Mahogany chatted with Natalie Henry, creator and owner of Pretty Peacock Paperie, to find out what motivates her, who empowers her, and how she celebrates her Blackness.
What was your inspiration for starting Pretty Peacock Paperie?
I actually started Pretty Peacock Paperie when I was going through postpartum depression. At the time I was doing custom graphic design for wedding couples. Having a newborn, experiencing a traumatic birth, and dealing with the wedding industry was very stressful for me. I was looking for a way to connect with myself after a difficult journey into motherhood. For me, it was art and self-expression that got me through that dark time in my life. My sister found an art class at a local museum for me, and my husband purchased the class. Attending the class brought back so many memories. I realized that there was still so much more to me. I realized I am still an artist, and I spent the next two months drawing designs for my greeting card line. Most of my line is either funny, colorful, or uplifting. I believe that women are so powerful, and I want to spend my life empowering them.
What do you hope Black women will feel when they use Pretty Peacock?
I hope we feel represented and seen. I hope that Black women feel empowered and uplifted when they consume Pretty Peacock Paperie products. At the end of the day, I make all my products with us in mind, and I hope that you enjoy them to the fullest extent. I believe that every day is a good day to make yourself feel special. So, whether that is a really nice journal, or sending a friend some love in the mail (or even bette,r getting some love in the mail), I hope that you feel special and cherished and loved. I also hope that my products help to heal the soul and instill hope for the future.
How does it feel to receive support and encouragement from our community?
It makes me feel brave and energizes me to keep going. Owning a small business while “mom-ing” is hard and sometimes times I think about quitting. But I think about our community and the representation that I offer to the market. I think about all of the times I walked into the store and didn’t see representation like myself growing up. I think about my daughter and son and how their faces light up when we walk into a store and see my products. So, receiving support and knowing that my community has my back makes me feel incredibly brave. The energy that we share is a circle, and I hope that I can give some of that back!
Who in your life encourages and empowers you the most?
That is a really hard question! My immediate family encourages and empowers me. So, I can’t narrow it down to just one person. My mom and my dad have always instilled a good work ethic in me and encouraged me to pursue my passions. At any point they could have dissuaded me and told me to get a “real” job. However, they have always pushed me towards my dreams. They even followed me to Atlanta to exhibit at the largest tradeshow I had ever done last summer. It was a blessing having my entire family with me on that trip as my soul was tested.
My sister is the strongest person I know. Last year, she battled breast cancer while juggling her literary magazine, working as the editor and chief of a YA magazine, and running her writing coaching business. Seeing how hard she works drives me to work just as hard. Any time I feel like I can’t do something, I talk to my sister. She persuaded me that I can do anything!
My husband Jeffrey supports me through and through. He has stayed up all night with me to pack large orders, helped me along the way if I ever needed anything, driven me to markets and photo shoots, and always pushes me over the finish line when I feel tired. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive spouse. I often get a side eye when I have a crazy idea, but he usually goes along with it!
Finally, I have my very own mini cheerleaders. My children encourage me and speak affirmations over me and my business. They are so young at just five and seven, but they always tell me good luck when I have in-person shows, motivate me to finish my day strong, and are first in line to sprinkle confetti over each order.
What advice would you give to a sister who wants to start her own business?
Just start and don’t look back. There will probably be mistakes, even if you are the most practiced person in your field. But the first step is to begin. The only way you learn is by doing, so just start. It doesn’t have to be perfect right now. Learn, make mistakes, but show up. The world needs you just as you are! I will also say to be open to new information. I am constantly seeking new information. I think learning has been one of the keys to making my business work! Seek knowledge daily and ask questions!
Here at Mahogany, we’re motivated by purpose, faith, and community, to celebrate Blackness 24/7. How do you celebrate yours?
I celebrate by acknowledging and practicing my culture daily. I celebrate every single time I teach my children of our ancestry. Embracing our roots and looking to the past is the corner stone of celebrating our Blackness. It is so important for my children to know where they came from and who their people are. Every dish that we cook, the music that we listen to, and our traditions are a woven tapestry of our Blackness. So, I celebrate daily! The older I get, the more I understand how important the sharing of our history is!
Anything else you want readers to know about you and your business?
If there is a moment when you are feeling on top of the world, empowered, excited, or happy, try to pass on that good energy. Good vibes should be shared! Now more than ever, we need good vibes in the world. I know it feels like we do not have any impact as individuals, but that is not true. We can change the world simply by existing. We can change the world by spreading our good energy. Keep passing it on! Pretty Peacock Paperie exists to uplift, empower, and solidify human connections. My hope is that you reach out to loved ones, stay connected, and share the good vibes!