Black History Month Feature - Q&A
White Rhino began as a passion project from our founder Claire Carreras after she couldn’t find a vegan bag that matched her aesthetic or ethics. There was a lack of options when it came to affordable and stylish vegan handbags, and she wanted to change the market using her keen eye for design. By using her experience from art school and doing tons of research, Claire realized there was a real need for a handbag designer who was both ethical and affordable. She decided to fill that niche and the outcome is a sleek online market with beautifully crafted vegan backpacks and purses.
White Rhino has always been vocal about the causes we care about most, and Black History Month is no different. We interviewed Black-owned businesses this month to inspire people. If you don’t see what you’re looking for, we challenge you to create it yourself. For that reason, we sat down with Claire again to ask her about her challenges in creating her own brand, and who or what inspires her during Black History Month.
ALEX FLACK: When you began building your brand were there any unexpected challenges you faced? Any pleasant surprises?
CLAIRE CARRERAS: Through networking with other creatives, suppliers, store owners, animal welfare, and rescue groups, I have met so many incredible people. I’d say the most pleasant surprise has been the friendships and relationships that have blossomed through the business and its operations. I hadn’t anticipated community and the support that I’ve received through the community has really lifted me up especially after the challenges of 2020.
ALEX: People talk about having to ‘wear all the hats’ as an entrepreneur. What are three skills that you have or had to develop that you feel have been the most valuable?
CC: I have always loved the nerdy things like business process, data and systems development which all have definitely come in handy as my business has evolved. But the skill I’m most grateful for and has been the most valuable is marketing and creativity.
ALEX: Reflecting on Black History Month, who or what (could be a historical figure, movement, event, etc.) has been a point of inspiration for you
CC: Someone whose career has been hugely inspirational to me as a Jamaican and as a woman is Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. She won the 100-meter final at the IAAF World Championships in 2019, becoming the first mom ever to do so. At 32, she also became the oldest woman to have won. It really goes to show that driven women do not ‘expire’ after a certain age and that we can have many wins in life, rather than being defined by one title.
ALEX: Do you have any advice for women looking to start their own business?
CC: Always plan for success but don’t be afraid to just go for it! I think it’s very easy to hold back and feel like everything needs to be ‘just right’ but it’s actions that actually move the business forward. The journey of learning and growing as you go forward is what makes entrepreneurship so rewarding!
ALEX: How does your design process work? What designs for White Rhino 2021 are you most excited about?
CC: I’m a big sketcher. I sketch out designs as I think of them and sketch notes about things that inspire me, colors, etc. Those sketches turn into technical drawings, those drawings develop into patterns and samples and if I’m liking where it’s going I’ll build a tech pack and produce a limited run. I am really excited about the made-to-order micro collections White Rhino is building for 2021
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