Who Run This?
As we bring you creative, inspirational, and essential items that celebrate our beauty and culture, Mahogany also caught up with the sisters behind these successful businesses. We chatted with Keliah Smith, owner and creator of CRWND Illustrations, to find out what motivates her, who empowers her, and how she celebrates her Blackness.
What was your inspiration for starting this brand?
My actual inspiration came from some of the adverse encounters I experienced in the business world and as a woman of color. My art became a form of therapy. It helped me discover my voice and identity. It began as a desire to tap back into a childhood passion that helped me feel serene and at peace. I could lose myself in my art. After hitting a mental and spiritual low that left me feeling broken, unattractive, and inadequate, a need arose inside to draw women who looked like me but who embodied the complete opposite of how I felt. They would be strong, worthy, confident, rocking their natural hair, at peace with who they are—but most of all, they would be happy.
The need grew for wanting to find acceptance in my skin, my hair, my voice, this creative and unique individual who happens to be a woman of color. Making the decision to go natural with my hair was major; it was the beginning of learning to accept and love who I am. Going from a natural ‘fro to wearing my beautiful locs to where I am now, it has been the greatest affirmation—feeling free, confident, beautiful, and having that feeling of self-love that I’ve ever felt. And my art being the healing aspect of it all. It’s led to one of my favorite and most popular pieces called “Be Still.” Little did I know that by sharing it I would realize there were many women of color that could relate to my illustrations, to my words, to the way I was feeling. That became the icing on the cake, and the beginning of CRWND Illustrations! I’d say I turned my lemons into sweet lemonade.
What do you hope Black women will feel when they experience a piece of art from CRWND Illustrations?
When Black women see and experience my art and products, my goal is for them to feel seen, honored, celebrated and empowered!
How does it feel to receive support and engagement from our community?
It feels beyond amazing to receive the support thus far from my community. Where there has been a push of encouragement and confirmation, that lets me know I’m right where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to be doing—walking in my passion and purpose.
Who in your life encourages and empowers you the most?
My family as a whole (mom, dad, and brothers) truly has been a major source of encouragement, a sound voice, and a support system throughout this journey. Of course, my parents have played an even more major role in giving me that added push. My mom has been my cheerleader, and my dad has been that critiquing eye. Both have helped tremendously! My best friend also has been a MAJOR supporter, from feedback to supporting many of the local pop-ups I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of.
What advice would you give to a sister who wants to start her own business?
My advice to any of my sisters who may be wanting to start their own business is to first have passion for any endeavor or journey you want to embark on! Your business will become a HUGE part of who you are; things will attempt to break your streak or discourage you. However, the level of passion will forever determine how hungry you are, how bad you want it, and what you’re willing to sacrifice to get it. There will be many sleepless nights or days, frustration, confusion, isolation, moments when you may feel you’re not getting the support you envisioned. You truly have to drown out the negative noise and replace it with a positivity and faith to push yourself along. You must be your own cheerleader, even if most days you are the only one cheering.
Secondly, do not compare yourself to others doing something similar (or different). Your journey and path are yours alone, and everyone’s walk is uniquely different. Yours may look or feel grim and dim, but all the while there may be silent moves being made, places where your name is being mentioned or shared, opportunities being prepared, and doors literally being opened. Patience is key! Never trust what it may look like along the way, as that can be so misleading! Lastly, never give up. Take all the necessary long or short breaks, but keep going!
Here at Mahogany, we’re motivated by purpose, faith, and community, to celebrate Blackness 24/7. How do you celebrate yours?
As an artist and brand, I celebrate through empowerment, representation, self-care and sisterhood.