Wrapping Black culture in a sustainable style 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. Watch as she discusses the importance of true sustainability, the individual stories her products tell, and her new virtual workshops on cooking and table decorating coming in June and August.
Tamecca Seril didn't originally set out to build one of the country's most dynamic new Black-owned sustainable brands. She was actually looking for a career change when a conversation with someone at work made her revisit a small-business idea she'd been considering.
"One day I mentioned the desire to design wrapping papers based on the Black aesthetic and experience," Seril recalls. 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. That's because, unlike traditional gift wrap, Seril's products are made with paper that uses limestone rather than wood pulp. According to her, no trees, water, bleach, dyes, or acids are used in the manufacturing process.
"That 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 nontoxic, food safe, water/grease/bacteria resistant, reusable, and slightly elastic. But they're most notable for their 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 and for so-called Black 'problems' like beauty or hair. I want to shift thinking and consumer behaviors around 'Buy Black.'"
For Seril, the beauty 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," she 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."
On top of that, Seril is hosting virtual workshops throughout the year to celebrate Black excellence, featuring an exclusive cooking and table decorating event slated just after Juneteenth on June 22, 2022 at 6 p.m. ET with another to follow in August.
The upcoming workshops are "culturally rich, expansive, and accessible," and Seril hopes that they serve as inspiration and education to all who attend. "No special skills or items are needed. Allow the FOLKUS stone paper to add flavor, substance, and function, and the simmer sauce, desserts and cocktail mix to marvel your senses. This experience can transport you to the Caribbean, East and West Africa without a flight and passport. Moreover, Black-owned businesses are making 'the culture' more and more accessible with innovative products and services."
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 green environmentally and ecologically to address the socioeconomic elements of sustainability within the community," she says. "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!'"