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
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."
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.
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If you ever imagined doing yoga in a sauna – that's kind of what hot yoga feels like. Doing hot yoga is like regular yoga with a twist - or, should we say, a lot of heat! The popular workout is basically practicing yoga in a room that's heated to around 95-105°F with elevated humidity. The heat is meant to mimic warm climates and help you sweat.
Why use heat? Well, the heat helps your muscles relax and become more flexible, which can make those yoga poses a bit easier to get into. Not only is all the sweating you do great for the body, but is also good for building strength and improving your cardio.
The end result makes your heart work a little harder, just like when you're working out through more strenuous forms of exercise. It's also believed that the heat can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
But, before you go to your first hot yoga class, you may be wondering what you should expect. Keep reading to learn more about what to know before you go!
What To Know Before Your First Hot Yoga Class
What To Wear to Hot Yoga
Do wear light, breathable clothing.
Opt for moisture-wicking fabrics that allow your skin to breathe. Think lightweight tank tops, sports bras, and shorts or yoga leggings. The less fabric, the better to keep yourself as cool as possible.
Don't wear cotton.
While cotton might be comfy, it soaks up sweat and stays wet. If you must wear cotton, you can, but do your best to avoid it and opt for moisture-wicking fabrics like we mentioned above instead.
Do wear shorts, but the right yoga shorts.
If you're into shorts, go for it! They'll keep you cooler and give you more freedom of movement. Just make sure they're not too loose and won't ride up during poses.
Do wear a sports bra.
A good, supportive sports bra is a must. You'll appreciate the extra support and the feeling of being free to move without restrictions.
Don't wear jewelry unless it's minimal.
Less is more here. Avoid wearing too much jewelry, as it can get uncomfortable when you're sweating by the bucket.
Is Hot Yoga Safe To Do?
Absolutely, sis! Hot yoga can be safe as long as you approach it with the right mindset and take a few precautions:
Listen to Your Body's Needs: This is rule numero uno. Pay close attention to how your body is feeling during the practice. If something doesn't feel right or if you're getting dizzy or nauseous, take a breather.
Stay Hydrated: We can't stress this enough! You're gonna be sweating A LOT, so make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hot yoga session.
Start Slow: If you're new to hot yoga, take it easy in the beginning. Maybe start with a shorter class and gradually work your way up to longer sessions as your body gets used to the heat.
Bring a Mat and Towel: Get a good-quality yoga mat and a towel. The towel isn't just for wiping away sweat (which you'll be doing a lot), but you can also lay it on your mat to prevent slipping.
Understand Your Preexisting Conditions: If you have any health concerns or medical conditions, it's a good idea to chat with your doctor before going ham with hot yoga.
Take Breaks: It's totally cool to take breaks during class. Don't push yourself too hard. If you need to sit down or lie down for a moment, go for it. Don't feel pressured to push through. Also, remember that it's okay to leave if you need to leave.
Your well-being comes first.
What Does Hot Yoga Do?
Hot yoga brings a whole bunch of benefits to the table. Here are just a few things that it does:
- A boost to your flexibility: As we mentioned earlier, the heat warms up your muscles and makes them more pliable, so you can stretch and bend into yoga poses with a bit more ease. Say goodbye to feeling stiff!
- Increased strength: Those poses you strike in hot yoga? They're gonna give your muscles a solid workout. The heat adds a little extra challenge, making your muscles work even harder.
- A cardio workout that's not running: Your heart is gonna get a workout, too, thanks to the heat. It pumps blood more efficiently, giving your cardiovascular system a nice boost.
- Reduced stress levels: The heat and the flow of yoga can help calm your mind and reduce stress.
- Improved circulation: The heat dilates your blood vessels, which can lead to better blood flow and circulation.
- A better mind-body connection: Hot yoga encourages you to be present in the moment. As you focus on your breath and movement, you're fostering a stronger connection between your mind and body.
Is Hot Yoga Okay? How Can I Practice It Safely?
Practicing hot yoga should be approached with care. As exhilarating as it is pushing your body this way in the name of self-care, you have to be cautious, too. If you're new to hot yoga, let your instructor know. They can offer modifications and keep an eye on you during class.
Don't push yourself too hard. The heat can make you feel super flexible, but that doesn't mean you should force yourself into intense poses. Listen to your body and take breaks when needed. If you start feeling nauseous or dizzy or your skin gets clammy, it might be a sign of heat exhaustion. Get out of the hot room, cool down, and hydrate ASAP.
Something else to keep in mind is that hot yoga can be a challenge, but remember that it's not a competition. Focus on your own progress, and don't compare yourself to others in the class.
As with any workout, it's important to balance hot yoga with other forms of exercise and recovery. So, if you're craving a unique yoga experience that's as good for your body as it is for your mind, hot yoga might be the move!
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