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Hey Girl Hey!

Aspiring Co. is here to remind you to chase your dreams relentlessly and to inspire you when you feel like giving up. We are telling the stories of women who are fighting everyday to pursue a life of meaning.



In this article, we talk to five amazing black women about their businesses, the inspiration behind them, and what #BlackGirlMagic means to them.

Name: Andréa Butler

Business: Sesi Magazine- A teen magazine for Black Girls

Title: Editor-in-Chief and Publisher

1. Tell us a little about who you are.

I’m Andrea, I’m 35 right now, but I’ll be 36 in March. I grew up loving to read and write ever since I could basically. I always knew that I wanted to be a writer in some way.

2. What sparked your interest in working with Sesi Magazine?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with magazines. I would go into a store and be like “I need one, I need to buy one!” And I would ask my mom for money… she told me I had a sickness because this would happen every time we would go into stores! One day, when I was 17, I was lying on the floor in my bedroom and I had about 6-8 back issues of YM, Seventeen, and Teen People all around me and as I was flipping through the issues a thought popped into my head. A literal strike of inspiration hit when I noticed that there was never anyone who looked like me on the covers. Usually there would be one token black girl inside of every issue but I couldn’t use her hair tips or makeup tips because she wasn’t my skin tone or hair texture. I thought, “If something doesn’t change by the time I am done with school, I will start a magazine myself.”

3. Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

I think I am actually most proud of just doing it and actually launching the magazine because when I think about it sometimes, I am really like “I don’t know how I did this!” I didn’t know what I was doing! Shannon (friend and art director) and I really just said hey we are going to do it and we did it!! We have improved a lot since 2009 when we launched with test issues. Even since 2012, we have more writers, new layout designs, we have more articles. Just getting over the fear and realizing that there is never going to be a perfect time and just doing it! I try to tell people that you don’t have to wait. Just do it and if it is supposed to work out, it is going to work out someway!

4. Who inspires you to be great?

A lot of people! My parents of course. They are really supportive. I think my ancestors also because first of all, collectively as black people, our ancestors survived the middle passage, 200+ years of slavery, Jim Crow, etc. That’s some real hardcore stuff! If they can do that, I can start a magazine!

5. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

Black Girl Magic to me means that as black girls, we have this unique blend of struggle, perseverance and faith. We not only survive, but we thrive. That is our magic.

Follow Sesi Magazine:

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Name: Courtney Coates

Business: koyVoca Cosmetics

Title: Founder / “The Cook”

1. Tell us a little about who you are.

In short, I was born and raised in the heart of Washington, DC. Went to the University of Maryland – College Park and earned a B.S. degree in Mathematics/Statistics. Now I’m the proud owner of koyVoca!

2. What sparked your interest in starting koyVoca?

My earliest memory of wanting to launch a makeup company was at eight years old. My mom bought me a makeup kit to play with, but none of the lipsticks, eyeshadows, or blushes were opaque enough to show on my skin tone. That feeling of disappointment planted the seed. The idea resurfaced my freshman year of college when I started wearing makeup beyond lipstick and mascara. There were still limited options for people with deeper complexions and I knew I could provide more!

3. Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

Starting my business is my biggest accomplishment! For the longest, I put the idea off to the side because of the fear of the unknown. After a while, I was able to gather the courage to pursue my dream, and I encourage anyone else out there with an idea to do the same.

4. Who inspires you to be great?

This is going to sound so cliché, but my mom! She is amazing at what she does, and has always encouraged me to go for gold!

5. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

I like to think of Black Girl Magic as this invisible force that motivates me to push through the obstacles I face. Being resilient, being creative, and accomplishing goals is Black Girl Magic.

Follow koyVoca Cosmetics:

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Name: Rekita Nicole

Business: Rekita Nicole Design Studio + Blog

1. Tell us a little about who you are.

I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. I am  the mother of three AMAZING kids, two boys and one girl. I started designing CSS and HTML codes in college, which was about 10 years ago. I created a personal blog but never blogged, just designed it. Lol. I always had this knack for coding and art. I love to draw and I always loved color.

2. What sparked your interest in starting Rekita Nicole Design?

I started my business actually when my husband at the time was deployed. I was unemployed and I had two little ones then and I was bored out of my mind. I decided to start designing different blogs that I made up. I realized I really loved designing. Then I figured I should make a business out of it. Rekita Nicole Design was born!

3. Who inspires you to be great?

My kids inspire me to be great. I want to prove to them that their mom, despite the odds, persevered. I wanted to show them that sometimes opportunity does not knock but you have to create your own opportunities and have people knocking at your door.

4. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

Black girl magic means that you have IT and no one or nothing can take IT from you. It is something that can't be tested or sometimes can't be taught. It is your God given purpose to the world.

Follow Rekita Nicole Design:

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Name: Kalyn Chandler

Business: Effie’s Paper :: Stationery and Whatnot

Title: Founder and Creative Director

1. Tell us a little about who you are.

My name is Kalyn Johnson Chandler and among other things, I’m the founder and creative director of Effie’s Paper :: Stationery&Whatnot.  People often ask, ”Who is Kalyn?” because my name is not associated with my company.  So, let me tell you a little bit about myself.  I’m a lawyer turned fashion stylist turned stationer/graphic designer (and sous chef to my husband when he lets me in the kitchen!). My weaknesses are diamonds, pretty stationery, Hermes scarves, sequins, french fries and metallics. I love a little touch of glam! And, I love to laugh (little secret-everyone looks better when they smile).  Oh, and I'm a co-author of The BAP HANDBOOK – The Official Guide to the Black American Princess.  I believe in having stylish stationery to pen thank you notes, love notes and just because notes to friends and family. And, I’m lucky because I’ve got a great team of young ladies who help keep me on the straight and narrow – I LOVE my girls!

Who’s Effie? Effie was my maternal grandmother who believed a lady should have the perfect shade of red lipstick, write a wicked thank you note and always carry a hanky in her pocketbook.

2. What sparked your interest in starting Effie’s Paper?

I’ve loved stationery and paper products since I was a little girl.  My grandmother and company namesake, Mrs. Effie Hayes, worked for Mitchell Greeting Card Company when I was a kid. So, I guess you could say that stationery is in my DNA. But, it wasn’t until I was planning my wedding that the idea of starting a stationery company began to germinate.  I had hired a London-based graphic designer to create a bespoke wedding stationery suite for us. Her printers were in India and we were running up against Monsoon season which meant that I had to find a printer here to print a lot of our wedding collateral (place cards, table numbers and the like). The more I learned about the manufacturing end of things, the more I felt like having my own stationery company might be the right thing for me. And then, about 6 months after my wedding, I was sitting at my desk writing thank you notes on stationery, aside from my wedding stationery, that I didn’t love and I had my AH-HA moment. I knew that I couldn’t be the only stationery connoisseur craving stationery that had a bit more of an urban modern edge to it. The name just came to me, I created the logo in a word document, and the rest is history.

However, as with any business, sustainability is about being able to scale.  I love stationery and wish that people would put down their smartphones more often to take the time to write and send handwritten notes; but that’s quickly becoming a pipedream.  So, a few years ago I started to think about the pretty things that I love and buy impulsively.  My morning routine consists of working out and going to my local coffee shop for a latte.  I’m a sucker for cheeky sayings, notebooks, fun wall prints and just about any desk accessory that’s glammy and makes me smile. Et volià, I had my whatnots!  Why have a boring water bottle at the gym when you could have a cute one?  I drink a lot of coffee and binge watch Netflix like a champ!  So, a travel coffee mug with “What Would Olivia Pope Do?” just made sense. Yes, effie’s paper still sells stationery, but our focus is no longer personalized stationery.  On the stationery front, we sell super cute boxed sets of blank note cards (with great  sayings) that make it fun to write those dreaded thank you notes during the holiday season.  Today our focus is on pretty desk accessories – cheeky coffee mugs and journals, chic post-it notes and notepads, fab wall art, cool key chains and cocktail napkins, fun nameplates for your desk and stylish makeup bags.  They’re all products that I use and love and love making.

3. Who inspires you to be great?

The inspiration from each is different, but I would say that my husband and my nieces inspire me to be great.  I haven’t quite achieved “greatness” – I’m not sure it exists; so, I just try to be a little bit better each day.  My husband is my biggest cheerleader and one of my harshest critics, he’s got great taste and I truly value his opinion. His unwavering belief in me and my abilities inspires me to work hard day in and day out to be a better spouse, daughter, aunt, friend, business owner and boss lady.  My nieces range in age from 10 to 18 and are all smart and talented.  Growing up in the age of social media is very different from when I was a teen, today if you’re not careful both your online and offline behavior can have long lasting repercussions in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was 16.  Since social media is now a fact of life, particularly for business owners, and I live my life online - my shop, my newsletter, my products, my social media feeds - I’m inspired by my nieces to post responsibly and create content and products that will appeal to them and inspire them to be all that they can be.

4. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

I’m lucky, like lots of your readers, I’ve been surrounded by dynamic black women all of my life – my mom, my grandmother, my aunts and my girlfriends. I guess birds of a feather flock together ….. We live in a day and age where Black women can be all that they can be and then some of what they never even knew to dream about becoming. We’ve always been strong and powerful within our communities and families, but it’s been until quite recently that our strength, our power and our skill sets have been valued in a truly meaningful way. Although based at a time long before the phrase came into existence, the movie Hidden Figures documents what Black Girl Magic means to me – it tells the incredible untold story of three real life sheros – mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – who each played an integral role in the launching of astronaut John Glenn into orbit. These ladies were secure in who they were and their abilities; they did their jobs, raised their families, looked out for one another and maintained their relationships. Black Girl Magic is persevering inspite of obstacles, continuing to do what you know is right in the face of adversity and doing it all with aplomb and grace.

Have you noticed the Black Girl Magic around you? From Serena Williams to former Attorney General Loretta Lynch to all the FAB women you know – it’s such an exciting time to be a Black woman making things happen – Black Girls Rock!! So to me, Black Girl Magic means the grace and elegance of Michelle Obama; the legal acumen of newly elected Senator Kamala Harris; the star power of Beyonce, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson; and, the imagination of Shonda Rhimes. Black Girl Magic is one of my BFFs who became one of the youngest Managing Partners at her lily-white law firm. Black Girl Magic is my other bestie who was handpicked by President Obama as one of his political appointees after doing a tremendous job while working on his campaign for 4 short months.   Black Girl Magic is all of the creativity and ingenuity we see online in the form of Black female entrepreneurs. I celebrate Black Girl Magic every day and encourage others to do the same – we have an entire collection of products for Black women celebrating their Black Girl Magic.

Follow Effie's Paper:

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1. Tell us a little about who you are.

Since first launching an award winning publicity agency in 2005, titled The Garner Circle PR, Nicole Garner Scott has blossomed into a successful serial entrepreneur.  Her newest ventures, 100 Female Entrepreneurs focuses on small business and business development training for women entrepreneurs. She’s also built a robust platform, which even further extends the reach of the mission - as well as launching www.OuiBusiness.Co business coaching practice.

2. What sparked your interest in starting The Garner Circle?

I knew I had a passion for entrepreneurship very early in life and when I got to college I had a great mentor that helped me to realize my skill set matched well with the public relations industry. I launched my PR agency my senior year of college. I had an amazing internship with an initiative Delta created to expose young African American boys to the aviation industry and the campaign hired me out at the end of my term and became my first client. Owning and running your own firm can be hugely rewarding; especially in providing you an opportunity to hire, train and work with some of the best and brightest but it is quite a challenging industry. Owning and running your own firm can be hugely rewarding; especially in providing you an opportunity to hire, train and work with some of the best and brightest. My achievements have not been my own but the result of a collaborative effort from an amazing team that have furthered the ability to help others within their journeys of entrepreneurship. The Garner Circle PR’s mission is to push the culture forward. My journey has taught me that maintaining top placement within your industry requires staying ahead of change and while having a willingness to ‘swim upstream'. I became an entrepreneur to make meaning every day.

3. Which of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

Winning the Phoenix Award which is the highest award given by the Mayor of Atlanta, opening offices in new markets and having the courage to bet on myself time and time again.

4. Who inspires you to be great?

I am creative, so inspiration can come from anywhere.  As creators, we are never fully satisfied. There can always be better. My professional inspiration has no separation from my personal inspiration: I am inspired by people who will stop at nothing to make a positive difference to other people’s lives, and that pushes me from good to great daily.

5. What does Black Girl Magic mean to you?

There is strength in Melanin. That sprinkle of magic that embodies our sassiness, dopeness, our sharpness, our talent, wit, beauty, style and skill. And by all means, protect your magic at any cost.


Follow Nicole:

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"Don't let anybody steal your magic, yeah... but I got so much y'all, you can have it!"

-Solange Knowles