Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs—as well as their quality, handmade goods—and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.
Ever since she was a young girl, Jasmin Foster loved to shop for school supplies. (In fact, even as a working professional, she loves the thrill of buying a new printer or notebook.) But after spending years in the stationery aisle, she noticed something was missing: Representation.
"I didn't really feel like there was a stationery brand out there that was designing for people like me, or [for] people who look like me," she explains. Foster has spent most of her career in retail buying and brand building, with an emphasis on creating an inclusive assortment of products. So, she leveraged her own expertise to launch Be Rooted, an inclusive stationery brand designed to uplift and celebrate women of color.
Putting Pen to Paper
For Foster, Be Rooted is a brand she's wanted to see ever since she was a young girl. "It's something that I've always wanted, and I was [waiting] for another brand to create it," she explains. "After waiting for some time—and building up my own experience within retail buying brand-building for other brands—I thought, 'Why not create something I was passionate about?'"
Foster put pen to paper in the beginning of 2020 and launched the brand in June. Admittedly, launching a new business in a global pandemic is not easy. Foster says the ongoing pandemic threw a wrench into her dreams of visiting trade shows and suppliers. Fortunately, she was able to pivot and rely on her community. "You can't do this on your own," she says. "The people around that uplift you in those moments tend to be the ones you fall on."
Turns out, all that pivoting paid off. Less than a year after she launched Be Rooted, the brand is already carried in Target.
Behind the Design
Currently, Be Rooted has seven notebook designs, all available in spiral ($12.99, target.com) and center-sewn ($7.50, berooted.com). Foster also sells a sticker sheet ($5, berooted.com), so customers can bring that Be Rooted edge to the rest of their pieces.
"We wanted to really focus on a core line of journals to begin with knowing that self-care is extremely important," she explains. "I wanted to make sure that I'm providing the best quality that I can with an accessible price point, so that it can be something [people] are proud to have sitting on their desk." The result? A perfect mix of form and function. Each notebook has a soft-touch cover, offering a velvet-like finish. Foster looked through various paper styles to find the perfect, Goldilocks option: A sturdy, ruled paper with lines that are large enough to fit your handwriting and won't have your pen's ink bleed through to the next page.
For the design, she enlisted a team of Black and Brown designers and illustrators to help bring her vision to life. "I knew from the beginning I wanted to have an array of Black and Brown women showcasing our various skin tones, hairstyles, attitudes, and [forms of] self-expression," says Foster. "I want each journal to really feel like you were looking back at someone who is reflective of you."
Each notebook is decked out with a positive mantra like "Guard Your Spirit" (from $7.50, berooted.com) and "Lead With Passion" (from $7.50, berooted.com) to cheer on the customer who fills up its pages. Of course, that uplifting spirit seeps into every aspect of Foster's business. "Historically in the stationery industry—and, really, all industries—less than one percent of all designers are women of color," she says. "I want Be Rooted to be that go-to destination where we break through emerging artists and can help uplift the voice of Black designers."
Though Foster has accomplished so much since launching Be Rooted less than a year ago, she's only getting started. Foster shares that she's hoping to expand into categories such as planners, note pads, and pins, to name a few. But, through it all, Foster feels most fulfilled when she hears feedback from her customers.
Early on, she received a review from one man with three young girls. When he gave them box of notebooks to open up, she says, their eyes lit up. "It's about giving young women of color, an option to feel seen in a category where they have often been underrepresented and haven't been seen," Foster says. "It's having those moments where their eyes light up, because they now feel like they're being reflected. And, then if you think about the confidence that might instill into these young girls so early on, and that they will likely live in a world where there's far more representation than [there] was when I grew up? That's what's proved to me that I was on the right path."