In honor of Women’s History Month, I had the privilege of interviewing a black female founder who made history through her literary empire. Be Rooted founder and CEO Jasmin Foster focuses on diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) through her colorful journals, pencils and stationery featuring black women. Jasmin Foster the first stationery product owned by a Black woman to make on the shelves of a large Target retailer, here’s how her business transforms the writing industry while keeping DEI at the forefront of its company.
Give me a history of how you came to this place with your products available on Target.
I started my sales career. I have worked in various roles at Target, but one role was where I helped to grow the business side of multicultural beauty. At the time, Target focused heavily on multicultural hair products. But I thought, “How can we make Target a place for all the beauty of so many cultures?” Such as skin care, men’s grooming and cosmetics. That way, when women of color come from the market, they not only have their hair products, but they can complete their entire look. I went into that business side and had the opportunity to meet many women designers of color who were changing the beauty of beauty.
From there, I went to work for a multicultural beauty company. In late 2020 when the plague struck, I had a chance to stop. I was running 1,000 miles an hour growing other people’s products, but I never had a chance to stop and ask, “What do I want for my future?” It became clear that whatever I was doing, I wanted to focus black women on my work. When I thought about my passion, I realized that I was always a girl who loved to write. I used to buy a lot of journals and could not wait to decorate my locker at school. I had the organizers of all the new work. But I always felt cut off from the industry. When I see products on the market, there has never been a person on the cover like me. And the language always felt like they were not talking to me or my community. I wanted to change the face of the writing industry. Writing products stay with you in your office, in your bag and in the bedroom. It is a piece of luggage that you carry every day. I wanted to create a genre that makes Black women and women of color feel like they are here while weaving inspiring and uplifting messages.
Why do you choose to place your work among women of color?
As a dark-skinned girl growing up, it was hard to imagine myself being represented or included. If you watch the mainstream media or go shopping, you may wonder, ‘Why can’t I see myself in this situation?’ Throughout my career, I have always focused on my work on issues of Black women and women of color. It made sense for me to start my own product focused on women of color because I am one. I grew up seeing the inequality we have experienced, and I wanted to do my part to uplift and place among white women. I want young girls to feel represented and not to ask themselves questions that make them feel inadequate. Hopefully my style will change the status of black teenage girls.
How do you keep DEI at the forefront of your work?
With the products we create, we always think about our customers; who he is and how we speak to him. As I formed my team, I made sure to hire team members who looked like the community we worked for. We make sure that most of our team members are women of color or we partner with other women-owned businesses. When we think about our messages, we stay focused on our customer and show how he would like us to act. Not just about the product we sell, but we make sure DEI excels in everything we do, including our messaging and hiring processes.
What is the story of the brand name, Be Rooted?
I wanted to make sure my customer felt that they were his and that they were firmly invested in the product. Our clients want to feel rooted in culture, thinking and who they are. I love the name of our product because it lets our qualified customer know that we are designed to display and communicate with them.
You include women of different colors in the covers of your journals. How do you choose which type of woman to wear?
When we were drawing the first collection, we wanted to have a journal of all shapes. Think about the different ideas we have for the whole day or week and how we can have a journal that illustrates that situation. If you watch your spirit, what does that woman look like? When you defend your power, what does that woman look like? As we thought about our messages and the situations we wanted to include, we designed the topics on the covers to cover each mood. We also wanted to weave different types of leather, clothing styles and hair styles. Black women are very different, and I wanted to make sure that when a woman looks at our collection, you find someone who remembers her.
He also has pencils marked with good guarantees. Why do you think women of different races need to see messages like, “I’m strong,” “I deserve” and “I’m brave”?
The focus is on everything that we as Black women cannot afford to go through. We often hear about the ideas and differences that black women face. I want my brand to cut the sound and be an inspiring voice that reminds women of color that we are fit, bold and strong. Be Rooted is here to remind women of color everything we are already inside of us.
As you embarked on this journey, did you know that black founder and entrepreneur can be part of your future? Or did the businessman get it?
I used to say I was a great friend of the businessman. I was a businessman who could approach him to ask questions, discuss his dream and make plans. I had the opportunity to learn from many black entrepreneurs in the beauty industry, and I was told how people were taking their dreams for business. In that statement, I say that the businessman found me. I stopped being good at staying young and helping someone else build their dreams and gave myself the freedom to follow my own.
Some people say the biggest problem with being a Black founder is the lack of money, but I actually think the real problem is the lack of access to advice and information gaps. There was so much I could do and I had to learn to love being a business student. However, I do not know anyone else in the paper industry. I can’t reach people who have paved the way for me in the past that I can rely on. Many of my challenges are learning as I go, making too many mistakes and finding joy in becoming a business student.
What advice would you give to other women color designers who want to start a business?
You will never feel good. You will never feel rich or knowledgeable. You will never feel that you have enough access. But do it anyway. When you follow your will and purpose, you have what is inside you to get it, and that is all you need. Especially black women, if we have nothing else, we are determined when we want to be and we have all the energy needed to achieve our dreams. Do not let injustice hold you back.
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