23 -year old Dutch entrepreneur, Jaël Hofwijks was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. She used that inspiration to embrace her melanin features and to start her own T-shirt brand Melaninfinity. Launched in June 2017, her business is inspiring black millennials in the Netherlands.
Q: Tell us about Melaninfinity and what inspired you to start your brand and business?
A: Because I’m a frequent Instagrammer and follow a lot of Afro-American bloggers and influencers, I became aware of the injustice towards blacks in the US. I was amazed by how much black bloggers and influencers fought for their communities and loved the skin they’re in. It inspired me to do the same. So I decided to become more invested in the Afro-American community.
At some point, I came across a clothing brand selling t-shirts just like mine. I liked them and decided to click the link in their bio, intending to buy one of their t-shirts. While checking out I came across a lot of difficulties. For example, I could only pay by credit card or PayPal (which for some reason I refuse to use), and secondly shipping beyond American borders was expensive and took way too long.
That’s when the idea of Melaninfinity started building in my head. I figured there are a lot of Dutch black girls and guys, just like me, wanting a T-shirt that represented them but being unable to buy them. So, I decided to make it a lot easier for them!
Q: Knowing the message (Blacklivesmatter) behind your business, what do you hope to achieve through your brand?
A: I noticed that the Black Lives Matter movement in the Netherlands isn’t as alive and big as the movement is in the US. Yes, our men aren’t getting killed by the police, but racism, in the Netherlands, is at an all-time high right now. Pointing out things like Black Pete and the reactions it provokes from some people, proves that racism isn’t dead yet. It’s getting worse, becoming more visible and yet accepted by too many people. I want to change that. I want to wake people up, tell them that they’re worth so much more, tell them that they are beautiful and should be hella proud of the skin they’re in. That they matter. I really do dream of a world without racism and I think the Black Lives Matter is a good way to start.
Q: Next to your business, what socially focused endeavours are you engaged in? What do you do to inspire and contribute to the well-being of your local community?
A: To be honest, ever since I became a mother, I stopped actively supporting and helping my local community. With my background in Educations, I used to volunteer at Home Start, an organisation helping parents who are momentarily having a hard time raising their children. However, when my son gets older and more in independent I hope to start doing something for our young black girls. I noticed that a lot of them are struggling with insecurities, ending up in places they shouldn’t even know about. I’m not sure of how I want to shape my ideas, but my thoughts go towards a community centre just for girls.
Q: What are some of the challenges you faced when starting Melaninfinity? And how did you overcome them?
A: Patience isn’t my strong suit, but patience is key when you’re building a business. So that was definitely my biggest challenge. The idea of Melaninfinity bloomed somewhere around August 2016 and it wasn’t until June 2017 that I launched the business. It took almost a year of brainstorming and preparations. I overcame this challenge stop by wanting everything to be perfect.
I knew that launching Melaninfinity to early would leave so many holes to fill, that it would be possible the business would fail. So, I spent those 10 months getting everything ready and perfect for the launch. And the other challenge for me was being depended on others. I needed someone to create the logo, take the pictures, build a website etc. But I was so used to doing everything my way and trusting my own vision. I learned to let go and let other people help me in the process of building a brand. Because doing it all alone isn’t possible.
Q: What is the best business advice you have been given?
A: I have an older cousin who always says: ‘Anything you want to achieve is possible’. He’s been saying it for years, but it was just a year ago I started taking it to heart. I do believe that you can achieve anything, but I’d like to add that you’ll have to work damn hard to get there.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who needs to courage to spread their message or to start their own business and brand?
A: There is no such thing as a bad idea for a message, business or a brand. But there’s such a thing as a badly shaped idea. When creating something, you’ll have to start from scratch. Think about your audience, your message, your budget and your recourses. And take all of these into consideration. Because if the base isn’t right it might just fail, because of one thing not considered. It took me a while to get these things in order, but I profit from it every day.
To find out more about Melaninfinity, visit their website.