If an opportunity to fill a need presented itself, would you take it?
I believe most people would say yes, but later find themselves discouraged from the leap and eventually quit. As rewarding as the work can be, filling needs, or chasing dreams, are never-ending, time consuming pledges anchored in mystery. The truth is, not being privy to how things will turn out, how long they will take and all that’s required to get there shocks most people. That kind of risk is encapsulated by fear, sleepless nights and constantly questions if you’re about that life!
On the contrary, one of the positives of “doing the work” is a special kind of exhilaration that spills off onto others. I’ve cupped pints of that exhilaration, or Black Girl Magic, by watching Vicki Sylvain bravely fill a need with her business The Shoe-B and her heartfelt foundation, the Quiescere Resource Center.
I had the honor of watching Vicki contend for a small business grant at Blogalicious Weekend last year. I remember how calm and collected she was as she waited her turn to prove why her business deserved the $5,000 prize. I took note of how prepared she was and how well she knew her business inside and out. Vicki’s demeanor was so humble and gracious, but when the attention was on her, she wowed the audience with passion and fervor about The Shoe-B and eventually won. Several months later, I interviewed her for Blogalicious and was even more impressed with her as an entrepreneur, calculated risk taker and human being.
Today, we’re blessed to get to know more about the woman behind the popular shoe accessory brand in our latest Girl Boss in the City entry. Do yourself a favor and fill your glasses with all Vicki has to offer! Enjoy.
Your product is something that women didn’t know they needed until they saw it. What helped you come up with that concept?
VS: Observing my surroundings and paying attention is what developed my product’s concept. Like most women I’d wear my favorite heels to networking events, parties, weddings, or church. Before the night was over, because the heels betrayed me, I’d have to change into my flats. I did not feel as sophisticated and confident leaving the event carrying my heels in a plastic bag. I’d find myself using a black “scandal” bag because I felt using a white supermarket bag would be worse. Then one day I saw a woman dressed in a beautiful gown leaving an event with a folded up Starbucks paper bag. At that moment I thought, “There has to be a classier way.” That’s when The Shoe-B was born.
What’s the biggest personal lesson you’ve learned since being a real girl boss?
VS: [I’ve learned to] trust myself. Believe that I was smart enough to get this far. Believe that I am bold enough to go against the norm. Believe that I was brave enough to take a leap of faith. I am enough!
How do you infuse your Haitian roots into The Shoe-B?
VS: My Haitian roots are what drive me. I decided to pursue the development of The Shoe-B because I wanted to focus more on my work in Haiti. When I think about The Shoe-B’s success, I envision the community center and educational compound I’ll be able to build in my mother’s hometown.
What does it mean to you to be Haitian and American? Do the experiences differ?
VS: I was born in the United States to parents of Haitian descent. That being said, I was raised with Haitian culture, ate Haitian food, taught and spoke the Haitian Creole language. Many will say that because I was born on US soil, I am American. I will always agree that I am an American by place of birth, but culturally I am Haitian. I feel an obligation to the women and children of Haiti. Therefore, everything I do is with them in mind.
The experiences do not differ. People are people first. Every culture and experience differs from place to place.
How do you implement self-care?
VS: I encountered a health complication last year that changed my mindset. I came to the realization that my physical and mental well-being was my responsibility. I had to take ownership of my story and be unapologetic.
Who or what has inspired you to get where you are today?
VS: Everyone that has crossed my path has inspired me. Each encounter, both negative and positive experiences, has a place in my story. They have all been lessons.
What advice would you give your younger self about a) life, b) love and c) goals today?
VS: Follow your dreams UNAPOLOGETICALLY! Playing small does nothing for you or the people you can help.
What are your top 3 values in life?
What advice would you give to the friends of aspiring entrepreneurs about supporting them?
VS: Believe in their dreams. Give them words of encouragement. If you do not know too much about the business they are considering, connect them with someone you know that may.
How do your friends best support you?
VS: My friends and family are extremely supportive. They believe in what I am trying to do. Most importantly they believe in me. They periodically call to check on me. They refer their friends to me for sales. They also plan dinners and outings from time to time to ensure I don’t get burned out. I love them!
Let’s talk insecurities. Do you suffer from them?
VS: Of course I do. When the journey gets really tough, especially financially, I wonder am I doing the right thing. I am currently delving into the retail space through boutiques. I am encountering a lot of “No’s”.
What were the biggest obstacles you’ve overcome recently?
VS: Funding is always an issue. However, by finding my voice and participating in various competitions, I have earned funds to help with meeting my business goals.
What does freedom mean to you, Vicki?
VS: Freedom for me is being able to pursue my passion of helping people without worrying about how I will financially support my initiatives and my family.
Any plans on the next chapter in your life?
VS: I am still on the same chapter, which is building my business and helping others the best I can.
What does #BlackGirlMagic mean to you?
VS: #BlackGirlMagic means having the audacity to pursue your dreams. Believing that you are capable of doing great things. Believing that you are a leader and you are able to help others do the same. Defying the impossible – not of what people thought was impossible to accomplish, but of what you thought you couldn’t accomplish yourself.
Where can we find you online?
Ariel C. Williams is the Editor-in-Chief of Slay Culture and author of The Girl Talk Chronicles (Amazon). Sound parenting, storytelling without bounds, and providing a space where Black women and Black boys (like she and her son) are celebrated for their greatness are things that keep her going. Tweet her @ArielSaysNow.