Journaling took on a new meaning during the pandemic, as people turned to pens and notebooks as a form of self-care to cope during a time of uncertainty, but was the industry meeting the needs of a diverse audience?
For founder and entrepreneur Jasmin Foster, 31, the stationery category has always felt disconnected from who she was as a Black woman. “I never really felt like there was a brand that fully, you know, reflected my culture, my friends, myself either through design or through the words that they’ll use,” she said. Foster always had an affinity for stationery. Her favorite part of going back to school, starting a new job, or even entering a new year was picking out folders, planners and notebooks to use. She spent years waiting for someone to create a stationery brand that reflected Black womanhood, but in 2020, she stopped waiting. She decided to begin the research to understand how to break into the stationery industry and launched Be Rooted in June 2020. “I really wanted to be a stationery brand that was focused on uplifting and celebrating women of color through inclusively designed stationery,” Foster said.
Before the pandemic, Foster, who resides in Charlotte, N.C., had a hunch that people would need to recenter and focus on themselves in 2020, which helped push her to produce journals. Little did she know that the pandemic was around the corner. “I had just this feeling that this was going to be a year where women of color were going to need a safe place where they felt seen and that they could turn to get their thoughts out,” she shared.
To get Be Rooted started, she researched manufacturers, developed a targeted audience profile and created her brand designs. “One of the key components of my designs is that you’re always gonna see uplifting and positive messaging interwoven into the design,” she said. However, launching in a pandemic was difficult because of the limited opportunities to network and source fulfillment vendors to ship her journals. Foster also launched Be Rooted as a side hustle, learning the ins and outs of business while meeting the demands of her full-time sales job at a beauty brand. “At this point, I feel like there’s nothing that I can not figure out because I had to figure it out in the middle of the pandemic,” Foster shared.
The social unrest in June and the call for corporate spaces to be more equitable for Black employees and consumers further proved that Be Rooted was meant to be. It was another revelation that what she created was wanted and needed. Her online store received the opportunity to create more access through a Target partnership less than a year of launching her company. “I wasn’t sure if I was ready for it,” she shared.
This was only supposed to be a side hustle for Foster, but a conversation with her mom gave her a new perspective. Her mother told her that if she believed in bringing equity and inclusion to the stationery industry, the best way to do it is on a mass-scale to make a quicker impact.
“Being the first and only Black-owned brand at Target in the stationary office supply section is an amazing, bright step in the right direction of really, truly bringing equity into all parts of retail,” she shared.