On July 29th Innovative Supplies Worldwide Founder and Creative Director Nneka Brown-Massey was selected an awardee of the Class of 2018 40 under 40 as an emerging leader in the gifts and stationery industry by demonstrating exceptional commitment, innovation and creativity.
Having spoken with Nneka upon her flight back from Las Vegas Market where she accepted the award we asked her a few questions to sort of play catch up on what all has transpired since our last blog post well over a year ago.
Cyber Innovative Staff Member: Nneka can you tell us how it was for you to first off accept this award and what it means for the company and you as well going forward?
Nneka: Certainly. It was tuff honestly. I was surrounded by many of my Industry peers who had arrived to accept their award just as I, yet I felt very alone. Majority of the winners in the room that night did not look like me. I come from a military background where I am used to seeing a majority mix of all ethnicities represented in the workplace. That coupled with the fact I had no true working capital to fly out any of my staff who I've grown to consider my family and who are really the backbone of the company to stand with me in accepting the award really made the trip slightly lonely.
Going forward this award means so much. It solidifies our brand name and gives us added value in the marketplace. Our company name reads Innovative Supplies and that's exactly what you will continue to see me bring. I am working on several missions within the company to close out this year. A few will be announced in the coming days.
Cyber Innovative Staff Member: You mentioned not being able to fly out Innovative Supplies staff to walk with you in accepting the Class of 2018 award, can you speak more to why you think that was?
Nneka: Absolutly. In a nutshell, a few things happened. I undervalued my products, staff and most importantly my time. When I launched on July 26th of 2016 I thought to myself, maybe a few people would like my idea and concept, I honestly didn't think many people would order because I didn't have a college degree and in my naive mind and way of thinking at that exact moment I said everyone is going to go to my company "About Us" section and see that I'm still a college student and will not order. So to combat that I set my price point at $1.56 per notebook. I was flooded with orders. I undervalued product & time and sold handmade items at a true profit loss. Moving into 2017 after figuring out what I thought was better price points I noticed my company marketing budget for the year was light. Putting all that I had into a repeat style advertisement onto The Shaderoom Instagram page I crossed my fingers and hoped for the same outcome as the year prior. We went viral from our one post on The Shaderoom in 2016, largely in part because we sold out of our products so fast and every hot and happening blog picked up on our "trending" story giving us the ultimate mega load of free press. So my fingers were crossed looking for that same energy to happen in 2017. Negative ghost rider. We now had to pay those same blogs for that year's story or feature. 2016 was our "freebie". That lack of viral marketing energy for 2017 mixed with the fact that customers where upset their order was taking 3 weeks to arrive, really I feel like kept our profits down last year.
Cyber Innovative Staff Member: What can we expect this year from you?
Nneka: More transparency & communication first and foremost. I am an Empath and Introvert. Empaths are extremely sensitive behind their feelings and feelings of others. I felt like I let all the fans and supports down who supported my brand on day one. I was hit with crazy amounts of orders and was trying to push out product as fast as me and my team could manufacture but I knew orders were arriving after school started and I really carried that burden with me into 2017 & 2018. Having a military background of 9 years as a Human Resources Specialist, I was always taught to make sure the customers are happy. I felt like I had not only failed my customers but all of my military leaders who mentored me over the past 9 years. I ask for all supporters to grow with us over these growing pains. Support us how you can & respect that I am a first generation entrepreneur. I do not expect to have more hiccups like these in the future but I will do my best to keep all lines of communication open on what is happening current time.
To read more on Nneka's 40 under 40 honor click the link below.