We all love a good specialty item that features our savvy and beauty as Black women. And for Addie Rawr, a Virginia-based graphic designer, and entrepreneur, this is the centerpiece of what’s behind her products landing placement with Target. Her line of journals, stationary and artwork include illustrations that bring to life that favorite Fashion Nova babe, rich auntie, or brunch bestie in your life, and provides an outlet for you to express congrats, love, or seasonal greetings in a way that is fresh and authentic.
Rawr got her start while completing her degree at Virginia Commonwealth University, serving as a leader in the creation of Art & Ambition Studios (Community for Black Artists & Designers) and cultivating her skills of creating unique, relatable depictions for her 20-something peers. Since 2015, she's put in the work to ensure that her brand gets the exposure and support it needs to thrive.
We talked more with her about building her business, the three keys to getting noticed by a powerhouse like Target, and why representation of today's Black women millennials and Gen Zers matter in all aspects of gifting:
xoNecole: Your line of journals are available in Target, which is huge for a small business. How did it all come about?
That was a big partnership. It's something that I honestly had been wanting and hoping for. I have [had] a vision board for my business for years now, but I honestly did not expect it to happen so soon. Around this time last year, Target reached out to me. I think that lets me know that I'm doing the right thing, for a buyer to reach out to me to be a partner. The process itself was very tedious. It's a lot of work and training that goes into it.
Target openly accepted all the products that I pitched to them, without changing my designs or work. All my products have Black women in them. For Target to openly accept without trying to make me tone them down or anything was a very big deal.
Courtesy of Addie Rawr
xoN: Why stationary and specialty goods?
I'm a gift-giving person. I'm that person who will buy a card for anything. You got a promotion? I'm buying you a card. If you passed a test, I'm buying you a card. That's one of my things that I do for friends and family. The first product I launched in 2015, my Christmas cards, came from me looking for them. I wanted to give them out to my boyfriend at the time and to my friends, and I couldn't find any that represented me at that time. [I was] a 25-year-old Black woman, and I couldn't find anything that represented that. There was just no Black representation of a young, modern-day Black woman. They were older and mostly the kind of images where it [looked like] a white woman but they just made it a Black woman.
I'm an artist, so I can draw my own designs of what I want to see on a card. I had experience already with card-making and layout designs, so I really just practiced and tested them out. My first Christmas cards I created, I printed at Office Depot, so that's how it started. It all just came from looking for things that represented me.
xoN: From your experience, what were three things you would say were important in building a successful brand that can get the attention of partners or retailers?
Stay true to yourself.One thing that I've been committed to since the start of creating my company is staying true to what I like and what I'd like to see in the world. The meaning of that is it's extremely hard for any type of designer, whether it's a product designer or an illustrator, to fall into a trap. You start to feel like, well, this is what's popular right now so let me create this type of art. You start to change up your whole style to fit the trend. Don't do that.
When you do, you don't stay consistent. So now you have 10 years of work in your business, and every single year is different--your style is different, your product is different. For me, every year, it's been consistent. That's helped my brand to continue to be successful and pick up partnerships.
Don't be afraid to ask for help. I don't mind asking for suggestions or advice. I reach out to others who have companies to chat with them, not necessarily to pick their brains but letting them know, 'Hey this is what's going on with my company right now. You have experience. Do you have any advice for me?' There are some people that are open to helping you out, open to answering questions to lead you in the right direction.
Be deliberate about becoming part of the community. I'm part of at least five communities, some are free and some are paid memberships. They allow me to network and meet people in different industries outside of what I do. That way, I can expand my audience and I can connect with people from the banking and printing industries [for example]. I have a certification from eCornell and they have an alumni group that I'm in. It's a lot of women who just have the same certification and they're from all different backgrounds. LinkedIn also has groups, and I'm in my college alumni group there, which is helpful.
For the [memberships] that I pay for, I found them through grant [opportunities]. Normally, if you don't get accepted for grant funding, [there's] a community you can join where you can learn more about business, get a mentor, or get an accountability partner, so the next time another grant comes around, you'll be more prepared to apply for that grant. I'm part of Verizon's community branch off of their grant program, and IFundWomen is another one, which has a branch called IFundWomen of Color. You have to research, and I have a page on my website that lists these [resources.]
For more of Addie, follow her on Instagram @addierawr.
Featured image courtesy of Addie Rawr