When I came into the “real world” after college and decided to be an entrepreneur, I didn’t see a lot of people designing websites who looked like me. So, when I found Bernel Westbrook and Octavia Elease, it was so encouraging. I’ve been following their brands for a while and I love what they stand for, how they serve, and how they show up. It’s my honor to be able shine a spotlight on them in this special episode of the podcast! I hope you enjoy getting to know them both better as we chat about life and entrepreneurship.
There are some struggles that come with being a minority in the industry, so you’ll hear us touch on that in the episode. But both Bernel and Octavia brought so much joy and energy to this conversation – they’re both so amazing!
For Bernel, entrepreneurship felt like the only option that would allow her to do what she loved and earn as much money as she wanted. She admits that after college, she tried to get a job in the tech world, but it wasn’t the right fit. “There were no women in upper management roles, and far fewer women of color,” Bernel explained.
Octavia originally attended college to become a teacher, but didn’t enjoy it and decided to start her own business. Her real dream was to be a photographer! Years later, hearing Michelle Obama speak during her book tour inspired Octavia to find out what else was possible for her. She decided to work towards becoming a full-time business owner.
Bernel decided to start selling website templates, and was surprised by what she found while doing market research. “I wasn’t really finding any designs at that point that highlighted anybody of Color…it took me by surprise that there weren’t website templates that had that kind of imagery in them. And honestly – that was a roadblock for me,” Bernel shared.
She ended up finding stock photography websites that specialized in images of People of Color and getting some photographers on board who wanted to help make her templates reality. She became excited to put out designs in the market that showcase People of Color and be part of the change.
“I just feel like there’s this weight that we carry – I know we don’t talk about it very often – but I feel like there’s this weight that we carry as Minority entrepreneurs of how to show our true identities while still curating our business to be palatable to other people,” Bernel started. Even though it might sound cliché, Bernel encouraged listeners to just be themselves. She also took that advice a step further by reminding everyone to find the target clients who will accept us for who we are.
We have to find the balance between clients who share our values and are a good fit for our offerings.
Octavia echoed Bernel’s sentiment that it’s best to just be yourself. “Stand in your truth,” she reminded everyone. “When I first came into the creative space, I struggled being a Christian creative. And I felt like that was alone, and that was so hard for me,” she admitted. At times, Octavia would hide her faith. But then, she decided to show up as who she really is. While she had been afraid that this would deter clients, it actually helped her create a space that attracts the people that she wants to work with.
“I found my space, and now I’m not ashamed…Don’t be ashamed of who you are, rock on it.” Octavia emphasized.
To hear more of the “get to know you” questions that Bernel and Octavia shared, tune in to the full episode! Here’s how you can connect with these two wonderful ladies further:
Bernel is the owner and lead designer of Branded by Bernel, a design studio based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Check out her website for more on her brand and Showit website services. You can keep in touch through her Instagram and podcast!
Octavia is a brand photographer and branding and Showit website designer based in Atlanta. Check out her websites for more on how you can work with her! You can also keep in touch with her through her Instagram accounts, @octaviaelease (brand photography) and @octaviaeleasedesigns (branding and Showit website design).