|Her Dewberry Harvest|
Jacqueline Kennedy started her own retail brand in an economic downturn and hasn't looked back
Jacqueline Kennedy is a magical woman, capable of manifesting her vision through the alchemy of effort. When the economy transformed itself into an underfunded race for dollars and attention, she walked away from the security of a six-figure corporate position ... to enter the world of retail sales behind her own storefront, delivering designs and motifs she created on clothing and products bearing a brand she materialized from her juicy creativity.
"A dewberry is very delicious, but it's hard to get it off the vine," Ms. Kennedy related. That description amply relays just what it has taken to launch an original line and reveal a market that has been waiting for it.
She's been leading that market to her storefront on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles for the past two years - a way paved by a solid online presence since 2003. Visibility and direct target marketing through exhibiting and selling at LGBT pride, lesbian events and comedy shows by her partner Sandra Valls are some of the tactics she's employed to increase awareness of her brand.
Her customers have come to expect a sense of excitement and contemporary style from the Dewberry name, but Kennedy doesn't consider them to be customers. "Customer means transaction," Kennedy stated, "Everyone who comes into my store is a client."
The Dewberry client expects more than a retail experience. Kennedy recognizes and respects her client's choice to shop at her store. "They're using their hard-earned money, and their choice to come to my store makes me want to make them feel like they're at home."
"They rely on me to get them unique, authentic, different pieces," she said. Acting more as a style consultant and personalizing the experience, she's known for putting clothing together that not only looks good but makes a person feel good. "We all know," she advised, "When you look good, you feel good. It shows more on the outside."
She chose to call the venture Dewberries after tasting one. "The name sounds so sweet, fun, playful, girly. I wanted people to think, sexy and girly. Colorful, vibrant, pretty, sweet Dewberry. And very feminine." Like women, "They're not all the same sizes either. Curvy, different. No two berries are shaped the same. Some are tougher, some are sweeter. Some are fuzzy some are not."
The shifting economy is matched in shifting personal buying habits, and Kennedy has adapted by changing her retail philosophy. "Malls are manufactured all the same. Shopping at a woman-owned boutique brings a different experience," she said and added the "energy and the spirit are in the store."
Clients come in and "want to hang out." An inviting sofa resides in front of the counter. Her clients "come in and want to talk and shop. Then they return because of cultural events. They bring friends. They get enough nerve to get on the mic, sometimes with what they wrote right there" she said, referring to a new creative effort called the Dewberry Lounge.
This cultural center is co-directed by Kennedy and president of WorldTV, Ifalde Tashia Ashanti who contacted Kennedy after the successful national launch in Walgreens of the Dewberry Pride cooler. Within thirty days of their collaboration, they formed a non-profit and will host their first event July 5.
Their "Black Comedy Jam" premieres as one of the exclusive events of At the Beach Los Angeles (ATB-LA) Black Pride and Promote. In the midst of so many "people of color who are struggling, we unite." Kennedy said, "Laughing and celebration make you rise. We have to celebrate our lives and let the world know we're here. Through that we create more opportunities to network and work."
Dewberries reflects Kennedy's personal experience of coming out of the closet. "It was a birthing. I created my designs and directed an artist (to portray)... how I see the women of color. Black, Russian, Latino, Asian. I felt very empowered through coming out. It's about empowering, nurturing, uplifting, motivating women."
Kennedy was married sixteen years to a "wonderful man," but recognized her attraction to women after seven years and knew "something was missing." When she met her partner Sandra Valls, "it was a friendship based on a spiritual connection. I knew that was who I was in love with. I'd never felt that until I met her."
Through the cultural center, poetry nights and performances in the Dewberry Lounge, Kennedy is changing the world around her. As a mother of three sons she's begun focus groups with 9-12 year-old boys to find out how they feel about the world. "We forget all about them," she said. "We lose boys at that age. They're going to be the future and we need to get into their minds, so they won't be left out and will be empowered."
And back at the Dewberries store, a new product is about to launched nationally. Kennedy created one hundred containers of Dewberry natural body icing - an all natural product the skin directly absorbs - and the inventory was sold in three weeks. "Clients are clamoring for more," she said.
As she looks toward the future, and back at her once "secure" career and steady income Kennedy claims the territory of her present and declares, "I'm more than four walls, I'm global. All the lives I'm changing and the community I'm developing and the people I'm healing; I'd rather be a true entrepreneur and share my light with people than sit in an office. I'm here for change. That's my purpose in life."