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Conversations with the Inspiring Rachel K. Whilby

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel K. Whilby.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in New Jersey to immigrant parents from Jamaica. I’m the 5th of six children and have a very large, but close, extended family. As a result, there was always a lot of choice and variety when it came to clothing and accessories – and even when there wasn’t, you learned how to make something old new for you. I remember watching my older sister turn broken bangles into arm cuffs, lost earrings into brooches, and old keys into earrings. As her shadow, it was not long before I started making my own creations. Fashion, style, and dress – to – impress have been huge pieces of the very fabric of my upbringing.

My inspiration for starting my own jewelry design brand came during a season of transition in my life. I decided to leave my position as an administrator at an elite NY private school and return to the classroom full time… but in Georgia. The move was predicated on the desire to experience some warmer weather, a slower pace and, most significantly, be closer to one of my biggest fans – my big brother. It is with the support and motivation of my brother that I was encouraged to launch K. Whilbeads in Winter 2018 as an outlet for my creative energy and love of fashion. He has helped me realize that although I am a talented educator, it is time to begin investing some time and effort into my other passion – fashion and jewelry design.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
After about 18 months of investing time and resources into my brand, I still have a long way to go in this journey. I’ve learned the creative aspect of K.Whilbeads is only 1/3 of what it takes to make a passion a business. I am not as well-versed in the marketing aspect. Therefore, I have a difficult time self-promoting my craft. However, in the last year, my support system has really taken an important role in helping me better utilize social media, take quality images, and attend events where I can promote my brand. It’s important for any young woman starting out on her own business venture to know her why. Without keeping your personal purpose at the center of your work, it can be so easy to want to give up because the work is hard and the reward can be slow to show up.

The three pieces of advice I’d offer to young women starting their own entrepreneurial venture are: 1. This is a journey, not a destination. Some days, I am over it. However, I have also realized that it is on those days that I am thinking about “where I am supposed to be”. When I feel most rewarded by what I am doing is the times when I, instead, take pride in the fact that my brand is one step further along than it was the day before. I then feel so much more inspired and motivated.

2. I have to rely on those who want to see me win. My family and friends encourage me to build me up and critique me to make me better. Both types of feedback are necessary to help me reach new heights. They are also there to help fill in the gaps for my areas of weakness in growing my business.

3. I try to have fun. I can not lose sight of why I do what I do. Otherwise, my jewelry design will just be another task without purpose or inspiration.

What should we know about K.Whilbeads? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
K. Whilbeads’ designs are as fluid and versatile as my own style. I enjoy warm neutral tones just as much as I love bold colors. Some days, my jewelry makes a statement and other days, it plays a supporting role in my outfit. When I design, I keep my whole self in mind. I am a woman of color. I am a woman of faith. I am a young professional woman. I create pieces that will allow others to communicate who they are through their choices but my goal is to keep a delicate, timeless, new-age twist on old traditions. I want to be sure my customers see the variety of options my jewelry offers and the versatility every piece provides.

Do you have a lesson or advice you’d like to share with young women just starting out?
The smartest thing I think I have done along the way is to document my journey. When I look back at my first projects, I used to cringe, embarrassed by the quality of the product I was producing. However, I now find it to truly be inspiring to see how I have grown because I have kept at it! I think anyone growing into their business venture should do the same. It’s so easy to get lost in perceived failures in the present. I find it extremely beneficial to be able to look back and see how my craft has improved as well as recognize my growth.

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