I first met the exquisite Cherelle Brown at the Top Drawer trade show as our stands were only a few metres apart. Her products immediately caught my attention as I had never seen such beautiful and unique cards and stationery.
Her brand, KitsCH Noir, has a clear and powerful mission: to create quirky, fun and contemporary stationery which champions the voice of the underrepresented. There is such a lack of diversity within the stationery industry and I am so happy to see all the success Cherelle is having.
I loved catching up with her recently to ask her a few questions about herself and the KitsCH Noir journey.
1. Could you please tell us a bit more about how you got the idea for KitsCH Noir? I.e. When did you realise that the world needed a brand focusing on British black people?
I got the idea when I began drawing cards of family and friends, I quickly came to realise that there were not any fun or humorous contemporary cards which featured black people that were not famous or celebrities. When I realised, I knew I had to do something ASAP! Strangely I realised this at age 28, I wish I could say I noticed it earlier, but I feel we are so conditioned to accepting that there are not alternatives in so many areas of life, it was just normal that I didn't have an option of buying a card that reflected my image.
2. I’ve always been intrigued by KitsCH Noir’s name and logo. Can you tell us how they came about?
The word “kitsch” means to have/enjoy something that others may perceive as cheesy or tacky. You have to have an acquired taste to see its value. I believe that is basically who I am lol, naturally my brand would have the same feel. Noir is black in French and obviously, the brand is focused on the fun and modern representation of black people. The logo has a really strong meaning to me as it clearly resembles an element from the periodic table. This is because we represent a substance that cannot be broken down. We are vital constituents of matter. We embrace our diversity, we encourage all to be proud in who they are. We believe by embracing and encouraging; we naturally empower.
3. A lot of people have ideas that they are passionate about but most just let them slide. How did you gather the courage to start KitsCH Noir?
I truly felt I was forced into it to be honest! The idea had been there a few months and I was really not happy in my current full-time job. I kept complaining to my partner about how much I disliked my job and he kept saying: "You know what to do". This made me angry, but I knew it was true haha. I was eventually made redundant and had the chance to devote all my time to something that really mattered to me. It was a no brainer, I had been given a chance to really make it work, no matter how scared I was.
4. What is your favourite part of running the business?
Meeting the people that buy the cards and hearing how the products made them or the recipient feel. Those comments and stories are honestly SO motivating and rewarding. I love seeing customers laugh and really understand the brand to a T. I love designing and seeing the end result and just really having the last say and going against what others direct me to do!
5. And your least favourite?
Having to juggle it all and wearing so many hats but I truly love it all.
6. We all need people to help us on our journey. Who has been KitsCH Noir’s biggest supporters?
My family and friends, but also many KitsCH customers that I have met online, it has been so beautiful to come across so many people that genuinely SUPPORT the brand and love what I create yet have never met me face to face. That amazes me and means so much. I never even imagined the kind of support that I have received from people online.
7. As someone who produces products that challenge the mainstream, what has been the overall reaction people have had to KitsCH Noir? Have you ever received any negativity and (if so) how did you react to it?
I am so happy that the overall reaction has been positive with complete understanding and often connection. However, I have come across an extremely tiny amount of uncultured people who don't understand it at all. I think it has got a lot to do with ignorance. Before even launching the brand, I was aware I would have to deal with this type of criticism, so I promised myself not to waste too much (if any) energy on it. The plan isn't to focus on getting a negative crowd to understand the brand, it's all about providing a product for the underrepresented and ensuring that they feel empowered and encouraged so I tend to focus on that.
8. What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own stationery business?
Find your niche, don't be afraid to reach out to others in the industry because the people I have met so far have been so helpful and friendly.
9. How do you approach new stockists?
I have been lucky enough to have some approach me! My best way of approaching them is at trade shows and giving a little chat about the brand and what we strive to do.
10. You never really know how demanding running a business is until you do it yourself! How do you find a balance between work and other parts of your life?
I try my best to make the most of my weekends and still treat them as weekends, even though it is really hard to switch off. I try to literally switch my phone off as much as I can, especially when I'm with loved ones. Which has resulted in me leaving/forgetting my phone a lot recently!
11. What book would you recommend to our readers and why?
Girl Boss by Sophia Amoruso is one of my favourites and a current book I love to refer to is What a Time to be Alone by Chidera Eggerue. Both books are super inspiring and are written by beautiful successful women of course.
12. What has been the toughest challenge you’ve had to overcome on your journey?
Probably starting up and trying to explain the vision to people that didn't understand it. The look on their faces is as if you are delusional! It has been a struggle but it's all starting to pay off.
13. What has been KitsCH Noir’s biggest achievement?
Winning 'Best New Product' at the Stylist Live retail awards. That was such a shock for me, I was so happy and felt I had really achieved something great.
14. What are your plans for KitsCH Noir in 2019?
Oooo, where to start! I will be making a debut at Progressive Greetings Live on the 4th & 5th June and will be taking part in some exciting collaborations later in the year! Follow @kitschnoir on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date!
Thank you Cherelle for taking the time to let us know a bit more about the world of KitsCH Noir! Make sure you check out their website and follow them on social media.