for a feature. And I am so happy they did because their work is amazing.

In the interview below, Michelle & Sasha talk about their company, Bene` sharing the story of how they got started, why they started, and they also offer advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. With no further adieu, I present to you le magazine noir: Bene` Scarves.

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Where are you from?

Co founder Michelle Blue was born and raised in Atlanta GA. Co founder Sasha Matthews was born in Jamaica but not call Atlanta Home as her family moved there when she was in elementary school.

What school did you go to?

We both  attended  high school at Southwest Dekalb in Decatur GA. Michelle then went on the University of Georgia and Sasha studied at Florida A&M University.

How has being black influenced you as a designer/entrepreneur?

The strong sense of culture and community is what started this business. It was a visit to Ghana in West Africa that inspired us to create something that would ultimately build back into the culture that we pull from in the form of educating our girls.

When we see them, we see ourselves and we know that we could not have gotten where we are today without the help of our community so we felt the responsibility to extend that as far as we could. Being a minority heightens your sense of community which amplifies the responsibility to see it develop.

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Which you rather be known as…a young entrepreneur or a young black entrepreneur? Why?

It’s hard to look at us and not see both. A lot of the rooms we go into, we are one of few, if not only black business owners/vendors  there and we embrace that. It’s also not uncommon for us to be some of the youngest in the room too and we embrace that as well. I think it’s a glimpse of where we are and where we’re going; that opportunities are available for all ages and all ethnicities.

What inspired you and your business partner to create Bene`?

Michelle went on a study abroad trip to Ghana while we were in college as a part of her Fashion Merchandising class and while they were there they did some community outreach. She was so touched by the girls and their stories that she shared it with me (Sasha).

Being from Jamaica I fully understood what it meant to have to pay for all schooling and the hardship that could bring for families so it was an immediate connection. Instead of a one time donation we decided to merge the two reasons she was there – fashion and philanthropy and we came up with Bene.

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

What made you decide to pursue owning a fashion company?

To be honest we kind of fell into fashion. We just wanted to create something that could be sustainable and do some good in the world. Fashion made the most sense at the time and as college kids with no outside funding, it was something we could manage. It did help that we were self-claimed fashionistas in our own rights (laugh)

Tell me more about the creative process of Bene as far as how you create the scarves? Do you put together a mood or inspiration board? Or are Bene scarves designed by the artisans in Ghana?

We work with a textile designer in New York City who helps us create designs unique to our brand. The patterns are inspired by West African Textiles and our silk fabric is hand selected for printing. To further make the connection, along the edge of each scarf we feature a quote from one of our girls that describes what they’d like to share with the world.

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

Which Bene scarf is your favorite and why?

My favorite is the Abigail because it’s our unique, modern take on the traditional mudcloth and with that color shade it goes with just about anything!

Who would you love to collaborate with? (dead or alive)

We would love to collaborate with Doro Olowu. We love his pieces, he’s a designer from Ghana.

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

Bene` (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves)

What advice would you give to emerging designers and/or entrepreneurs?

Just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to have a ton of money. You can do it- but the trick is you have to stick with it and do something towards it everyday, even if it’s just sending an email.

Even taking small steps will eventually get you to where you need to be. And build relationships. People are your most valuable asset whether it’s business relationships, mentor/mentee relationships or customer relationships you need them all.

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews of Bene Scarves (Image courtesy of Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews)

Learn more about Bene` here: www.benescarves.com and follow their latest on Twitter: @BeneScarves and Instagram: @BeneScarves.

And there it is. de la Pen…All Pen Everything. With us, keeping it real never goes wrong.

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LoudPen
LoudPen is CEO of ISLP and Co-Founder of 8515. Over the past 8 years, LoudPen has gained extensive experience in lifestyle blogging, writing, editing, production, publishing, marketing, public relations, creative direction, styling, brand management, and event planning. Originally from Cincinnati, OH, LoudPen is based in Dallas, Texas.