Yello Interviews: Kim Charlery, Founder of Fashion Brand ‘Bandbox’
by Karen Rollins Jul 15, 2019
Kim Charlery is a St Lucian entrepreneur and the founder of trendy fashion brand Bandbox.
Bandbox offers printed shirts and handmade Moodcords with a St Lucian influence and ‘pop of colour’.
Yello asked Kim about her life as a young businesswoman and mother.
She told us about where she finds inspiration for her designs, the most important business lesson she has learned so far, and what she loves about St Lucia.
Please tell us a bit about your childhood.
My childhood was very simple. I was raised by my father’s mom as the only girl on that side of the family (so I don’t think there’s much more to explain there!). I attended Ave Maria Girls’ Primary and then St. Joseph’s Convent.
How did you discover your talent for fashion / design?
Creating is always something I enjoyed doing. I remember crocheting after exams in primary school, and when I started visual arts class in secondary school, I began to explore fashion design.
My best friend and I were always sketching new designs for fun and discussing the possibility of having a fashion brand, but not really exploring making it a business.
It wasn’t until I saw Project Runway for the first time that it occurred to me that I should learn to sew.
Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?
No actually. I wanted to be a singer and then a lawyer. I’ve had many jobs in different positions which I believe prepared me for my journey as an entrepreneur.
Ten years ago, after I had my son, I made the decision to explore my childhood vision of starting my own fashion line. Having him in my early 20s caused a quick shift in my life. I was determined to build something, to create a legacy that he could be proud of.
How/when did you launch your business?
My business has been launched quite a few times! We first launched in 2009, after I had my son, and I’ve been working towards Bandbox ever since.
The concept of Bandbox started in 2015 when we were still K-Cha Clothing, but Bandbox was officially launched in October 2017. We changed names about three times!
What are some of the challenges you faced starting your business? How did you overcome them?
One of my biggest challenges was figuring out my voice as an artist. There are so many things that I can do, I had to take time to filter through and figure out what I wanted to do. It really was mostly trial and error during a period of a lot of self-discovery.
While I learned more about myself, I started to hone what I wanted from my business.
There was also the period of understanding business and getting people to trust my point of view. Understanding business is something I consider to be very practical no matter how much you learn on paper. So, I continue to educate myself and learn from every experience and everyone I can.
If you’re familiar with Bandbox now, you can tell that my style is eclectic and quirky. Thank goodness for this shift in the industry that has also contributed to people appreciating my vision in fashion.
Where do you get inspiration from for your designs?
I get inspiration from everywhere. I mostly work from inspiration of some sort because that’s how my mind was trained as I taught myself to sew and design over the years.
I always joke that the limited availability of materials locally, forced me to get creative with my designs, and trained my brain to work within strict parameters to create something unique.
I’ve always been really big on being different, after running away from being too tall, too dark and too skinny all my life! Once I learned to embrace being different, I didn’t want it any other way.
How does being St Lucian influence what you do?
Being St. Lucian influences my design aesthetic. My talent for mixing colours and prints comes from the colourful natural environment and our culture.
Growing up around that and not having much of a social life, my imagination was my world and I used it to create.
What is your typical working day like?
My working day is never really the same. I have a small team of two so there’s a lot of multitasking to manage the different aspects of the business.
I create my to-do list from the night before as often as I can. I take care of any urgent administrative tasks first, usually while I have my coffee. If there’s nothing pressing then I respond to messages, check my social media, and play Solitaire TriPeaks. Then it’s sales and manufacturing until my day ends whether that’s at 6pm or 10pm.
Usually I leave less urgent admin work, like sketching custom orders, fabric selections and website maintenance, until after hours. Planning our marketing and social media content happens anytime between 5.30pm and 2am.
But really these things can happen in any order depending on how the day is going.
How do you balance being a businesswoman and a mother?
I think that’s easier for me than some other people because my family is incredibly supportive of my vision.
My son is quite mature for his age and is aware of the business since it has taken over most of my home. He more than anyone tries to understand what is happening, and even tries to help, when he hasn’t disappeared into one device or another.
Having two fathers lightens the load for sure because he has tremendous support, even when I can’t be there for him in a moment, and I can redirect him when it comes to all the ‘guy stuff.’
Building Bandbox is a huge responsibility and is constantly at the forefront of my mind, it is our livelihood after all, but nothing is more important to me than being a mother. I’m raising a man and I take that very seriously. Outside influences are way too accessible for me to take a back seat in his life. He makes it very easy, but I don’t take it for granted.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned so far?
That’s a tough one. Ever since I was a little girl, I developed a habit of self-evaluation. Every day I would replay interactions in my mind and see how I could be better and what I could learn from my experiences.
If I had to choose one lesson that stands out the most to me, it would be that success and life are about balance.
For the most part there’s a very shallow view of success, and we live our lives working towards financial wealth, but I’ve learned that success is about finding a balance with the things we value; money, family, friends, etc.
Whether we realise it or not, that’s really what we are working towards, to create the peace of mind that makes us truly happy.
What do you do on your days off?
Sleep 😊! I rarely get a day off (maybe time off) because mentally I’m always working on something. I can’t help it because being in business is a huge part of my life.
When I get the time, I try to spend quality time with my family, so I get out of the house and do something unrelated to work.
What are your plans for Bandbox over the next five years?
Over the next five years, we will have expanded into many different avenues, in addition to fashionable accessories and clothing.
I look forward to creating a non-profit organisation, which is very close to my heart, so I can explore my true gift and passion for giving back.
What do you love about St Lucia?
I love how accessible the tropical treasures are. I can walk to the beach, take a mud bath, see waterfalls and buy some cassava, and still be home in time for dinner.
I also love the people, because it’s our culture to be warm and welcoming. I see us as a small piece of Caribbean culture with sunshine, love and lots of colours.
What makes St Lucia different to other Caribbean islands?
I think our size and age puts us in a unique position to offer many benefits of a large island but still have the cozy, warm small island feeling. So, it’s the best of both worlds in my opinion, everything is at your fingertips.
What advice do you have for other Caribbean start-ups?
Be honest with yourself. Knowing what you are willing to do, and what you are capable of, will give you a better understanding of your business. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and it’s not an easy way out.
Allow your passion to drive you, and not just the money, because that drive will only take you so far when things get tough and you’re questioning your life’s decisions (and it will happen). Your passion keeps you going when money slows down.
Once you’ve started, trust yourself, because failure is a teacher, not a deterrent.
When seeking advice, look for people that share your values, because not all decisions will line up with your beliefs, even if they offer monetary reward.
What is your philosophy / motto in life?
I don’t have any one thing that I live by, I think way too much! But there are a few things that I firmly believe – God says yes; no one should work harder than you for what you want; paying it forward is how we plant seeds of growth, and passion is the foundation of a successful life.
Please tell us something no-one, or only a few people, know about you.
So now everyone will know 😊. I love to sing but wouldn’t do it as a career.
Check out Bandbox’s designs:
Phone/WhatsApp: 1 758 487 8583