By JEFFARAH GIBSON
Tribune Features Writer
WITH so many people out of work due to the pandemic and few jobs to come by, entrepreneurship is being seen as the way out of the economic ditch. Even those currently employed believe having their own venture to supplement the income they do have is necessary.
But the necessity of having multiple streams of income does very little to quell fears and eliminate reservations about launching a business. So, what do you do to overcome those fears?
“Launch out”, according to Bahamian teacher and entrepreneur Melanie Lightbourn. But do so having done the research.
Melanie is the designer and creator behind the Uncut Legacy clothing line, launched in October in California. The professional educator who has taught America’s children for the past 30 years is currently the instructional coach of Monroe High School in North Hills California. She has lived in Santa Clarita, California, since 1985.
The teaching profession has afforded her many joys and awards. She is the recipient of several local and state awards, namely the Who's Who Among American Teachers, The California League of Middle Schools Region 8 Teacher of the Year and the California League of Schools State Educator of the Year, to name a few.
Melanie is also the author of two children's books, "Things I Wish You Knew" and "Am I Daddy's Girl?" which focus on healing the relationship between absent fathers and their children, and a third book will be released in early 2021, "My Teacher Doesn't Understand".
After being placed on stay-at-home orders during the pandemic, Melanie’s idea to launch her own clothing line was sparked.
“The pandemic was a double-edged sword for me as a creative individual. I seldom have the additional time afforded to work on what I consider my legacy. When the pandemic hit, I realised that I did not have the added stress of a 6.30am to 4.30pm work schedule, no fighting daily traffic, no rushing home to prepare meals, then carving out time to grade papers until the wee hours of the morning. I had the freedom to create in my own space, and could commit quality time to doing so while still maintaining a level of excellence in my day job.
“The other edge of the sword was the inability to shut off the work day; I set a deadline for launching the site, and placing that goal out there meant accomplishing it at any cost. So, I decided to sacrifice sleep. Often, I worked until 3am just to make sure I completed a task I started. Entrepreneurs don't enjoy much rest; we work while the rest of the world is turning over for their second round of sleep,” she said.
Melanie always wanted to serve and empower others, but wasn't sure how it would materialise.
“The idea came to me last year as I was brainstorming ways to empower others, but I did not want the line to have restrictions. Everyone is able to wear the Uncut Legacy brand, because we are all on a path towards royalty, and it is created at the moment we are born. The logo design is a fragmented diamond. The fragmented pieces demonstrate that we are imperfect beings but there is a clear indication that a diamond is present. There is bling on the diamond as it serves to show we are valued as royalty. As we are on our own path towards creating a legacy, our company encourages customers to 'Release the Royalty' within them."
The journey to entrepreneurship was not an easy one because like many others Melanie had to fight her fears and reason her way through the decision.
“The first step to entrepreneurship is embracing the fact that you are worth it and are capable of accomplishing such a gargantuan task. Many of us have dreams of starting these exploits, but we never step out on faith to actually get it done.
“Starting Uncut Legacy was daunting; I am not selling someone else's merchandise. This is exclusively my design, my idea, my dream. If it fails, it is on me; if it succeeds, it is because I refuse to accept failure as an option. The first thought a person might entertain during a world crisis is, 'No one is going to support a business during a pandemic! That is crazy thinking!' With the loss of employment, and consequently income, one would expect that consumers would not purchase products and would be a bit more frugal with their spending. I had to believe that if God gave me the vision to start it, He would make the provision and open the doors of opportunity for me to promote it, and that is happening faster than I ever expected,” she said.
For those wanting to launch out in the deep waters owning a business, Melanie said her best advice is to do due diligence and ensure one's brand is unique.
“For example, if your brand if popular (clothing, makeup, jewelry, etc.) make sure it is something that is not yet on the market. Your consumer must be able to say, ‘Wow! Now, that's different!’ and then rush to your company to purchase it. It might be your design, the models wearing it or the slogans you use. I watched a video a few days ago sponsored by Two Blind Brothers. Their concept is to purchase blind. You visit their website, see a price noted with no photos of the product nor a description. You purchase based on trust, and all proceeds go towards research to cure blindness. What comes in the mail is a surprise. What a concept. They have captured millions of customers, because they are selling not only the mystery behind the buying, but the idea of supporting a cause. Brilliant. Your company must do the same,” she said.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or log onto www.uncutlegacy.com.