Voz Apparel is a ready to wear luxury brand that empowers artisans culturally and economically. The Voz Woman series features multidimensional women of strength who embody and honor women empowerment creatively, artistically and culturally.
Written by Deborah Altman of the VOZ Community
We caught up with Chana after seeing her speak at the Pipeline Fellowship to learn more about her passion for storytelling, a passion that has driven her to start littlebigGirl + CO. Chana originally moved to NYC to become a filmmaker and has a knack for building engaging storylines, which she now uses to tell brand stories for nonprofits and startups with big visions. Read about Chana’s inspiration to start her own company, and the advice she has for fellow womenpreneurs. Chana wears the VOZ Ojos Jacket from the Spring Summer 2015 collection in organic Pima cotton.
Tell us more about your professional background?
I moved to New York to be a filmmaker and for a while I had day jobs while pursuing filmmaking in the evenings (working on shorts, doing production work, script supervising, PA, production coordinator…) Then I would do executive assistant and event coordinating roles during the day. My last role in 2007 was as an executive assistant at a management consulting firm. I was in their media and entertainment practice. When they did a round of layoffs in 2009 I had to think about what my next move would be and if there would be some way for me to just do my passion full-time.
How did you develop littlebigGirl + CO?
I founded littlebigGirl + CO in December of 2010, so we’ll almost make five years at the end of this year. The fact that you can share your knowledge with other businesses and get paid for it was a new concept to me. I realized that my expertise lay in storytelling and basically how you can share what you do with a specific audience. Any filmmaker can understand how to tell stories. So I was able to transfer my process of telling stories into business strategy, and that’s how I formed littlebigGirl + CO. The first iteration of littlebigGirl + CO was a company that could help companies tell better stories to their target audience. It has since grown to developing full-on marketing services, not just strategies and consulting, but actual execution work for non-profits and technology companies.
What did you study in school and what were your interests?
I studied African American studies and media studies.
What advice do you have for young womenpreneurs trying to accomplish similar endeavors?
Never stop learning. I think one of the things that you have to do when you are in business is recognize information that’s coming to you in the way of clients and also be aware of what’s happening in your industry, what’s going on with similar industries and those that interact with yours. Understand what’s going on in general and take that information to put back into your business in terms of what’s to come next. Staying open to learning is the biggest thing you can do. Beyond that, network and build relationships with people you might not necessarily want to hang out and have a drink with but might have some insights about the work that they’ve done. It can even be women who aren’t in the same field that you’re in, but you see that they’ve killed it in their endeavor and there may be some kind of transferable ideas that they can offer you. So learning, building and maintaining relationships are the key.
"African American women are starting businesses at a rate six times the national average and employing 1.4 million people.” How does this statement make you feel and do you feel you are contributing to it?
I’ve read a similar statistic like that before, so it doesn’t surprise me. I’ve had the great fortune of knowing tons of African-American female entrepreneurs; it’s not uncommon and I think that’s awesome. I think black women are very passionate about seeing their ideas move into the world and have the fortitude to get those ideas to fruition. At the same time, we face many challenges in business - chiefly around obtaining the resources to scale. What has helped me is the support of networks, particularly black women entrepreneurs. It’s been rough, it’s not always easy and you learn a lot, but one of the things I’m doing now is thinking about that scale piece.
Looking through your womenpreneur kaleidoscope, what do you see yourself doing five years from now?
There are a lot of black women like myself who have small businesses and are doing passion projects, but there are not many of us who crack the million dollar mark and build scalable products and services. That’s the next step in my entrepreneurial journey -- to really build something scalable that can impact a lot more people.