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Conversations with the Inspiring Ashanti Bell and Charissee McKee

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashanti Bell and Charissee McKee.

Ashanti, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Ashanti Bell: Charissee and I worked on a business project in graduate school back in 2016 based around sustainability in beauty and fashion. In 2017, we officially launched our first business Sustainably In Style, also known as SIS for short where we sold gently used, second-hand clothing in an online boutique storefront. We did that for about a year and decided that we wanted to re-evaluate our business, and after going through a mentorship program with our mentor, Natasha Hall, we both decided to rebrand our business to DBBM (Designs by Bell and McKee) to focus on fashion/graphic design and branding for fashion and beauty brands to utilize our God-given talent and skill set.

Charissee McKee: When we tell people how long we have been friends they are like wow! We actually met in high school, where we then went on to college together, and then grad school. It’s actually pretty funny DBBM kind of formed on accident in a way or rather we kind of fell into it. We were already in the process of rethinking somethings with SIS and actually momentarily shut things down ironically around the same time we began to be mentored by Natasha. We were presented with the opportunity to design for a brand. They asked us what our email address was so that they could PayPal us, but we didn’t have a PayPal account for SIS but felt we should keep the funds separate. So, we quickly created designsbybellandmckee@gmail.com and we just ran with it from that point on and by the grace of God it has been working out for us.

Has it been a smooth road?
Ashanti Bell: Smooth? Who is that, we don’t know him? LOL! Definitely has not been smooth, but it has provided great learning experiences along the way. There have been numerous times where I’m asking God what does He want me to do next, or am I doing what He’s wanting me to do. It’s a blessing to have your best friend by your side when going after a goal and dream that you both share. My advice to other young women, young people, and creatives, in general, is that you’re stronger than you think and you know more than you think. Ask for help when you need it, but always pray, and seek God, and be thankful for even the little accomplishments along the way because they lead to your big breakthroughs.

Charissee McKee: Yeah, it has been an interesting journey with many changes. I can definitely say I went through some struggles post-grad, however, through those times our character is just being built! I have questioned things and wondered am I on the right path, however, I try to listen to my spirit. We pray before each meeting and have check-ins when needed if we begin to feel overwhelmed or lacking in faith. So, my advice to young women and creatives would be to pivot, but not to quit. Own who you are and embrace whatever season that you are in.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into DBBM Studio story. Tell us more about it.
Ashanti: We are fashion illustrators and graphic designers who specialize in helping our clients bring their ideas to life, as well as bringing our own designs to life through our future fashion line that we are working on.

Charissee: It’s always interesting to us that we both grew up enjoying drawing fashion sketches.

Ashanti: Yes! God definitely knew what He was doing when he aligned our paths!

Looking back on your childhood, what experiences do you feel played an important role in shaping the person you grew up to be?
Q: What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?

Charissee: I try not to focus on those barriers because those are limitations that other people are trying to put on you, but I am human. I have thought about whether or not people would take me seriously especially being a young woman of color. It just boils down to demanding respect, asserting yourself, knowing that you are capable and valuable without any validation.

Ashanti: I completely agree. You could say that anything could be a barrier. But the truth is that barriers don’t exist as long as you are putting yourself out there and someone is seeing what you create. You’ve already broken a barrier right there.

Pricing:

  • Fashion Illustrations $45/each
  • Digital Prints $80/each
  • Logo Design $65/each
  • Mood Boards $45/each
  • Fashion Brand Styling Packages (prices vary)

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Ashanti Bell, Charisse McKee, (DBBM Studio)

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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