Project Passion: NOMI + SIBS
Are you ready? The long-awaited Papaya Box is dropping October 18th, and it’s filled with exclusive items created and curated by @thebirdspapaya herself.
In every way, the Papaya Box is reflective of our longtime friendship with Sarah Nicole Landry. Not only does it contain some of Sarah’s favs and her dream Knix product, but it also includes amazingly beautiful hand-picked products from small Black-owned businesses.
We’re so excited to introduce these brands to you, and can’t wait to continue supporting them. Next up is sustainable, reusable label brand NOMI + SIBS, created by the wonderful Courtney Stewart. Read on to learn more about what empowers Courtney, what it’s like to manage a business and kids during a global pandemic, and why the brand resonated with Sarah so much. Meet Courtney.
Hi Courtney! What's it like being an entrepreneur and a mom?
Being a mom to two young girls and being an entrepreneur are probably the two accomplishments that I am most proud of in my life. That being said, they are truly two of the hardest things I have ever done! I think that if you’ve never had your own business before, you only imagine all the good things that come with it— like the freedom of making your own hours, the flexibility to work with, where, and when you please. When in fact I have found that, while I would never give up being an entrepreneur to work for someone else again, those things that I thought would be so amazing, are in fact much harder on this side. I actually never have freedom or much flexibility, and the work never, ever ends. In these early days, you are the maker, the customer service agent, the lawyer, the accountant, and the janitor— it’s very, very hard.
I always get people making comments like, “That is so great that you get to work from home and spend more time with your kids.” I cringe when I hear this because my husband and kids are the ones who feel the brunt of me pursuing my dreams as an entrepreneur. Everyone else gets the best of me and sadly, my family gets the rest of me— and that’s not a good thing.
So I guess that I wish I knew this before I started— not because I wouldn’t have started this journey, but because I could have been more prepared with how this would really be, especially when starting a family at the same time.
Did you find that there were any challenges starting your business as a woman of colour?
This is a bit hard for me to answer! I think had this question been asked of me a year ago, I would have likely said, “Thus far, I fortunately haven’t been a victim of prejudice during this journey.”
However, after some solicited training and personal reflection, I am more aware and feel like there likely have been instances where my skin colour played part in the manner in which I was treated as a business owner. Listen, I am not blind to the fact that, while I identify as being a Black female, I am bi-racial and many in my community would consider that to come with some level of privilege.
That being said, I will never stop supporting the efforts and stand with my Black brothers and sisters who may experience things differently than me. I know that I am confident enough to call out actions that are not in line with promoting equality and fair treatment for all women and frankly all people of colour in business and not. In my own business, I will continue to make an intentional effort to promote racial equality, seek out more influencers of colour to work with who share our mission and goals.
NOMI Labels are the perfect school accessory. With two little ones, how has the back to school season been for you?
Back to school season is, of course, our busiest time of year for NOMI+SIBS. This year proved to be even more insane than before because we didn’t have employees working from our home shop and our kids were home 24/7.
Honestly, I am taking this one day at a time. My oldest daughter is prone to seizures when she spikes a fever, so with fever being a symptom of COVID-19 we couldn't take any chances with opening our home to people. So here we are, my husband working 12-14 hour days for his employer, and me trying to run a business while taking care of a 2 and 4 year old all day and THEN staying up until about 1 or 2 AM working through the nights to catch up.
The advice I would offer working moms trying to juggle kids at home right now would be to lower your expectations and give yourself a break. Step outside, take a deep breath when you need to and don’t get down on yourself if you explode in front of your kids. They need to see this, it’s part of life too!
What empowers you when things feel tough?
I love when I’m out with my family and I see a child with their sippy cup wrapped with a personalized NOMI LABEL! I just LOVE it, and it feels very rewarding. There have been a few times when people have come up to me when I have been with my family and just start telling me how much they love our labels and how they buy them for all their friends and family members. I think it’s because we are actually solving a problem for parents, so it matters to them! Hearing this kind of feedback validates all the work and makes the hardest days a little easier and of course, having my girls see and hear this means everything to me.
Who are some of your role models?
As an entrepreneur, I look up to so many very successful, amazing female founders like Katrina Lake, Cathy Hughes, and of course, Knix’s very own, Joanna Griffiths. But of course, as a former college athlete myself, I look up to many female athletes who have gone on to create incredible brands like Serena Williams and Santia Deck. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two of the most inspiring women for me personally, especially in the last 5-10 years, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey. Both of these women use their platforms for the betterment of others, especially for underserved groups, which is something that I would like to be able to do as well.
So... what’s next for NOMI+SIBS?
NOMI+SIBS will definitely continue to offer sustainable, practical, reusable solutions and you can be sure that any product that we create will be one that solves a problem, is eco-friendly, and always safe for our families. Since having children, I have grown far more aware of the types of products I use and how they may impact the planet and our environment— not necessarily for our generation but for our children and grandchildren’s generation. Creating sustainable products that just make sense is important to me and will always be a primary driver of what NOMI + SIBS offers customers.
Something that is also super important to me is connecting the brand with our ‘give back’ mission and environmental waste reduction efforts. This is something I am so excited about and I hope to share more later this year or in early 2021!
Lastly, I can’t say more as to how grateful I am for Sarah, Joanna and the entire Knix team for including NOMI + SIBS in this unbelievable collaboration! For a very small business, this type of brand visibility can change the entire landscape of the business and I am so grateful for the opportunity.
I met Sarah more than a year ago at the Atelier Conference and she was one of the only speakers who took the time to share her love for our personalized NOMI LABELS that we made for her and her kids. It has been a goal of mine to work with her since then and here we are a year later and honestly, I can’t believe this is happening. I’ve been following Joanna since seeing Knix on Dragons' Den years ago and to think that my little brand was selected to be part of this amazing collaboration is something I will be forever grateful for and will never forget.
A quote that I like to always remind myself of is, "Empowered women, empower women", and Joanna and Sarah are prime examples of this.