When Nneka Brown decided to make Black-inspired notebooks for 2016?s back-to-school market, she had no idea she would get 8,000 orders the first day she advertised them through an online marketplace. But then again, these are the days of social media.
?I advertised on The Shade Room. I never dreamed we would get so many responses. One person who placed an order blogged about it and she has 70,000 followers on her blog! So, the word spread very quickly,? Brown told TNJ.com in an interview.
The only problem is that the notebooks are hand-spiraled, one-by-one, in-house, and so far Brown and her company, Innovative Supplies, have only been able to fill 2,000 of the orders. She says, however, she has hired manufacturer to fill the remaining 6,000 orders. Once a significant amount of revenue comes in, she plans to purchase her own manufacturing equipment for future orders. “By October, my goal is to have our own machines and, ultimately, become the first Black-owned manufacturing company for school supplies,” she says.
Brown even has a Go Fund Me link on her company’s Instagram page for those who want to contribute to the purchase of those machines.
This is the first company that 27-year old Brown, who was born in Germany and currently resides in Georgia, has ever owned. She launched it just two weeks ago and is proud to have employed an energetic team of millennials. Notes Brown, ?My team is comprised of my brother and his friends, most of whom are 16 years old. Working with young people has been a great way to keep them off the streets and give them something to do.”
She adds, ?They can also relate to the images on the notebooks and the messages behind them. So, they have a stake in what they?re doing.?
Priced at just $1.50, each 70-page notebook offers a unique image or message. Some are reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter movement: one is inspired by Sandra Bland who was found dead after being detained at a prison facility in Texas; another notebook called, ?Higher and Higher? is imprinted with the image of a young, African American female scientist on its cover, and another is a limited edition King Tut creation. ?I found some of the images on people?s Instagram pages and asked the artists if I could use them, and some images I commissioned artists to create. I want young people to feel like they have a voice. Commemorating their artwork on my notebooks is a way to do that,? Brown says.?
Others are reflective of artists, for example, who are popular among the millennial set, namely Beyonce who graces the cover of one of the books called ?Tea Time? while sipping iced tea. Their “Be Unique” notebook is their top seller. ?We sold over 2,500 notebooks with her image on it. @ZolaArtsFactory is the artist for this picture. She received over $800 in royalties from the first day of sales,? she says.?
Brown, who is just back from serving 9 years of service in the military and two overseas deployments, is a sophomore in college studying to become a high school history teacher. She also wants to make a difference in her community. ?The notebook business is not really about the money,? Brown says. As stated on her website, her goals are to open and deposit?profits into?an account with Black-owned?Citizens Trust Bank; provide quality products using economically sourced materials and environmentally friendly packaging; donate 40% of all profits made from book bag sales to local charities; hire local minority youth; and support other small businesses.
?I want to use this platform and this site as a way to reach out to the millennials who want variety, and who want to be a part of a bigger cause,? she writes on her site.