WINNERS: Jessica Huie (left) and Jessica Elliot breaking boundaries with a dream
A MOTHER who founded a multicultural greetings card and gift brand featuring black children and adults triumphed at the National Diversity Award over the weekend.
Jessica Huie, 33, from West London won the ‘Entrepreneur of Excellence Award for Race Religions & Faith’ at the ceremony, which took place at the Queens Hotel on Friday, September 20 in Leeds.
She said: “When I started the business in 2007, it was born out of such a passionate place and inspired by my daughter Monet because I couldn’t find a card for her. I felt as a parent it was important my children should be able to receive a greeting card that depicted their own identity and I thought there were other mums who felt the same way. So I wanted to launch a brand which would be successful globally.”
The mother of two said although she had “huge visions” for the concept, she was unsure of how to go about establishing the business given that she had no formal training.
She said: “At the time I was running a PR business and I needed to continue running it in order to pay the bills. You would have to sell a hell of a lot of greeting cards to make ends meet.”
Within six months the brand was stocked in 100 branches of Clinton Cards, numerous independents, Moonpig.com and was successful in securing distribution in the US, Barbados, South Africa and Bermuda.
In 2008 the company made history by becoming the first independent card publisher to secure a presence in the British high-street, depicting black and mixed-race people.
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Huie said that “as a niche business we’ve had a challenge of getting buyers to accept there is a demand for a product like ColorBlind cards as we know there is one. Within the last few months, we’ve had some real breakthrough and we are set to launch in two major supermarket chains in the UK at the beginning of the New Year 2014.”
Over the last seven years, ColorBlind Cards has received several awards, including an invitation to a round-table on enterprise at No.10 Downing Street with the prime minister.
Speaking about accepting the National Diversity Award, she said: “I was really emotional…my 14-year-old daughter was with me, she was seven when I first launched the business and we’ve been grafting relentlessly for a long time with little commercial success. We’ve had success because people love the brand and we’ve had some presence, but it’s a long time coming. I think it was important for her to be able to revel in the moment as much as I was and it’s such a huge lesson for her that hard work and commitment to your dream does pay off. It was wonderful and also the nature of the award. I have won a few awards, but to win an award that’s about celebrating diversity, that is key.”
The entrepreneur added: “It’s always been that the commercial gain is secondary to the social contribution from my point of view.”
Other winners on the night were: Jessica Elliot, who founded J’s Dance Factory, won the Entrepreneur of Excellence Award for Gender and David Michael, a former Detective Chief Inspector at New Scotland Yard and founding member of The National Black Police Association.
Michael won the Positive Role Model Award for Race, Religion & Faith.