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BAIYINAH BROOKINS

FROM THE START: A chat with the founder of The Woven Kente

A picture of Baiyinah Brookins in front of a yellow mural of people’s faces.
Baiyinah Brookins, founder of The Woven Kente.

Too often, we learn from other founders only after they’ve “already made it,” but there’s a lot to gain from their journeys as early-stage entrepreneurs. FROM THE START is an interview series with founders from our 2021–2022 Incubator that will trace their startup stories from the beginning, reveal some of the resources helping them overcome the bumps, and point out ways you can help them thrive.

Since joining the Incubator in May, all of the companies have been hustling to get their brands and businesses out there. Now it’s time to get to know them!

Some answers have been edited slightly for brevity.

What’s been the journey that’s led you to start your company?

Initially, I started The Woven Kente when I realized that if I devoted the same energy working for others as I did for myself, I could create a business that would thrive. I saw my parents create a business that allowed them to be self-sufficient, so I knew it was possible. There is a certain amount of grit that is needed to start and maintain a business through the inevitable ups and downs. I understood the needs after working in the industry for over ten years. I worked in retail most of my life, and the last retail position I held before the pandemic was as a supervisor of the Natural History Museum gift store. I dove in headfirst; I knew the demographic that I was marketing to. My vision was always to create a business that had a variety of products to serve this niche. After pivoting my product mix and having a successful year during the pandemic — in spite of the circumstances, I knew I was more than capable — I knew that it was time to level up.

The Woven Kente supports vendors & artisans that have strong ethical, social, and environmental values by producing and curating a collection of small-batch, handcrafted products for the African American millennial market.

What’s the problem that your business is solving?

After talking to thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of customers, I understood that they were looking for a culturally specific marketplace to purchase products that celebrate and affirm their cultural heritage and history. The Woven Kente meets that need by providing customers with a highly curated collection of products. It is the unique insight that I have in the market that sets me apart from competitors. I have an understanding of this market after having worked in the industry for over ten years. I know my customer’s needs because I am my customer and because I have had the opportunity to speak to so many people over the years.

What has helped you overcome the bumps you’ve encountered so far in your entrepreneurial journey?

I think the biggest hurdle in my journey has always been myself. Innately I know that I have what it takes to grow this business and realize my dream, but sometimes there are self-doubts that come up in the journey. Although last year was a time of great hardship and difficulty, it gave me a glimpse of what was possible. It was a difficult year, but as I pivoted my product mix for the business, I soon realized that I could have a successful year regardless of the circumstances.

“Being an entrepreneur means having the persistence, in the face of naysayers, in the face of hardships, in the face of lackluster sales, to press on and continue.” — Baiyinah Brookins

What does being an entrepreneur mean to you?

Being an entrepreneur means having the persistence, in the face of naysayers, in the face of hardships, in the face of lackluster sales, to press on and continue. There are a lot of weird tropes surrounding entrepreneurship, and I think most people forget the hard work needed to make a successful business a reality. There are times when you will lack the motivation, get a bad review, or a family member or friend may doubt your abilities, but you still have to press on even with no one cheering for you. You have to overcome major mental hurdles in order to realize success.

What’s a resource or tip that’s helped you develop as a founder and move your business forward?

Constantly ask for feedback from your customers and try to improve your business in a small way each day. When you receive criticism or feedback that can help your business “take the L” and use it to level up, make sure you thank the person! Pairing with an accelerator or an incubator will help tremendously because the team will lead you to resources that will help you grow your business so that you can flourish.

What’s next? How can our readers help you?

The Woven Kente provides a curated collection of artisan goods and products specifically designed to meet the needs of the black millennial market. We source our products from BIPOC artists, entrepreneurs, and artisans. If you are interested in purchasing a gift for a friend or yourself, head over to our website at www.thewovenkente.com. We’re also on Instagram @TheOfficialWovenKente and all other platforms @TheWovenKente. Like, Share, and Follow the Woven Kente for updates!

FROM THE START: Baiyinah Brookins of the Woven Kente

Learn more about The Woven Kente.

Visit: https://thewovenkente.com/

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From fledgling tech companies, healthcare innovators, and nonprofits to makers, creators, services and shops, Ascender is for Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurs. We help businesses of all types in the Pittsburgh region start and build a business through education and connectivity. See how Ascender can help you.

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Ascender is a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit and vibrant hub with educational programs for entrepreneurs, mentorship, expert coaching, incubation, and collaborative coworking space that helps drive entrepreneurship, innovation, and growth. Visit: www.ascenderpgh.com.

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Ascender is a vibrant hub with educational programs, mentorship, expert coaching, incubation and a collaborative coworking space that helps drive innovation.

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