At eight years old, junior Asia Washington began her business, Delightful Ribbons, which has grown to become a successful doll business during that time.
“Part of the name kind of came from my mom’s business name, Delightful Scents…ribbons came from when I used to make hair bows using ribbons,” A. Washington said. “But we just kind of kept it.”
She always loved the idea of having her own business, but was constantly told no from her mother Cynnamon Washington. A. Washington mentioned that her inspiration to start a business was watching her mother run her own. The pair used to go to craft shows together. A. Washington would admire the way her mom managed and sold products. Now, her mother does all of the marketing, website design, social media, and shipping for Delightful Ribbons.
“When I was 20 years old, I had my own t-shirt business. So I already know the ins and outs of running the business,” C. Washington said. “So I was able to bring my expertise to her to get her started and we just went from there.”
After a couple years, she soon began making doll clothes and t-shirts for adults and kids.
“I started making 18 inch doll style clothes using only vinyl,” A. Washington said. “And then from there we kind of progressed into making doll tutus along with the outfits and then we just kind of went into sublimation.”
Vinyl and sublimation are a form of design that would go onto a shirt. The difference between vinyl and sublimation is that you can feel vinyl, but sublimation is ink that sinks into the fabric and you can not feel it. Machines are used to put these designs on the polyester fabric.
“We use a serger. We have a couple of sewing machines in our craft room. We have three heat presses. We have the doll size t-shirt press,” A. Washington said. “And then we have the shirt size heat press that we use for both shirts and coasters because we sublimate coasters as well. We use a sublimation printer, and then we use a software on our own computer to create designs.”
It is not cheap to run a business like this. A. Washington described that the new sewing machine was about $1300 and the sublimation printer was a range between $1000 to $2000. The design software also costs money to use. She mentioned that ink and sublimation paper is costly. They try to use as much of the paper as they can to try to save money.
“It takes a whole lot to run the business, because my mom doesn’t work. This is actually our only source of income,” A. Washington said.
The profits go to bills, materials, spending money, and craft shows. Craft shows are opportunities for small businesses to sell their products. A. Washington does approximately 20 craft shows between the spring and fall.
“You get there really early to set up your stuff at a spot that is either first come first serve, or that the show promoter has just given you and then you set your stuff up,” A. Washington said. “And then you take pictures of your booth. You have somebody take pictures of you selling your product to somebody and then just the rest of the day you’re just selling a product,”
The only way you are allowed to participate in craft shows is if the jury approves your application. The jury is a small group of event organizers or show promoters. They decide whether or not your product is the right match for that specific show or they manage how many booths of a specific product will be at that show. She mentioned that your profit could possibly depend on what type of show it is.
“Since my stuff is more towards kids, there are some shows where there won’t be any kids. And there will also be shows where there’s like 99% of kids will be there and they’ll just be in my booth,” A. Washington said.
Sometimes this could be an issue for her family. If a show does not turn out as planned or if not enough sales come through, then they lose money throughout the month instead of gaining.
Many struggles can come with running a business. Another struggle is the amount of time her business takes up. She sometimes has had to miss hanging out with her friends, doing any extracurricular activities, and being restricted from activities she may have been a part of. She mentions how she had to miss some of the powderpuff practices to go to craft shows.
“We’ll be doing it [her business] 24/7 which is thinking about how we’re going to set up, what to post to advertise ourselves, when our applications released, taking pictures so that the people who jury can see what our product is and if it fits the show description actually having the materials to make the product and run a website itself at the same time,” A. Washington said.
While C. Washington said that an obstacle has been seeing eye to eye with Asia. Throughout the hardships, the product has great reviews.
“It [the product] was well made, didn’t have any complaints. I enjoyed the authentic material used to make it; it was really nice,” a loyal customer of Delightful Ribbons, Janiyah Evans said.
Through the struggles, there is light at the end of a tunnel. C. Washington mentions how she loves the creativity of the business, while A. Washington enjoys seeing the excitement on kids’ faces after purchasing the product she worked so hard to create.
A. Washington’s plan is to continue the business until she moves out. As of right now, the future of the business is to be determined.
“It depends on which shows we want to sign up for,” A. Washington said. “I plan to act when I am older.”