Wrapping Black culture in a sustainable fashion with FOLKUS CEO Tamecca Seril
With her stylish new line of eco-friendly stone paper gift wraps, the New York entrepreneur celebrates the Black aesthetic and experience. In this story and accompanying video, she describes the conversation that got her started, the importance of true sustainability, and the individual stories her products tell.
Tamecca Seril didn't originally set out to build one of the country's most dynamic new Black-owned sustainable brands.
"I was enrolled in the inaugural SBS' Women Entrepreneurs NYC cohort to pivot in business, address my blind spots, and take the leap into food manufacturing and distribution," Seril says. "One day I mentioned to a peer in the cohort the desire to design wrapping papers based on the Black aesthetic and experience."
Her colleague agreed that it was a great idea, which was just the encouragement Seril needed to finally pursue it seriously. After a flurry of networking, research, and hard work, she launched FOLKUS, which offers a stylish line of double-sided, multipurpose gift wrapping papers featuring an array of Black-inspired designs.
Her debut collection was a hit, garnering positive buzz and plenty of orders from across the country from people who not only enjoyed its celebration of Blackness, but also appreciated its environmental friendliness. Unlike traditional gift wrap, FOLKUS uses limestone rather than wood pulp to make paper. According to Seril, no trees, water, bleach or acids are used in the manufacturing process of FOLKUS stone papers.
"This means no deforestation, no polluted waterways and instead reduced CO2 emissions and the usage of a sustainable material: limestone," she says.
FOLKUS stone paper products are non-toxic, food safe, water/grease/bacteria resistant and reusable.
Notable are the bright, bold, uplifting designs, something Seril sees as an important differentiator in the sustainable product market.
"We reject the idea that eco-products have to be expensive, unattainable and possess an 'earthy' bland and underwhelming appearance," she says. "We connect to our customers by expanding on the idea that Black is beautiful and for everyone. I want to retire the notion that Black brands are only for Black people; I want to shift thinking and consumer behaviors around 'Buy Black'." Before there was a business vocabulary and appetite for sustainability – Black folks had no other choice but to reduce, reuse, recycle/repurpose. Sustainability has always been a way of life and survival in the Black community.
At FOLKUS, the beauty to be found in Blackness goes beyond appearances and includes "stories" that form the inspiration for each individual design.
"It became imperative to humanize Black folks through the design storylines. Much like a book, I sought to use paper as a medium to tell a story, to transfer knowledge, to enchant, and amuse," Seril says. "The designs and storylines for the debut collection had many muses, ranging from fictional Black women characters like Khadijah and Binta to my father, Monroe, and the Black joy conjured by carnival and homecomings." FOLKUS is making “Black/ethnic” products that will live beyond the confines of the “ethnic” aisle. The opportunity to use cultural design products to create measurable substantive impact is priceless.
For her business to reach what she sees as its full potential, however, it needs to accomplish even more.
"It is not enough to be “environmentally-friendly” but negate to address the socio-economic elements of sustainability. FOLKUS aims to use our platform and profits to design and invest in people, services and products that do less harm and advance social and economic capital."
It's a tall order, but Seril is motivated by her mission to create one of the top sustainable brands.
"FOLKUS is redefining and recalibrating the sustainability industry," she says. "Our ethos is 'Black is the new green!'"
Visit https://www.folkus.co and enter “priceless” at checkout to receive 20% off (valid until 6/30/21).
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