In honor of Black History Month, I had the honor of sitting down with two Brand School Alumni, Terry Gibralter, the founder of House of Terrance, and Marty Mathews, the founder of Make It Right. We touched on personal TWISTS, their brands, and Black History Month.
What is your TWIST? What makes you fundamentally different from other businesses?
Terry: I have lived, worked, and shopped all over the world which has given me a particular worldview when it comes to fashion and style. These experiences have allowed me to bring multiple perspectives to my online fashion business. I want to provide [women] with more than just products. I want to develop a relationship and help them with their style and shopping needs.
Marty: My TWIST is growing a for-profit business on a mission to make a difference through inclusion, diversity, and strong partnerships. We are different from other companies because when we “Make It Right”, everyone wins.
How did you get involved with BrandTwist? How did working with BrandTwist help to strengthen or clarify your brand?
Terry: I read and loved Julie’s book and thought her course [Brand School] could help me take my little online store from a hobby to a real business. Julie helped me focus on my brand and realize that my strength was in jewelry and accessories. She also helped me hone my voice which has allowed me to gain followers and customers through my blog and social posts.
Marty: My first encounter with BrandTwist was Julie’s book which I read on an entrepreneurial website, [our] one-on-one meeting to develop my TWIST, and eventually enrolling into Brand School. Julie helped me strengthen the core values for my company and develop my target market and cool business name.
How do you bring your personal TWIST to the table? What experiences or elements of your background do you incorporate into your business?
Terry: I believe my personal TWIST is always using accessories and jewelry to add to my style story no matter the occasion or circumstance. I also strongly believe in doing all we can to adopt a more caring attitude for our planet, therefore a big part of my business is in vintage and pre-owned pieces. One of the most visited pages on my site was influenced directly by my background as a creative director in beauty advertising.
Marty: I bring my personal TWIST to the table by developing the “Superpowers” of others:
1. Inspiration to go beyond the expected.
2. Succeeding by working extremely hard.
3. Never giving up.
4. Paying it forward.
My years of working with a diverse group of individuals with disabilities, my industrial design background from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and core group of business mentors continue to shape my understanding of running a successful business venture.
Does your identity as a black entrepreneur find its way into the day-to-day operations of your business?
Terry: Definitely. I feel that it’s imperative that I do so. When I’m writing, it’s always from the perspective of being a black woman. I’m constantly sharing products from other black entrepreneurs, as well as recommending art, books, plays, and movies by black creators. I try to use a lot of imagery that supports and celebrates “blackness” in my social posting as well. When I buy products for my site, I search out those made by black women entrepreneurs so I can support them.
Marty: My identity must be present throughout the day-to-day operations of my business because there are systemic barriers that continue to hinder black entrepreneurs’ efforts to start and sustain businesses for the long haul. I must be very strategic as a black entrepreneur when it comes to networking and building relationships that can help me make the right business decision. I must work ten times harder, be ten times stronger, and persevere beyond the challenges that are at hand.
Who inspires you?
Terry: I am constantly inspired by the many women creators, artists, and artisans I follow on social media. One woman that I’m very inspired by is The Chic City Girl on Instagram […] I’m obsessed with her fabulous and fun videos styling thrift and vintage clothes. Of course, I’ve been incredibly inspired by Julie! She’s fearless and makes it all look so easy.
Marty: Peter Knab is my inspiration. He was my first one-on-one student working as a Paraprofessional for a local elementary school in my city. Even though he was born with Cerebral Palsy, the day-to-day physical challenges he encounters don’t stop him from doing the things he loves!
Do you consider yourself a role model for others? Who do you hope you inspire?
Terry: I truly hope to be a role model for others! I would like to inspire women who have had a long and full career, and after leaving that career want to start a second or even third chapter doing something that really makes them happy.
Marty: I consider myself a role model because I provide opportunities for those who have unjustly been denied work opportunities, and I place diversity and inclusion at the forefront of my mission. I would like to inspire the disabled population; the hard-to-hire candidates who are completely invisible to most companies or individuals with no work history.
How do you give back to your community?
Terry: I am always incredibly interested in giving back to my community. In the past, I have spent time mentoring teens through different programs, and I intend to find more ways to do this in the coming months.
Marty: Mentoring young men in the community and working with local school districts to provide packaging/assembly opportunities to prepare students for competitive employment.
If there is one piece of advice you could give to someone starting their own business, what would it be?
Terry: Make sure the business is one you feel passionate about! Starting my own business was definitely one of the harder things I’ve done in my life, and if you’re not motivated by passion, I’m pretty sure it will be impossible to succeed. It can also be lonely so make sure [to] network and find people you can share your experiences with – you’ll need the support and camaraderie.
Marty: Have a vision of what you think your business should be and work extremely hard to make it a reality.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us regarding Black History Month or your brand?
Terry: I’m looking forward to the day when we don’t need a Black History Month because our history IS American history, and it’s a celebrated and accepted fact by all Americans!
Marty: Black History Month for me is 365 days a year because one month of the year isn’t nearly long enough to capture the essence of everything that we are.