Shauna Harper and Selena Young prove some of the best businesses are born out of frustration. When the dynamic duo noticed it was hard to find unique and stylish Greek apparel, they created Define Me Greek, an online boutique specializing in signature definition tees for a variety of sororities and fraternities. “Our sorority’s national conference was coming to our hometown and we wanted to come up with something that would fill this void. We did a survey and hundreds responded and said they were looking for the same thing. This is when we realized it was time to take our ideas to the next level!â€
“Our designs don’t generally have the sorority/fraternity letters–and that’s intentional. Because of our unique concept, people will often inquire about the meaning of your shirt, giving you the chance to define who you are and what you do as an organization. This is especially important during a time when the perceptions of sororities and fraternities aren’t always positive.â€
Black Enterprise caught up with the founders of Define Me Greek to learn more about how they turned their idea into reality.
Black Enterprise: How did you come up with the funds to launch your business?Â
Harper and Young:Â We exhausted our personal savings accounts and borrowed against retirement funds to take a risk to pay for start-up cost.
Tell us about the moment when you realized your business could be successful.
We’re originally from California. We took a risk and exhausted our business account to travel across the country to one of the biggest sorority conferences on the East coast. We packed up the little merchandise that we had in suitcases and slept on hotel floors hoping to see if we could succeed in this arena. It was quite overwhelming to see the veteran vendors at the event. Our display consisted of one table, hangers, plastic bins, and shirts stacked on chairs. This was the best we could do based on what we had. Although we were the new company “on the blockâ€ our unique products grabbed the attention of the attendees. Not only did we sell out at the conference, but people recognized us from social media, too. This was the moment we realized we were on to something!
Do you both work full-time jobs? If so, what daily habits allow you to manage both a full-time job and “Define Me Greek?â€
Yes, we both work full-time jobs! Shauna Harper is a Budget Manager, wife, and mother of two. Selena Young is a Recruiter and wife. Managing all of these responsibilities is a daily sacrifice. We wake up early, go to bed late, and communicate all throughout the day to grow our business.
Any tips for women-led startups?
- Use your networks. Surround yourself with people you trust and who will give you honest feedback. We wouldn’t be successful without the support of our sorority, family, and friends.
- Do your research and know your competition. If you don’t know what others are doing or what’s happening in your industry, how will you set yourself apart?
- Start where you are. It’s easy to become overwhelmed and feel that things have to be “perfectâ€ before you get started. This could be holding you back. Just take the first step!
Since starting your business, what are the top 3 lessons you have learned?
- Act promptly on your ideas. In the beginning, we either missed out on time-sensitive opportunities or someone else came up with a similar idea.
- Always remember, customers are the foundation of your business. Excellent customer service is key. We make sure to take great care of our customers, from our responsive communication to packaging details and customer appreciation days. We always put our customers first!
- Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to fail. We’ve learned many lessons through mistakes.