Y’all know I’m always on the lookout for fashion brands owned by black women and women of color. Well, last month I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Farath Raphael and Danielle Luckett, the founders and owners of Let Me Live, LLC. LML is an appropriately named sports fashion brand with a strong call to freedom and individuality, which its founders describe as informative fashion. I am thrilled to share what I’ve learned about this powerful brand and its phenomenal owners. Check it out.
Ari: Tell me about how you got started with Let Me Live and some of the struggles and victories you’ve encountered on your journey until this point.
Farath- Let Me Live was created to express unity through fashion and clothing. We’ve been working very hard on LML to build the brands platform, so that people are aware of the movement we’re bringing to the world– people of all ages and different backgrounds. We’ve faced many challenges throughout the years trying to build a production team and coming up with the finances for the business, but overtime we’ve been truly blessed with many mentors to help guide us in the right direction.
Dannielle- As Farath said, we started LET ME LIVE in college. Farath was doing a different clothing line on her own and I joined her and we then formed LET ME LIVE. Some struggles we face are those that any business faces: obtaining capital for the business and building brand awareness for revenue. The main victory I would say is the knowledge and wisdom we have gained while running the business. We are ready for almost anything now. Our time is coming.
Ari: Running a business and designing clothes is a challenging job that can take a lot out of you. How do you stay inspired and motivated on a daily basis to push through obstacles when it comes to the business?
Farath- Honestly, we love clothes. Our ideas are endless. The motivation comes from our family and friends and being able to provide for the less fortunate, also knowing that we are inspiring people through the clothes. We LOOOOOVE LET ME LIVE and everything that it stands for. Being that we are both members of the minority group, it means that much more to us because Black people and people of color have suffered a lot of oppression through years to say the least. The name just brings out awareness to many different aspects of our lifestyles and how we cherish living.
Danielle- It is challenging! Even writing the answers for this interview is challenging after a full day of working for “the man” –but really, my family motivates me. My passion and need to make a change in the world that we live in is equally inspiring. On a daily basis, I think of my mother, and her health, her future, and her retirement that is approaching. So on a daily basis, I put something into LET ME LIVE, even if it is an idea that I write down, or post a picture to promote … every little bit counts.
Ari: I know you love fashion and styling different outfits but what are some other things you’re passionate about? How do you express that through your style and the way you operate your business?
Farath- Me and Danielle love sports, we are both former elite athletes at California University of Pennsylvania. We incorporate what we love in our clothing is by making our own athletic apparel. We launched our first athletic apparel collection earlier this year and it was a great success!!! We look forward to creating more athletic apparel in the future for men and women of all ages.
Danielle- I am again and always in agreement with Farath, that we love sports, which would be a major source of influence for us. We make comfortable but fly clothes because that is what we have always worn as athletes. Who doesn’t love a good hoodie?! We also wanted something that everyone can relate to and support. Our brand takes the stance of positivity, change, and self-expression. We try to make our clothes and designs speak to that, such as our color coded patches, our slogans, “Informative Fashion®” and “Homemade™”. We then hope that our clothing and message will allow the customer to speak for themselves when they wear it. For example, if you have been or have a family member who was in the military, you should purchase our Short Sleeve American Flag Hoodie, because 10% of the sales for that will go towards a non-profit aiding those impacted. We have heart disease and breast cancer patches too. We want to make a difference and these clothes are our way to do that.
Ari: You often refer to LML as informative fashion. How do you define informative fashion and how do you showcase that through LML? Also, why is informative fashion important to you?
Farath- LET ME LIVE is a message to inform our community through our clothing and how we incorporate it with our clothes is simply by putting the slogan on some of our clothing. Informative Fashion is a very important slogan to us because it represents how we like to discuss the various causes we face as a people for example heart disease, child abuse, domestic violence, etc.
Danielle- This goes with my answer above, but yes, Informative Fashion® is our primary company slogan. We are really building a brand with this, and each part of our line has significant meaning to LET ME LVE overall. It means that we want to inform our consumers through our fashion and clothes. We do so with the designs and use of patches. We want to be sure that people understand the concept. It is important to me because I know that it represents something that is good-hearted and from our souls. Farath and I took our time in building the pieces to a strong brand. LML is our logo and acronym, Informative Fashion and Homemade are our tagline/slogans. Good branding lol.
Ari: What can your customers expect in the next few months from LML?
Farath- People should expect to see us to evolve our brand to maybe a shopping store soon. We’re doing our best to provide more trendy everyday products/accessories for our customers to wear for everyday lifestyle use. Also, we will be donating 10% of our revenue to various causes that deserve more awareness.
Danielle- You can expect more HEAT! More good quality clothes, more donations, more brand awareness, more advertising! You can expect to see more growth. Also expecting more sales!
Ari: What takeaways or lessons have you learned about yourself and the industry from when you first started LML? Looking back, would you do it all again?
Farath- Running your own business isn’t always easy and can become overwhelming at times. Throughout the years, working closely with my best friend Danielle I’ve learned anything is possible when you are consistent and patient with your craft. Everything grows, with a little time and research. Throughout the years, not only did our clothing line grow, we also grew as young business women. We’ve experience so much trial and error with inventory, sales, marketing and finance etc. but with all those trails and errors it just made us more business savvy for the brand. I believe we are still learning and we’re just getting better with time!
Danielle- I have learned so much with LET ME LIVE. About myself, I have learned tact, patience and really trying to see situations for what they are. On the other-hand, I have also learned the importance of efficiency and time management and when I know that something needs to get done, I have to get it done. I learned more about business by running a business than I did in my MBA studies. I learned how highly fragmented this industry is, but you can stand out by being yourself, and staying focused and consistent. Looking back, I would DEFINITELY do it again, just avoid some people and noise that we went through the first time.
Ari: Any advice for WOC starting their own small business?
Farath- The advice I can give WOC is if you are going to start a business make sure it is something other people can use every day and will like! I advise, to always do your research because anything can change without the proper documentation to protect your company. Also, do not ever let anyone discourage you from what your goal is. Studies have shown that with every business, you should give it at least two years to see how its growing. For anyone, who is looking to become a business owner, think about the change you want to see and make it happen, the rest will follow!
Danielle- My advice would be to know what you want to do, make sure your idea fills a void or solves a problem and HAVE A JOB. It pays to play and you need money to start and maintain a business. There is nothing wrong with working to fund your dreams. It is a means to an end, so do not beat yourself up if you do not like your job. That is CAPITAL, sis, go get that. Just be ready to work double time. This isn’t for everybody. Also, do your research so you know how to be in compliance with your state business laws.