When Yolanda Flournah-Perkins was sentenced to three years in prison during her senior year in college, she thought her life was over. But after her release, she pressed the reset button on her life and landed a job at a non-profit organization. Several years later, the wife and mom adds twice-published author, TEDx speaker, doctoral candidate, and, most recently, entrepreneur and founder of Swimmie Caps, a line featuring images of black and brown kids.
We caught up with Perkins to learn more about the inspiration behind Swimmie Caps.
Tell us about the aha moment that inspired you to launch Swimmie Caps.
While shopping in a local retail store, my kids (ages 4 and 6) expressed interest in wanting swim caps. My 4-year-old daughter was more drawn to the packaging. When we got home, my kids were ready to put on their swim caps and get in the pool. My son, Dwight, put on his cap without any issues. However, when my daughter, Bella, opened up her swim cap, she said it was “ugly.” When I asked her why, she replied, “because it didn’t have a black girl on it.”
Nevertheless, I told her I would purchase one online but I couldn’t find one with a black girl on it. I searched for about two days and realized that nothing like what she wanted existed…until now.
Photo cred: Swimmie Caps Facebook page
According to research from the USA Swimming Foundation and the University of Memphis, 70% of African Americans do not know how to swim. How do you think your company will contribute to empowering African Americans to learn how to swim?
Swimmie Caps is the first swim cap brand to feature images of black and brown kids to not only embrace their natural hair and skin tone but to encourage them to get in the water. Seeing a reflection of themselves on a swim cap isn’t about the graphics or illustration, but more so, it has everything to do with the reality that if African American children see a representation of themselves on a swim cap, it signifies that they too can become an Olympic swimmer or Olympic diver, or play on a water polo team and synchronized swim team. Knowing how to swim can be a huge factor in [preventing drowning fatalities].
What are the first three things you did to turn your vision into reality? What was your initial investment to get started?
- I searched Facebook Groups to ask if anyone had experience with illustrators. After a few days, I had two responses. I started working with both of them, however, I had a really great connection with one and I have been working with her ever since.Photo cred: Swimmie Caps Facebook page
- I started working with my illustrator and also started my engagement in those exact same FB groups. My illustrator would provide me with samples, and then I would discreetly share the images for feedback. I did this on Instagram and in several FB groups. I didn’t want Swimmie Caps to launch to crickets and therefore I made frequent posts on social media to keep people engaged.
- I ordered a few samples from the manufacturer and shared that experience of me opening up my samples on social media with my daughter recording. In fact, I didn’t even have a website up. All I had was the images from my illustrator and 12 samples, and a landing page for people to place pre-orders. I already had interest from social media, so I announced to my followers that pre-orders are available and that is how I made Swimmie Caps a reality.