In the fall of 2017, I attended Americana Luxury Handbags MOD Explosion at the Art Institute of Seattle. It was there I met the talented and stunning Joy Egbejimba, the creative force behind Nuciano™ handbags. I was so enamored with her beautiful clutch, I had to ask her if I could feature her work on What’s Up NW! From that chance encounter three years ago, Joy has become an incredible friend and I am so thankful for her presence in my life. With 2020 changing our world and opening up my eyes to what I had been blind to for 40 years, I wanted to hear what Joy had to say. I wanted and needed to learn.
You moved to the Seattle area from Nigeria over 20 years ago. Can you talk to me about how much your life changed since you came to the United States?
A lot changed for me, the people, culture, and the food. But I said to myself, this is now your new home, I must adapt and make the best out of my new environment.
You are the founder and the creative force behind Nuciano, a company that makes some of the most beautiful handbags, purses and clutches I have ever seen! Can you tell me what its been like for you as a black female business owner in the fashion industry?
Fashion industry is hard to navigate on its own and is harder as a person of color, but I am doing something that I love and that gives me the motivation to solider through the obstacles. For example, it was hard to break into the big retail stores, but I flipped the model including opening my own store, having presence in small and medium boutique stores and a robust direct to customer e-commerce model through Nuciano.com.
If you feel comfortable talking about it, are you willing to share some examples of times you have felt blatant racism towards you? What have you had to endure simply because of your skin color?
Please note that a lot of my customers are of all races, and I get love and support from everybody. I try not to let those kinds of people get a frown out of me, if you get to know me you would love me. I will not empower anyone to steal my happiness or change my view of life. It is saddling though, that in 2020, we are experiencing racism at levels that show we are not making much progress as a nation.
George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Eric Garner – these are just a few of many names of black Americans who have been killed by police officers over the last few years. Why do you think this call for change right now is different than the past?
Racism is not getting worse; it is getting filmed. There are more video evident of the stories that black people has been telling over the years and that has raised the awareness to today’s level and we hope that this is the last straw that will bring a real change.
How can white people help expose racism and create healing for those that have been affected?
There was an interview between Pastor Joe Olsteen of Lakewood church and Pastor John Gary of Relentless church. I think Pastor John, responded beautifully to this question, he said think of it like someone shot your child and respond in that manner. I feel like keeping quiet is like seeing someone urinating into the city water tank and not alerting the authority. It might not be your problem at that moment but sooner or later it will show up at your household.
How can we all support you and other black business owners, not just right now while it’s a “trending topic,” but into the future?
When we support a local black business owner, you are supporting and promoting your own community. Talk to store outlets in your area to stock with us, demand for our products to be sold at your local stores. There are numerous ways to support black owned businesses, please googles ways one can support black owned businesses. Help us spread the word about our products, give feedback so that we can do better, let others know about us, buy gift cards from black owned and gift them to your family and friends.