Founder of Oakland Craft Company
Website: oaklandcraft.com | Social: @oaklandcraftcompany // facebook.com/oaklandcraft
The Lab at ICA Alumni (2021)
"Oakland Craft Company curates and produces thoughtful gifts for writers, travelers, and other interesting people."
Why did you decide to start Oakland Craft Company?
I've always been crafty. Although my family encouraged me to be scholarly, I was attracted to the arts—to thinking, dreaming, creating.
Every design we carry incorporates elements of creativity. Our collection has grown from typewriter-key jewelry to thoughtful gifts designed and handmade by our in-house production team, featuring vintage maps as well as original designs created by artists from around the world. We offer goods that are thoughtful, clever conversation starters; center BIPOC, feminist and LGBT icons; are handmade with exceptional craft and skill; and use unusual, reclaimed, or recycled materials.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Quit your day job. Put yourself 100% into your business and be smart, flexible and fearless—you will succeed.
What’s been the biggest takeaway from your experience with The Lab at ICA?
I started this business with no formal business training and no formal business plan—my only objective was to not go out of business. So I experienced a big dose of impostor syndrome. Any success I achieved was a fluke and failures were to be expected because I didn't know what I was doing.
But it turns out, I do know what I'm doing—I wouldn't have made it this far if I didn't. The Lab helped me see that there are certain formulas that work, and by applying those formulas, steady growth became attainable. It reinforced my belief that I can run this business with my heart and strong instincts, along with a firm grasp of the numbers and a consistent yet flexible plan.
What has been your most impactful interaction with ICA and why?
Having [ICA Portfolio Manager Willis Wilson] give talks on finances. It was impactful to hear a young black man talk about heady money issues with authority, and in a way that made those financial goals seem attainable for me.
How have the challenges of the last year changed your long-term vision as an entrepreneur?
I’ve learned that saying “yes” to everything is not the best move. It’s OK to say no and to be confident in saying so. Previously, I never thought of my time or labor as having an actual monetary value. But now that I've put a (handsome) dollar amount on my hourly rate, it has made it a lot easier to say no to things that don't serve me.
What is your favorite thing about being a part of the Bay Area small business community?
The diversity of our community. Representation is important, and although a lot of times I am the only Black person in many maker community settings, that is beginning to change. It’s been great starting to see so many other Black and brown people at craft fairs and in the indie maker community.
25+ years of impact.
2021 is ICA's 25th anniversary. To celebrate, we're featuring 25+ stories from the entrepreneurs and advisors that make our work possible. Join us here.