KYBI: Past, Present, and Future

by Kyndra Bailey
PAST

About six weeks ago, I shared a post on Instagram detailing how this whole coronavirus pandemic turned out being good for me. I was on week 4 (?) of being stuck at home, with nothing to focus on other than my business and my anxieties about whether our wedding would happen or not. Wanting to avoid the latter, I had been putting all my focus into the former. And after 4 weeks of really truly focusing on nothing but KYBI, I felt like I had so much clarity about where I wanted to take this whole thing.

Then, about 2 weeks after that post, I sat down to write about it. All my KYBI hopes, dreams, fears, goals. And as I started to write, I couldn’t do it anymore. Something just came over me and I wanted to kinda crawl up in a ball and cry my eyes out, because seriously – who did I think I was, having dreams and goals when there are so many people who are better than me?

What ended coming out was a deeply personal blog post about doubts and imposter syndrome – something that I struggle so hard with. I don’t know where it came from. I had been thinking about imposter syndrome a lot that week, but never intended to write about it. But the truth was that it felt like the clarity I felt about my business disappeared as quick as it came. And I knew why I felt that way, so I wrote about it. A few days later, I wrote the actual blog post about KYBI’s future, but I wasn’t ready to publish it yet. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t. So I shared a DIY on some glitter shoes instead.

The same day I published that DIY blog was the day George Floyd was murdered by police. It’s now four weeks later, and his death seems like it was a major turning point for this nation – like the worldwide outrage has never been so loud, so strong, so immense. It’s something the Black community has been waiting for, and I feel sorry that it took the world so long to really wake up and listen. Black people were screaming about the this nation’s systemic oppressive systems, and the message they so often received was “shhh, you’re being too loud.”

As a white woman, I’ve always had a responsibility to speak up and educate myself on systemic racism. And while I learned about it in college, I never did anything past that. I told myself: “well, I’m not racist, so I’m not part of the problem.” But what I know now: if I’m not part of the solution, then I’m part of the problem. My skin is white, always will be. And as long as the systems in the US stay the way they are, I will always benefit from my white skin, and so will my business.

So it turns out that chickening out on my hopes, dreams, fears, goals blog post was good. Because my list of KYBI’s hopes, dreams, and fears wasn’t complete – never was.

KYBI has a mission statement: to empower, inspire and spread joy with quality products.

But this worldwide outrage and amplification of the struggles faced by Black communities made me realize that I’d never stepped back to examine how my business was achieving my mission past the products I was selling. The painful realization I came to was that I’ve only ever cared about my mission as it relates to profit. There are so many things wrong with that. We won’t get into them here. Grappling with the reality that my mission has only been surface level is something I can’t blog about; it’s a deeply personal issue because this business is very much a branch of myself. And while it’s a painful realization – it’s a necessary one. And frankly, I’m glad I realized this 15 months after KYBI’s founding, rather than 15 years.

While I want to get caught in conversations with myself about “poor me,” “oh, I didn’t know,” and “I’m jut one person,” I won’t. Because that doesn’t do any good for anyone, and it doesn’t do anything but center myself in these conversations.

So instead: I’m taking action to make sure my mission statement goes past surface level, especially as it relates to the Black community. There are a lot of actions I’m taking in my business, but I do not share them to virtue signal. I share them because businesses are – at their core – transactional. There will always be two (or more) parties involved. So it’s necessary that I write about the actions I’m taking, since KYBI customers hold a stake in my actions.

PRESENT

:Last Wednesday, I attended a live town hall about reimagining small businesses in the scope of the current climate. The overarching topic was all about what changes small businesses (as entities) can make to help better the lives of Black people. But what stuck out most to me was this: allyship is a verb – not a noun, not a place of arrival, not a title. It’s a never-ending commitment to take action against systemic oppression, whether the action is supporting Black-owned businesses, protesting, educating, donating, or anything in between.

So I took that quote, wrote it on a post-it note, and stuck it on my bulletin board. And I’ve been letting it guide me as I approach business now. Because what I don’t want to do is go back to business as usual. “Business as usual” means going through the motions, staying in my comfort zone, and not caring about the longer reach of my actions within my business. I can’t and won’t go back to that, because that’s also the world where my mission is surface level.

So here’s how I’m moving forward:

In regards to my products, I’m putting a lot more thought into the messages they’re sending. I want to make sure every item and quote chosen has a reason other than “well I just liked it.” I know my business has the power to do great things, and the more coherent my products are, the better chance I have of increasing my reach.

I’m also in the process of switching vendors so more funds can go back to the Black community. For example: I discovered that my sticker printer doesn’t agree with the Black Lives Matter movement. So I dropped them, and found a Black-owned sticker company. Eventually, I want to get to a point where 30% of my business budget is going back to the Black community.

And my favorite change: KynYouBelieveIt is now a proud sponsor of Pretty Brown Girls – an organization dedicated to empowering young girls of color. 5% of all KYBI profits are going to be donated to them from here on out, and I also just released three new stickers which will donate completely to them as well.

Past these changes, I’ve also been adapting the biz a bit more so that I have more time to work ON the business rather than IN the business. (Ex: batch producing my items, or outsourcing the production as a whole.) Doing this has a chain reaction which allows me to focus on things that matter most, which (hopefully) leads to quicker growth!

FUTURE

So this is where we actually get to all the hopes and dreams and fears. Ya know, what I was supposed to blog about almost a month ago. (Oopsies) But I don’t regret that it’s taken me so long to fully write these thoughts down and publish the blog post. Because the truth is that I was in a rush to do that, and I had overlooked some very important aspects of my business because of that and because of my privilege.

So let’s start with hopes.

It has always been my hope that people feel a sense of joy when they see/use their KYBI products – like from the moment they receive their package, they can think “this item is just for me.” I’ve always wanted to give my customers feelings of appreciation and happiness. As I make more and more changes to the business, it’s my hope that women from all kinds of backgrounds will get the same kinds of feelings from my products. Joy is universal, and I want my products to be the same.

I’m also hoping to start a KYBI scholarship program soon – possibly as early as January 2021. College was one of my favorite experiences, and having the opportunity to help another young woman with that experience is a small little dream of mine. :)

Speaking of dreams… (no one judge me here – you gotta dream big and then put those dreams out into the world, you know?)

My MAIN dream is to be in houses all over the world. And I’ve already accomplished that! But I would love for my presence to grow. Because the more houses my product is in, the more people that are being inspired and overjoyed with KYBI products. And it’s just so so so cool!

My BIG dream is to have KYBI products be sold in other store fronts, because that helps with my main dream! Plus it would mean KYBI products are also helping OTHER small businesses, and that’s pretty full-circle if you ask me.

My BIGGER dream is to keep my small roots even when I grow. I know I’ll have to hire on help eventually. I know writing hand written notes to everyone won’t always be possible. But I always want to remember where I started, and I always want KYBI products to have that extra special small-biz touch when people shop with us. I’m not sure what that will look like, but I know it’s something I never want to let go of.

My BIGGEST dream of all is to be on the shelves of Target. Which, whose isn’t? I don’t know if that will ever happen but it would be like… the coolest thing ever. I mean, could you imagine walking the aisles and BOOM. KynYouBelieveIt end cap. I would cry FOR DAYS.

As for my fears?

They’re pretty much the opposite of my dreams. I fear that people will one day just decide that they hate my business. I fear that my growth will plateau. I fear that I’ll lose sight of where I began and become a nasty company that doesn’t care about people. I know in my heart that these things would never happen (I hope???) but I still have them. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ But as long as I work through the fears and doubts, everything will be a-okay. <3

I’m gonna be honest: I don’t know if it was necessary to put this blog post out there. I sometimes feel like I’m the only one who cares about the nitty gritty & everyone else is just here for the cute products (which, is OBVIOUSLY fine). But here’s the thing: even though KYBI is still a one-woman show… it’s never actually been a one-woman show. I can’t do what I do without the support of you guys, and that’s why I wanted to share all this. <3 Hope you’ve loved it. Thanks for being here!

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