Working on my Shopify store and trying to gain perspective on my side hustle business. Constantly thinking of how to push it into sustainable success. Doing a lot of running around, researching, taking classes and looking at long term strategies. Plotting shopping trips and new marketing strategies.
Going through my inventory, looking for ways to style my items, and just taking time to be still and look at everything and find the significance and meaning in every piece.
Also, since I lost a little weight, I’m trying things on and looking at how pieces will work on real people, how things go together, etc. I’ve been selling since 2015 and have worked pretty much nonstop since quarantine trying to build a brand, trying to find an audience, trying to sell, trying and trying to stay on top of things and stay sane. I can see the finish line, but I still have to figure out how to get there.
It’s been six months! And looking back, it was an eventful, if lonely, six months. From January first to right now I’ve been to Philadelphia, got pedicures, went to the movies and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, went to work, went to my first estate sales, went to a bunch of sample sales, went to vintage sales. Made friends with people on Clubhouse, then had that blow up in my face (reminding me that people are desperate for connections right now and I need to watch who I get comfortable talking to). I took horseback riding lessons! I can now ride a bike and a horse, so if the world goes nuts I have two new means of survival transport.
Because of course horses will be running the streets in full English saddles. But let’s go on.
I’m much better at cooking and now I’m starting to look for new recipes and ingredients because I really like cooking and posting pics to my Instagram. That satisfies me and gives me a record of how creative I am. It feeds my ego and makes me believe in myself. I’m better at my reselling business, too. I look for new ways to buy inventory and I’m going to take a sewing class for my upcycling ideas (love to start them, then get bored/discouraged halfway through and stop. This must end!), and I’m going to start looking at fashion magazines again. That keeps my eye informed, and gives me ideas to expand on. I’m reading books again! I had stopped, and back in 2019 realized that I was just going to work and coming home and just staring at screens like a zombie. Now I’m up and awake and reading and remembering to take a book with me when I go out.
I literally used to win awards in elementary school FOR READING, but about six or eight months ago couldn’t read a book without getting bored. That’s some wild shit.
Things I like:
Taking pics of my stuff and selling the stuff
Paying taxes. Yes. I am an adult making enough (barely) to be in a tax bracket.
Cooking and taking pics of my food. I’m going to make videos soon.
Making soap. Yep, taking a soap making class soon.
Taking classes. Bike riding, sashiko stitching, visual merchandising, horseback riding, soap making…taking classes is fun and even if you don’t use the info that second, it will be in your mind when you need it.
Being consistent. I blog every Saturday, because it’s good for me and it gives me something to look forward to. Being consistent is good for your mental health.
Walking, riding my bike, doing my exercises.
Being alive. I like it, it’s working for me.
Making things. I love spray painting, making soap, stitching things, making paper and taking photos.
What I hate:
I’m not dwelling on that shit anymore. Stuff happened, some good and some things that were so bad that I had to pretend they never happened. I’ve had a year and a half to think things through, and I’m just going to let all of that die and keep it moving. I’m on my own and I’m going to make the best of the life I have right now. If anyone has issues with me and they don’t say anything, then there are no issues. I refuse to dwell on or stress out about what I don’t know about. I am minding the business that pays me.
As a lifelong introvert, I’m no stranger to staying in while the sun is shining and everyone else is off having fun. Ever since I was a kid, staying in was my favorite option. I was the weirdo that had to be forced outside and had no one to play with when I got there. I read book after book, fought with my brothers and thought up crazy ideas for what I would be when I grew up. None of which involved being (self) quarantined because of a global pandemic. This current time period is straight from a scifi movie.
I’ve only been in here for 8 days, so far. On April 1st I find out if anything is happening with my job, so for all intents and purposes I have nowhere to be until April 2nd. So what am I up to? Am I stir crazy? Lonely? Panting to leave? No! I’m busy. Busy af. Here’s why:
Just before I went in for the long haul, I had a long talk with my Mommy. We haven’t spoken in a few years because I remembered some things and I felt justified in withholding love and attention from her. I’m an adult and she can’t make me do anything. Enter coronavirus and I realized that whatever happened, happened. That’s all. It was just stuff that happened a long time ago and I have to let that go. The first thing I did as I was prepping for quarantine was run up and down Utica Avenue putting a box of wigs, haircare products and a big African gown for Easter. That’s how I love people, I shop for them.
This stuff is for her next box, an early Mother’s Day present. Kmart on 34th Street was closing and I started slowly looking through the place, extracting style gold for my Mommy. I didn’t get shoes, because I was trying to do a surprise and my brothers didn’t text me back when I asked for the shoe size. I figured two full outfits, plus a nice housecoat (the blue and green folded item), and I got her a long slip because her generation wore them. Florals are cheery and colorful, so I know she’ll smile when she wears these tops. The bottoms are stretchy, for her comfort. Plus a book of bible verses, because she not only believes in God, but she prays for me. I figure this will help her pick topics to focus on.
I ran all over the place looking for someone to love me, and all I needed to do was love my mom and let her love me back. It’s so peaceful.
2. My laundry:
I had laundry piled up before quarantine happened, but things have entered a critical area. No undies and no inclination to wash them myself. Also some thrifted items that I was supposed to send out so that I could post them. And my favorite socks were dirty. And my workout clothes need cleaning. And I want to have all of my sheets available. LUCKILY the laundry service is considered essential (think hospitals and nursing homes, not just for people too lazy to use the laundromat in the building like me) but now they’re only picking up at night. I got half the laundry out, with the next load ready for next week.
So now I can clean the bathroom and decide if I’m finally going to finish that storage table I made and then left unfinished.
I decided to branch out and try a new natural haircare provider and I found Fro.ology on Etsy. She had all the products I had grown to love, with improvements. I got the Hair Tea Rinse, $12, which has lavender, peppermint, and chamomile to soothe and nurture the scalp and encourage growth. The Onion and Garlic Hair Oil, $10, is an anti-microbial (kills the fungus that causes danduff) with vitamin c, infused with hibiscus, rosemary and lavender. I used this as soon as I got it because my scalp was so dry and it works wonders. I also ordered the Super Thick Deep Conditioner, $10, which contains aloe vera, rose water and rice protein. It is indeed thick, and super moisturizing. I used it this afternoon and after leaving it on for an hour (I got busy and forgot about it) I rinsed with cold water as directed, patted dry and had the curl definition promised.
And did I mention that Gianni, the business owner, included a full shower cap and tea infuser? I really appreciated that touch. The products are great, the shipping is fairly quick (about 5 days as she makes the products to order), and I’m definitely sticking with this brand for the long haul. Make sure you check out Fro.ology on instagram, too.
The night before I had to come in the house I raided Target’s beauty aisles and ordering products online because boredom is real. I have also been lagging behind on my total body selfcare. I have been running and running for 3 years, swinging from job to job before finally ending up where I wanted to be as a Visual Merchandiser. I’m getting better at merchandising, and getting bigger assignments. But I was tired from all the crappy jobs that made me feel like a cog in the wheel. I figured this quarantine isn’t just about the corona virus, it’s about me.
I barely ever have time to do my nails. I bought a tube of depilatory and it’s still sitting in the bathroom. I NEED to take care of myself to feel good about me. After 8 days, I am starting to shed the stressful, pinched feeling that I’ve been carrying and starting to forgive myself for mistakes and starting to feel good about whatever future is going to be there for me. This is the first time in three years that I can stay home and not be afraid of losing my job or not being able to pay rent. I know it was caused by something bad, I do feel for the people that are sick and dying. But it also reminds me to LIVE.
Last but not least, I’m going to the post office on April 1st, and I’d love to be able to mail out some new, used , vintage or upcycled items for you guys to flex in. I’m having a yellow tag sale on selected items and bundles. Go to http://www.depop.com/sebmarket and get 25% off on yellow tag items, and if you do a bundle of 3 or more items, you get 25% off as well as free shipping. If you’re on the app, I’m @sebmarket.
How are you dealing with self-quarantine? Are you even in the house? If not, please remember masks, hand sanitizer, handwashing and staying 6 feet away from others to help flatten the curve. I know it all seems scary, but you can only control yourself. Do the right thing, and try to help others if you can
It has been a wild week, to be sure. I think we all know what I mean. EVERYTHING is different.
And maybe that needed to happen.
So the corona virus has rolled across the world and in addition to the possibility of sickness and death, you have the choice of going broke if things don’t get back to normal. I started a Roth IRA 7 years ago and it’s only in the last few years that I could make regular contributions. I’m watching that progress melt away second by second, which is both frightening and exciting. I never had money to lose before, so I’m kind of winning. I also read a book called Depression Era Economics by Paul Krugman and it’s keeping me calm to know that if you just wait, the market will regenerate itself. If people are selling and selling, someone is sitting around waiting for the prices to drop low enough and then it will be buy, buy, buy.
If things work out ok. Which they will.
Here in New York it’s like this:
Normally, you can’t shoot a train platform without a few people messing up your photo, but not so much now. It is not as much of a problem getting a seat on the train, and nobody pushes right up next to you. Part of that is that people are biking or uber pooling, and the other part is that businesses are slowly shutting down, so there’s not as much reason to go out. I just got told that the rest of my gigs for March are cancelled since department store shopping is considered nonessential. You can get restaurant delivery or shop online, though.
One thing that fell by the wayside was my styling class at Fashion Institute of Technology. I had signed up for a visual merchandising class where I would learn to build sets and style photoshoots (yeah, I was a photographer and did branch out into styling but that was ages ago). I really wanted to brush up my skills, work on updating my portfolio, maybe style on the side, and definitely try to get more visual merchandising jobs. But corona happened.
It threw the school into a tizzy about a month in. My class was very hands on, and all about group projects and suddenly they were like, all classes are online. I thought about it and decided not to continue because worrying about my economic survival is not good for my creative process. Guess what? Can’t get a refund. You either take the online class or die. So the photo above and one lecture just cost me $600.
At least I can write it off on my taxes.
I just got a Target Red Card, so just in time I had a large amount of money for emergency food shopping. I also shopped at Jacks and Dollar Tree. I got yogurt, fresh berries and fruit and as late as Thursday night Target was still stocked up. The Key Food near my place was completely out of toilet paper, but I got a few rolls at Dollar Tree. I usually stock up, because a grownup should know when they’re almost out, but I was down to my last five rolls and I started reading about how people were stockpiling. I also have napkins and paper towels, but still.
When I finally got to settle in and self quarantine, I roasted some pork belly chunks (super cheap) and had them with rice (put the rest in the fridge for another meal) and a spoonful of black beans from the massive can I bought. I live alone, so my food will last for awhile, but I’m already telling myself not to get crazy and overeat. The first uncertain days had me binge eating, but now, since I don’t know how long this will last, I’m sticking to four meals and rationed healthy snacking. I found some empty plastic bottles that I’d been saving for no reason, so I filled those with water and they’re in the freezer.
I had a gig at Home Depot merchandising for Carhartt, and I bought myself a money plant and a new succulent baby. It’s wild, but I’ve been collecting crystals and buying candles and oils and sage, and setting intentions for the last few months so now my apartment is a nicer place to be. I have a salt lamp going and stocked upon the little bulbs that make it glow. I got the cutest little clock. It’s been months since I could just sit in here and relax, and now I have things in here that are conducive to relaxation. I can see that progress that I’ve made and it’s calming me down. I feel really grateful that I have a place to live at a time like this.
I’m also going to have time to thoroughly clean this place and really get into the feng shui method that I started with and then ran out of energy to complete. I got Feng Shui for Dummies to start with, and now I can look at creating a floor plan and budget for remedies.
And I’ve been talking to my family. I started a group chat with my brothers. We don’t talk all day, but having this conversation on my phone to look at and engage with is amazing after years of estrangement. Talking to my mom is really precious now. All it took was the threat of human extinction to make me see that.
Last but not least, the pins I designed came in and I’m a little excited! Things got backed up because of the virus, so I don’t have them listed anywhere yet and I need to stay in the house so I can’t really be worried about selling them. BUT! It’s exciting to have made something from scratch like this. I really love this image, though. I think I want to make more things out of it, including tshirts. My online stores are closed right now while I figure out what I want to do, but this image will be a big thing in the coming months.
How are you holding up? Are you remembering to wash your hands and not touch your face? Are you making sure to stay in contact with people? Have you made plans for the what ifs of the situation? Did you get some toilet paper?
I have not had one minute to spare the last few weeks. It’s super easy to get jobs in New York right now, and I managed to go from my fashion internship, to a temporary summer job to a regular (part-time) job and a freelance job doing visual merchandising and events. So for the first time in my adult life, I have two jobs.
I’m still shocked.
Over the course of the last month I got to use what I learned from umpteen retail jobs, visual merchandising class and my brief showroom experience to merchandise and dress mannequins. The best part is that I have already made back the money that I spent on the class.The worst part is knowing that I could have been doing this all along, if I hadn’t been so obsessed with making it as a photographer. I feel like I wasted a lot of time and caused myself a lot of suffering and unhappiness when I could have been working, building up my savings, gaining experience and making friends. And then I could still have branched out into styling and then photography.
Hindsight is a bitch.
The funny thing is that when I first set out to go to college, I did want to do visual merchandising and this or that happened and I got sidetracked and then jumped into photography. Had I known how sexist and racist that industry was, I would have saved my efforts and put them into something that would have benefited me a lot more. My life would have been completely different. I bet my student loans would be paid off, too.
I was unexpectedly catapulted back into retail last year and I was bored. I was trying to think of a way to get a promotion while extending my job into something more creative, so I jumped on the Continuing Ed page at Fashion Institute of Technology‘s website to see if there was anything that I could turn into a bigger paycheck. I used to be a photographer, and have done some styling but I have no interest in doing photo shoots, so I had to find something that tied retail to art. Enter DE101 15A Prin D&E Dsgn – Small Scale Spring 2019 (a.k.a. Visual Merchandising)! I spent every Monday evening from February to May learning about why store displays look the way they look.
We had to build a foamcore shadowbox and every week there was a new assignment to create a contained display that expressed ideas and creativity without using words or being too obvious. This was the first assignment, white on white. Inspired by Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.
The next week was a black and white assignment where I painted sheets of paper with fast drying acrylic paint (neatly referencing the previous week’s cotton balls in the white on black paint splatters) and using these awesome Steve Madden Harpir boots. It’s amazing how much fun you can have being creative when you’re just taking one class and it’s not causing you to take out crippling loans!
This one was about selling health & beauty products, so I chose my fave perfume and did a presentation inspired by Magritte’s The Banquet, a painting that features a huge red sun. I feel like I could have done the roses on the side walls a little better, but I was trying to invoke a sort of 70s vibe, and infuse my presentation with the spirit of both disco and tango. So…yeah.
We did the holidays (my family is from Guyana and I live near Eastern Parkway so I just drew on my own Caribbean culture for this one.), accessories and famous personalities (can you guess who I did for my personality presentation?). We had to make everything in class so that the instructor could see our thought process, so it meant packing up my art supplies and lugging my big bag of foamcore box parts from Brooklyn to Manhattan,making a ritual out of stopping at the Starbucks across the street from school.
For this one I painted the backdrop to evoke water, like the water you soak your feet in for pedicures. Blue is such a spa color to me. We had to take an element of the product and repeat it throughout the design. I sat in the class tracing a foot-shaped cardboard piece that came with some socks I bought. I just sat there cutting out construction paper feet and stamping them with a round sponge brush. Good times.
This was my final project. I was thinking to do something grand, but then I found out all we had to do was design a presentation with fruit as the product. We couldn’t cut the fruit, put holes in it, paint or carve it… I was a little disappointed, because I thought it would be something more sophisticated. I decided to make mine about lemons because I have an actual lemon plant that came out of a seed that I planted. Just pretend it’s a warm summer day and you’re relaxing and anticipating a tall, cool glass of lemonade form the giant lemons that came off of your tree.
I know, what a boring post!
What I took away from this class is that creativity never leaves you, and that having to build a presentation on the spot every Monday was a great exercise in discipline. I really like looking back at my shadowbox creations, and I can always use what I learned to improve my online stores or maybe go back to styling… Maybe. I’m definitely thinking of taking the large scale class where you dress mannequins. And I passed with an A, so I felt pretty darned accomplished.
I’m not big into rap or hip-hop, so the last few years seemed like an entertainment and inspiration desert when it comes to seeing empowered black women just being excellent and special without screaming curse-words or whatever. That annoys me.
It alsofelt like there was a lot of negativity surrounding those of us with darker skin, and I was starting to think that people just couldn’t give up on the idea that being dare with full lips and natural hair was an actual state of being that didn’t require apology.
Then the waters started parting…Serena Williams was a badass April cover girl and that just seemed to inspire her and she went on to win a bunch of tournaments. You know, like Wimbledon and whatnot. After she was rested up from that she was just everywhere, including the Harper’s Bazaar Women Who Dare issue and the upcoming Pirelli calendar.
I really should have taken tennis more seriously in high school…
In June one of the most revolutionary black entertainers in the world was honored with a documentary. What Happened Miss Simone? came out and her name was on everyone’s lips again. Sad, because after a revival in the 90s her incredible voice had sunk into obscurity.
I thought that I would have to content myself with that, but then Grace Jones played Afro Punk! I found out too late to get tickets, but whatever. She was there!!! he inspiration of so many crazy-dressing black girls was actually up to her usual tricks, being her amazing and provoking self and it was awesome to have my twitter taken over by …GRACE.
I mean, could anything else happen? Just Fashion month, no biggie.While some people were moaning and whining over 20% non-white models on the runways, I was too busy cheering. I mean- Herieth Paul, Tami Williams, Grace Bol and that gorgeous big afro girl who starred in the under-reported Stella McCartney One City One Girl series. Nana Ghana wore Stella McCartney in her own individualistic way and for all those people saying there’s no diversity, I just really didn’t see a lot of people covering this. One of my fave instagram models, Ajak Deng killed it to death in the Phillipe Plein show. Which brought everything back to punk, Grace and all that’s good in the world. At this point the world was just bursting with black lady goodness but then? Viola Davis won the Emmy for leading actress in a drama. As Analiese Keating, a high-powered lawyer and law professor, Davis shows such a kaleidoscope of feeling that her just raising her eyes to stare into the camera can blow you away. The character calls for a real, raw earthy (yet touchingly elegant) performance and Viola Davis has brought it with every episode.
Then she gave this speech and everybody was like- yeah! And then she also won wearing her hair in it’s naturally textured state and her dress was gorgeous, so it was like amazing black lady heaven.
And then,my October Vogue came and Lupita Nyong’o was on the cover looking crazy gorgeous and at that moment you could be like, ok this was a good year to be a black woman- but then the Mert Alas & Marcus Piggot photos were just… there were so many!!!! I mean a LOT! It wasn’t just fashion, it was grace, beauty, mystery, and romance.
Then she turned out to be starring in a play written by other gorgeous black lady Danai Gurira for Walking Dead at the Public Theater. Can you be any more proactive about bringing diversity to the stage? AND THEN it’s just been announced that the play, Eclipsed, is moving to Broadway.