Alicia Patten is a New York native who by day works as a Senior Manager at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) national office, creating educational programs for blood cancer patients and caregivers. Alicia is also the creator and speaker on The LLS’s podcast, The Bloodline with LLS. She also serves as the CEO and Founder of Kindness Above Everything (KAE Collection) a clothing line that serves shoppers from all around the world daily.
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Marcus TBEC: Alicia, thank you so much for sitting down with The Black Excellence Chronicles (TBEC.) It truly is a pleasure to have an opportunity to chat with you and share your story! Let’s start at the beginning. When did you first get the idea of starting a fashion line? When was KAE officially launched?
Alicia: The idea of KAE was formed while on a trip to Uganda, Africa, in 2009 and 2010 while attending undergraduate school. A group of us flew to Kampala helping local contractors build classrooms for St. Pius Primary School. Several times on that trip I reflected on the importance of kindness. The kindness shown to us by Ugandans both before and during the trip, matched with our kindness and desire to help, created something beautiful and lasting. After graduating, I immediately began grad school in which one semester called for each student to create a ‘mock business’. When trying to think of what my business would be, my heart warmed with thoughts of the trip and I knew that my business would be something that promoted kindness, while also giving purpose to the dollars that we each spend every day. Upon graduating from graduate school, KAE officially launched in April 2015.
Marcus TBEC: Is KAE a solo-venture or did you have help creating it?
Alicia: My sister, Rae-Ann Patten and best friend Derissa helped me to get KAE off the ground and continue to serve as important players in helping to create new designs and plan community project. We actually have a few projects in the pipeline so make sure you follow us to keep posted!
Marcus TBEC: What gave you the idea of launching a fashion line named Kindness Above Everything?
Alicia: Kindness is extremely powerful and transformative and I think many people tend to think of kindness only as this abstract, distance, touchy-feely idea and rob it of its true strength. The letters ‘KAE’ come from my middle name, Kae.
Marcus TBEC: Clever! The fashion industry is no joke, and difficult to succeed in. What’s your recipe for success?
Alicia: Remaining myself, being surrounded by people who love God and love me, taking myself seriously and allowing God to truly lead me and mold me each step of the way.
Marcus TBEC: I know you’re a Christian. Has your faith played a role in your work?
Alicia: I sure am! God is incredibly kind and forgiving of me each and every day and I’ve done nothing to deserve it. I believe that as my walk with God matures, my passion for doing my part in adding kindness, to not only people’s closet but to their corner of the world, is what has kept me motivated and encouraged.
Marcus TBEC: Is it difficult to split your time between your day job and KAE? How do you manage your time?
Alicia: Honestly, it becomes difficult when mailing out orders. My day job is 9–5, my sister’s job is 9–5 and my best friend is in medical school. We are all incredibly busy so it can be difficult scheduling shipments while ensuring that the quality is not compromised along the way.
Marcus TBEC: People often say to stick with a day job until you are financially stable enough to jump into your dream job full-time. What do you think about that statement?
Alicia: There is no playbook for business. Best practices? Sure! But we’ve all heard stories ranging from someone having no experience and starting from nowhere, hitting it out the park, to the person who had the best business model and could not get theirs off the ground. I think if you have the vision and passion then go for it. But be sure to realistic about your timeline. If you want to go out on a limb and take a ‘risk’, then do so with full faith, however, be responsible and have a plan B.
Marcus TBEC: What has been the biggest struggle with running a clothing brand?
Alicia: Ok! You’re getting two answers! Consider this a bonus.
1. This is going to sound cliche, but inventory! Life is expensive on its own and adding a clothing brand to it just makes it more expensive.
2. Visibility. We receive comments from people who have told us that they saw someone wearing KAE in their town, which gives me hope that KAE is growing more and more. However, working 9–5 can also create a challenge in contributing the amount of time I’d like to bring awareness to KAE and its mission.
Marcus TBEC: Do you have a favorite KAE item? Do you have a best-seller?
Alicia: Yes! My favorite KAE item is our new denim dad cap that we launched this summer. I add it to so many outfits and wear it almost everywhere. We have it in both blue and black denim. My favorite is the blue denim. Our grey and black KAE logo unisex sweater is definitely our best seller. You never know what people will like. I absolutely love that people are responding so well to an item that is so bold and comfortable. It was my favorite before the denim caps came along. What I love about both items is that when I wear them, the day does not go by without someone smiling or commenting on the message. I love the feeling and that people are left with a message of kindness. You never know what type of impact you have on someone’s day.
Marcus TBEC: Why should people shop KAE? Feel free to brag!
Alicia: YAY! I’ve been waiting for my shameless plug!
People should shop KAE because this world needs to be reminded of why we are here, why God deemed it necessary to create us all in His image. There is beauty in diversity. There is beauty in paths crossing and stories being shared. The message of ‘kindness above everything’ is one that people should see and feel invited to do life with that person. No one can get through this life without kindness. Shop KAE, spread a message of kindness, and leave a message in this world.
Marcus TBEC: What do you like most about owning a clothing brand?
Alicia: I absolutely LOVE when people around the world share a photo of them wearing KAE. It is such a blessing to know that something I created is being accepted and valued by people of all ages and ethnicities. It’s beautiful and so humbling. It warms my heart.
Marcus TBEC: You have customers from around the world. Is there a country that surprised you to have KAE shoppers in?
Alicia: I was extremely surprised when an organization in Kuwait bought a bulk of KAE’s sweatshirts to promote the message of kindness in neighboring countries. That was our biggest order. The feeling I had when I completed that order was one that gave me peace and encouragement that KAE would do its part in changing this world. God has given me a gift, an idea, a spark, and I pray that I do what He has placed me here to do.
Marcus TBEC: What is your advice to anyone, especially younger Black women, who want to start a clothing brand?
Alicia: Data shows that Black women are the most undervalued group of people. My advice to younger black women is to take yourself seriously, know that there is always more to learn, so stay humble, and speak up for yourself, even if your voice shakes. There are many people who want to help mentor those behind them, so I would suggest that younger Black women reach out to that person that they admire. The one they may be hesitant to contact. Send an email, pick up the phone, ask around. The help is there but we’ve got to step out of our comfort zone to access it.
Marcus TBEC: Where can people buy and check out your items? Is KAE on all social media’s?
Alicia: Yes, as of right now, we are e-commerce so people can buy our items online at www.kaecollection.com. One day (soon I hope), we will be a brick and mortar. Our pop-up shops do really well, so if there is any university, shop, etc., reading this, have us pop in! We’d love to share KAE with your community! Yes! You can also follow us on Twitter: @kae_collection and Instagram: @kae_collection. We are also on Facebook: KAE Collection.
Marcus TBEC: Alicia, thank you so much for your time. You are such a positive light, encouragement, and somebody who displays the very best of humanity every day. You are Black Excellence! It is a true pleasure to share a little bit of your story. Thank you for sitting down with The Black Excellence Chronicles.
Alicia: Thank you for thinking of me. You are such an inspiration and I am honored that our paths crossed. Praying for your continued success.
Use code “bekindbegreat” for 25% off ALL items. Promo is valid for only 2 days.
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