Quantcast

This Liberian CEO Didn't See Herself Reflected In Mainstream Fashion Brands So She Created One

In this week's feature, meet Charlene Dunbar of suakoko betty.

Meet The SHEeo

With the rise of more and more black women breaking away from traditional 9-5s to become their own bosses, the CEO is getting a revamp as the SHEeo. CEOs are forging their own paths, blazing their own trails, and turning their passion into a profit. Curious to know how she does it? In the Meet The SHEeo series, we talk to melanated mavens leveling up and glowing up, all while redefining what it means to be a boss.

Growing up as a Liberian immigrant, Charlene Dunbar struggled to find clothing that celebrated her African identity and culture. Inspired by the stylish garments of her mom and Liberian church ladies, Dunbar decided to put a contemporary spin on traditional pieces, and in 2010 launched her brand, suakoko betty to give women a way to express themselves through unique African designs, prints and color combinations. suakoko betty was selected as a 2014 Belk Southern Designer Showcase winner and was sold in select Belk stores, and has since been featured in ESSENCE and made available at boutiques online and in cities across the Southeastern region.

In this week's feature, meet Charlene Dunbar of suakoko betty.

Courtesy of Charlene Dunbar

The Stats

Title: Founder/CEO of suakoko betty

Location: Atlanta, GA

Year started: 2010

# of employee(s): 2

30-Second Pitch: "Hate dressing like everyone else? Express your style and creativity with modern, African-inspired print dresses and separates by suakoko betty."

The Details 

What inspired you to start your brand?

I was inspired by my experience as a young immigrant and really struggling to celebrate my identity and culture as an African at a time where being African wasn't cool. I started suakoko betty as a way to celebrate African design and color and give women a way to express themselves.

What was your a-ha moment that brought your idea into reality? 

My husband was taking his music artist to perform at an African Arts festival in Memphis and I feel like God spoke and let me know it was time to start working on this vision for the "modern, everyday African-inspired clothing" I'd had in my heart for a long time.

Courtesy of Charlene Dunbar/suakoko betty

Who is your ideal customer? 

My ideal customer is minimalist meets artistic rebel. She wears bold colored or printed pieces and needs style that moves easily between work and play. She is always seeking new experiences and creative inspiration.

What makes your business different? 

We're fantastic about customer service and like to help our customers with styling and lifestyle inspiration.

What obstacles did you have to overcome while launching and growing your brand? How were you able to overcome them? 

One key obstacle was me understanding the importance of marketing my brand. I spent a lot of time on design, which is a strength for us, but wasn't always intentional about marketing and reaching new customers. I've overcome that by learning as much as I can, seeking out the expertise of others and making investments in marketing.

What was the defining moment in your entrepreneurial journey? 

A defining moment for us was being selected as a Belk Southern Designer Showcase winner. There was a grueling interview process and we were selected out of 300 applicants. When we won, we had to figure out how to make 10 times more volume than we were accustomed to and it really validated the need for our brand and what we were capable of.

Where do you see your company in 5-10 years?

I see suakoko betty as a household name known for stunning African-inspired design and for showcasing African artists.

Where have you seen the biggest return on investment? 

I've seen the biggest return on my marketing investment, as it relates to content and optimizing our website.

Do you have a mentor? If so, who? 

I have a few informal mentors; including trusted customers and store owners.

Biggest lesson you’ve learned in business? 

The biggest lesson learned is the importance of staying focused and not dividing myself across too many initiatives. I worked full-time while growing my business and had to learn to pick battles and be strategic in how I spent my limited time.

For more suakoko betty, follow them on social media @suakoko betty.

Gabrielle Union is not here for the label stepparent. While she became a stepparent after marrying Dwyane Wade in 2014, that doesn't mean that she wants to be defined by it. The actress spoke about the dislike of that term during her appearance on Glennon Doyle's "We Can Do Hard Things" podcast.

Keep reading... Show less
The daily empowerment fix you need.
Make things inbox official.

As Normani continues to make her stride as a solo artist since the disbandment of girl group Fifth Harmony, the singer has since leaned on Kelly Rowland for advice. And who better than Kelly?

Keep reading... Show less

It was actually pretty close to this time last year when I penned the piece "How To Get Through The Holidays If You Don't Observe Them". Unlike some of the other articles that I write for the site, I pulled that one from very personal experience. Being that my personality is very wired to "be good" on something once I know its origin, holidays are something that I tend to take a pass on; this includes Thanksgiving (some insightful reads on its origin are found here, here and here). Still, this doesn't mean I'm not aware of the fact that many people use this time of year to reflect on their blessings and to say "thanks" for all the good that has come their way. Since I like to write on relationships a lot, I thought to myself, "Why not come up with ways for people to show gratitude to their significant other?"

Keep reading... Show less

I didn't want to say that I was having bad luck. That's not something I'd ever want to speak into existence over my life. But I will say something wasn't right. I had a few coins stacked in my purse from a one-time project as well as from an ongoing one. Then I received emails from not one but two publications within days apart asking me if I'd like to contribute a few articles every week. Opportunities and money were flowing in. If you follow the law of attraction, you'd say I was vibrating on a high frequency.

Keep reading... Show less

Tinashe has learned a lot about her mental health while growing up in the entertainment industry. The singer/songwriter began dancing at four years old and had her first movie role at five years old.

From there, she went on to be in a girl group The Stunners and act in TV shows like Two and a Half Men. Now as an independent artist focusing solely on her music, the "All Hands on Deck" singer opened up about the struggles she faced in the industry.

Keep reading... Show less
Exclusive Interviews

'David Makes Man' Star Arlen Escarpeta Believes Love And Accountability Go Hand In Hand

"While we are quick to judge others, we really have to look at ourselves and call out some of the things that we do."

Latest Posts