We had the opportunity to get to know Nicole W. Brown to find out why she is so passionate about helping other women discover or rediscover themselves! Join in as we learn more about the brand, Izzy & Liv and its overall message for its consumers.
What inspired you to create Izzy & Liv?
Back in 2002, I found myself searching for websites for women of color and quickly realized there was a need to be filled. So I launched a community website for women of color called “Mahogany Butterfly’.
We had an amazing community, but unfortunately, after almost 6 years of running the site while also a working a full-time 9-5 and being a wife and mother to my then 3 children, it became too much work and I had to shut it down. I always regretted that decision. As the years passed, I could never shake my creative passions rooted in a desire to create content and goods that reflected and celebrated Black womanhood but kept putting in on the back burner.
Until, in 2012, pregnant with my 4th child, I developed HELLPS Syndrome a life-threatening pregnancy complication for which the only cure was the delivery of my daughter via emergency c-section, at just 26 weeks. Born at 1 pound, 5 ounces, she was so tiny, my ring fit over her entire arm. She spent her first four months of life in a NICU followed by a year in and out of hospitals for surgeries and doctors visits. During that time, I struggled with the stress of balancing caring for her, my three other children; feelings of guilt (over what I felt was my body’s betrayal); constant worrying; and sleepless nights. But I also learned so much about myself, about life, about faith and determination
Getting through that time reminded me of how precious life is and of the importance of following your passions to live a full life. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so why wait to pursue your goals? I gained a sense of clarity, motivation and drive that I had not felt in a long time. It was during this time that I began to build this business. Having daughters Isabel (Izzy) and Olivia (Liv) reignited the desire I had for providing an outlet for both Black women and little girls who want and NEED to see more of themselves and the things they love in the mainstream. I decided to focus on building a business and a career that I could be passionate about and proud of. In June of 2014, Izzy & Liv the company was born! The rest is history (in the making J ).
What is the overall message you want your customers to get from the brand?
That they matter. As Black women, many of us know all too well what it is like to grow up not seeing yourself in the media you consume or the products you buy. It is an unconscious, slow and subtle killing of your spirit and of your confidence and it can warp your mind into wondering whether or not you are good enough. Whether or not you are beautiful. Whether or not you are worthy. So it means everything to me that Izzy & Liv is a brand that makes US a priority as the first thought and not an afterthought.
Izzy & Liv as a brand aims to be a fashionable manifestation of our lives, a positive representation in media, a strength, and confidence. We try to represent that unspoken bond between Black women represented on a t-shirt, coffee mug, tote and more. And because we understand that there are no one-size-fits-all version of the black experience, we carefully curated our selection to tailor to black women of all shapes, sizes, shades and walks of life, so that everyone has a product they can see themselves within.
What is the Brown Sugar Box?
The Brown Sugar Box is a monthly subscription curated by Black women, for Black women. Every item is selected to either evoke some sense of confidence or pride, to celebrate the things in life that helped shape is, to revel in the nostalgia of Black culture, or to support and promote other black women showcasing their magic through the businesses they have also created.
Customers tell us they love the box because the items we surprise them with are often items that reflect themselves and the things they love. They enjoy not only getting a box full of melanin but that the items remind them to love themselves and celebrate themselves for once. The items we curate are meant to empower, inspire and bring joy. Black women are not celebrated enough and neither is Black culture. With the Brown Sugar Box, we curate culturally relevant items that allow subscribers to share and display black culture or express themselves through a t-shirt, or piece of jewelry, or a bag, etc. We try to bring Black Girl Magic to life in a box.
Tell us about your best selling items.
I started Izzy & Liv selling graphic tees and they still make up the majority of my non-subscription box sales. However, once I launched the Brown Sugar Box, it has quickly become my best seller and now currently accounts for over half of our sales.
Where do you hope to see Izzy & Liv in the future?
I hope to continue to see our customer base grow and to continue bringing joy to the lives of the people we serve. Sometimes I have to pinch myself seeing how far this business has come so far! We have served thousands of customers. We have shipped over a couple hundred thousand packages. We have fostered a community with our Brown Sugar Box, where once perfect strangers come together to meet up locally each month, becoming real-life sister-friends. We have built a community where more perfect strangers, out and about, wearing an Izzy & Liv tee, spot each other at an airport…at an event…at a grocery store—giving each other a “hey girl, girl” with that reassuring smile and familiar nod that says “I see you. You have a friend here”. These are the things that fill my heart with so much joy! It is beyond my wildest imagination and my biggest wish for the future is to see that community and connection continue to evolve and grow stronger.
For more on Izzy & Liv, click here!
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All images provided by Izzy & Liv