Online communities have become a safe space for the massive convening of alternative Black women and men. There are spaces for nerds, cosplay enthusiasts, hardcore vintage wearers, punk-rock lovers, and plain old awkward introverts. In these groups, members are encouraged to be themselves and often meet up locally to assemble over their latest obsession. For quirks who’ve grown accustomed to being alone or misunderstood, these interactions are rightfully coveted and necessary.
A budding favorite amongst alternatives is Quirktastic, a media outlet for quirky millennials and creative entrepreneurs of color. With bold, bright colors and sharp clean lines, Quirktastic captures fans’ attention and constantly hits them in the feels. The brand boasts 1 million monthly views across the United States, Canada, and South Africa, with exclusive music, tech, and full out geeky content. What makes this outlet so special is its founder, Bryanda Law, 25, who’s mastered what many creatives struggle with: allowing her true self to inspire others, cultivate a positive niche community and brand, and produce steady income.
Being quirky and creative “out loud” can be scary so having ample time to recluse as well as a support system are vital. In this interview with Slay Culture, Bryanda shares how she built her quirky brand while finding time to prioritize mental health and self-care. She also yields ways entrepreneurs can reclaim personal time by hiring staff for short projects or long-term.
Tell us about your family dynamic and friend-circle.
Bryanda: I am from Rochester, New York; however, I grew up mostly in Charlotte, North Carolina. I grew up with both of my parents and two twin brothers, 22, and am also really close to my mom’s extended family. My circle of friends includes one best friend, an awesome roommate, my line sisters (I’m a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated), as well as a lot of online friends from around the world.
Who makes up your support system?
Bryanda: Definitely my family recently. My mom went from being pretty skeptical to becoming my biggest supporter. Also, my online friends in the media are an amazing support. Victoria Mason of Black Bloggers United, Jacque Amadi of Adorned by Chi, Alana Ladson of Alana Ladson’s Art, Eboni Merriman of Lost Queens and Sebastien of The Gay Bestie have been long supporters and good friends of mine. These are all people that I first met online. I ‘m still really close to the people who were in my blogging tribe back when I had my blog, Quirky, Brown Love.
How and why did you start your brand?
Bryanda: I started what was first a blog in October 2014. At first, it was just a distraction because I was originally applying for medical school. I started it because I was tired of the way that black people were being portrayed in the media and wanted to counteract the mass media with positive stories about quirky people of color. As the blog grew, I shaped it into a media company, Quirktastic Media and the media outlet Quirktastic, for quirky and alternative people of color. My goal was to create the media outlet that people wished existed when they were growing up quirky, alternative and Black. There was no other site dedicated to creating black-business lists that cater to quirky Black women or anyone writing love letters to Black men who play with LEGOs. I wanted to be that site.
Bryanda: I’m supposed to say yes here, but I want to make sure that I’m honest. While my life has improved, it’s not a resounding “yes” improvement. Building a brand that you intend on growing for a long time takes a lot of investment and patience. I still feel like I’m in a growing phase, so I am investing almost as much as I am making.
When I rebranded and created a new site for Quirktastic from Quirky, Brown Love, I didn’t realize that I had almost a completely new audience, even though I felt like my mission was the same. This caused traffic to drop, which also caused revenue to decrease. After I realized that it was because I was making content for a new audience, I realized that I needed to have my writers create more “staple posts”, posts that directly reflected the mission of Quirktastic and showed us as an authority in our mission statement. This has definitely been helping.
To get back to the original question, now that I have quit my other career job as a cytogenetic technologist, I have more time which has definitely improved my quality of life. Instead of having to fit all of my work for Quirktastic into three days a week, I can spread my tasks out throughout the week and relax a little bit more.
What has entrepreneurship taught you about yourself?
Bryanda: Entrepreneurship has taught me that I’m stronger and more resilient than I thought I was. While I’d say that I’ve always been a pretty mature person, people still have the first notion to “baby” me because I have a genuinely nice demeanor and look about 8 years younger than I really am. I used to be shy and very introverted; however, entrepreneurship has forced me out of those ways. I’m still introverted and can only take a limited amount of social human interaction; however, I can genuinely initiate and hold a conversation with anyone now, from a reader of the site to a potential partner or investor (with a little preparation). Also, I realized that I have a high tolerance for rejection. No matter how high your stats are, you can and will still get rejected sometimes.
How has it affected your friendships or intimate relationships?
Bryanda: While some of my friends and family members might disagree, I do my best to make time for the people who matter in my life. My mom might be mad that I don’t call to talk to her every day, but I always make sure to drive the hours that it takes to show up and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and birthday in person or to go all out whenever she needs a pick-me-up. I also have a weekly outing with my roommate and friends, talk often to my best friend and make an effort to show up for or at least text my line sisters to let them know that I miss them.
As for romantic relationships, I’ve realized that the person that I talk to has to also be working towards their passion, and that doesn’t have to mean entrepreneurship but it definitely helps. I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with a guy who is very involved in his passion and other work but also makes me feel special by having great communication and taking some time out every day to call me, even if it’s just for a few minutes. For other women who are out there dating entrepreneurs, no matter how busy a person says that they are, they can always make time for you if they value you. I’ve talked to guys before who would claim that I meant the world to them, but would go days or a week without communicating with me because they were “busy”.
As someone who is also very busy, I should’ve known that it was a bunch of B.S.
You dropped some gems there! Let’s talk about the most important relationship — the one you have with yourself. How do you self-care? Is it a priority for you?
Bryanda: I’m very simple and almost tomboyish when it comes to self-care. I haven’t had a manicure or pedicure since senior prom about 7 years ago and it actually does the opposite of relaxing me. The way that I self-care is by getting enough sleep at night and protecting my energy during the day. Protecting my energy means eating well, getting some sunlight and surrounding myself with other people that don’t attract copious amounts of negative energy. I have a philosophy that protecting your energy is one of the best ways to respect and honor God because it allows you to live longer and healthier to fulfill his mission for your life.
(Bree is pictured in Adorned by Chi’s Black & Proud crop top.)
Let’s get into mental health. Depression and anxiety are real in this digital space.tHow do you deal? Is it your self-care that helps or something more?
Bryanda: Isn’t this the truth? Depression and anxiety are unfortunately a very real and present part of my life. When I had my full-time job, I had so much anxiety about going to work that now that I’ve quit, I feel like I still have some post-partum from it, which I didn’t expect. Outside of that, depression and anxiety are definitely a daily and sometimes hourly struggle. I feel like every entrepreneur probably experiences manic depression because of all of the highs and lows that come daily with this profession. One moment, I could be so high from an accomplishment or breakthrough that I had and then an email or a mean tweet could make me ask why I’m even trying anymore.
I swear that some days, depression tries to walk me to my bed and press me into my mattress until I become one with the coils. There are days where I just feel a brain and body fog that just feels heavy and overwhelming. On these days, I used to just give up and lie there. Now, I set a timer on my phone for about 2 minutes to give myself time to feel the emotions (or lack thereof) and then I force my feet to start moving and my body usually follows. I go through the motions of taking a shower, brushing my teeth, putting on the easiest and cutest clothes, gather my things and get into my car. At this point, my mind is still usually in my bed wondering where my body thinks it’s going.
To get my mind on board, I turn on an inspirational podcast about entrepreneurship or start reciting affirmations until I somewhat believe them. I’ve also started saying aloud what I’m grateful for, which helps a lot. Of course, at first my gratefulness is very facetious, with me giving thanks to things like only having one overdraft fee instead of two or giving thanks that my parking ticket was only $20 instead of $2,000, but then I get serious and start giving thanks for real.
As a young woman in business, how do you block out the noise when it comes to executing your next idea?
Bryanda: I don’t ask just anyone for advice. People are almost always going to be against change until they see it. I sent out a survey to my audience about changing to Quirktastic and literally, every person responded saying that they hated it and didn’t know why I wanted to change. Now that I have changed, I have more of my target audience and have had a lot more opportunities to work with brands and even potential investors. I would have never experienced that if I listened to the naysayers.
Great advice! Your brand looks incredible. How did you expand the way that you have?
Bryanda: Thank you so much! I actually designed everything myself. I’d say that it was easier to expand once I honed in on the mission that I wanted to pursue. Focusing on quirky and alternative people of color helped me decide what content and visuals to create, especially since I am basically my target audience. I’ve also expanded into a team of writers, interns, and a Brand Account manager, which allows me to focus on more of the business side of Quirktastic.
Can you share insight to our readers how they can successfully hire a team to regain hours to their personal lives?
Bryanda: Hiring a team and deciding who to bring on seems to be a pain point for many online entrepreneurs, so I will be specific in the steps that I took.
First, I really decided what exactly I needed in my business and I did this by seeing what tasks I either didn’t have time to do or have enough knowledge to do. For me, I didn’t have enough time to write the amount of content I wanted, I wasn’t the best at negotiating brand deals and I don’t know a lot about PR. Therefore, I hired writers, a Brand Account manager that gets commissions of deals she negotiates, and a communications intern that seeks our interview opportunities. Next, I wrote the job descriptions, decided how much I could pay, made a “Careers” page on the site using a Powr.io application and posted on social media. From there, I interviewed in pairs of two because for my staff structure, almost everyone works with another person.
My advice for anyone who has had a problem with interns is to hire two interns and interview them together. It will give them more of a sense of community and will give them another person who is not you to be responsible to.
After staffing, I suggest using the free version of Asana to assign tasks. No matter how “independent” someone says that they are when it comes to working, give them as much direction as possible starting off. Let them prove to you that they are independent, instead of assuming that they don’t need direction and getting mad when they don’t produce your desired result. Regularly telephone your staff. As someone who hates talking on the phone in general, I really do love talking to my staff and I can tell the difference in morale when I do make time to talk.
As for regaining hours, you have to invest in automation tools. When arguing with yourself about if you really need to spend the money on that social media scheduler or email app, evaluate how much time you would spend doing the task without automation and then evaluate how much an hour of your time is worth. If an hour of your time is worth more than what you’d pay for a month of automation, it should be a no-brainer.
Wow. Your tips are detailed and straight to the point. They can help so many people. Since you have those things in place, projects or collaboratives are probably easier to manage. What upcoming project or new release should we look out for?
Bryanda: I’ve been really excited about our e-commerce shop, The Quirk Shop! It’s the place where our target audience can get cute t-shirts, pillows, and mugs that cater to the quirky life style. We also now have a Patreon.
Finally, can you share one thing about yourself that people don’t know, Bryanda?
Bryanda: I’m sure that people learn this whenever they spend enough time with me; however, I am such an empath. I have this weird mental thing where I imagine people that I’m mad at as a toddler version of themselves because it makes it easier for me to see their innocence and forgive them. Another thing is that I’m pretty fascinated by astrology (I’m a Cancer), even as an open-minded spiritual Christian.
Ariel C. Williams is the founding editor-in-chief of Slay Culture. She’s a millennial who’s down for the culture, loves Netflix, and pegs Master P as one of her entrepreneurial heroes. Buy her book The Girl Talk Chronicles here. Follow her at @ArielSaysNow everywhere.