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Buy Black: Marie Todd Collection

African Americans are powerful consumers, but the point is often raised that we could certainly support more minority entrepreneurs with our purchasing power. To make that mission easier, JET presents #BuyBlack, which profiles Black business folk from around the world.

Turning a hobby into a business is no easy feat, but toss in a sizable dosage of passion and openness to exploration and boom! Anything is possible. Such was the case with successful entrepreneur Lisa Marie Todd. If the name sounds familiar then you probably grew up with the “Fly Girls” who captivated the stage in between comedic bits on In Living Color.

Fast forward to November 2009 and the dancer/actress added business owner and entrepreneur to her resumé. Lisa’s company brand is Marie Todd and the specialty is jewelry, candles and home fragrances that will attract the senses of both women and men.

Learn more about this lifestyle must-have below!

JET: You’ve gone from a Fly Girl on In Living Color to actress and now a successful designer. Can you share the drive behind your career and how you stepped into entrepreneurship?

Lisa Marie Todd: I have to do something creative whether it be dancing, acting or using my hands. My company all began when I had my daughter who is now 20-years-old attending NYU.  We started jewelry making just as a hobby. I started off just doing beading but wanted to do more than that. I found master goldsmith in Los Angeles and studied under him. I was actually producing the jewelry – sitting down on a bench with my torch and goggles creating a line. (laughs) With the fragrances, I wanted to have one signature scent. It started with one candle and now I have 20 fragrances. So, it just morphed into something that started as a hobby-turned-passion and now business.

JET: What is your advice for taking your hobby and making it profitable?

LMT: I feel like all the information is there if you open yourself up to it and filter away what you don’t need. Find the best people you can to learn from – whether it be the actual thing you’re planning to do or the business end of it. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Read and study other entrepreneurs that are making it work.

JET: Describe the Marie Todd Collection and the process to bring it to market.

LMT: I love lifestyle and interiors. If you saw my home, I have a garden. I love to cook and love scents. I think all of the stuff in the Marie Todd Collection is a reflection of my life and how I live and want to share it with everyone. I’ll be inspired by some of the scents from my garden and actually use them for some of my candles. It’s a piece of me. (laughs)

MarieToddCollection

JET: I noticed your collection ranges from $40 to hundreds of dollars. What determines the price of your product?

LMT: With the home fragrances, some of the oils are going to be more expensive than others due to the process of getting them to the oil stage. My packaging is higher-end luxury looking. So, you’re getting the whole package with everything. With the jewelry it depends on certain things. I’ve had some 18K gold pieces that were $4,000 when I was doing those types of pieces. Then I have the lower-price which may be a sterling silver or 18K gold vermeil which is sterling silver with gold over it. So it depends on the materials. I also put a lot of time and energy into the visual brand of the product and articulated that to very amazing graphic designer. I was working with a lot of stones, so the signature collection is very jeweled toned and I told her I wanted to reflect that without looking gaudy. The logo is made from an actual piece that I did – so she took that and expanded it. I’m not one to just hand things off. I’m very proactive and involved.

JET: How did you fund your business?

LMT: This whole thing is so close to my heart, so I funded it. If it failed, I’ve wasted my money. I had an incentive to make it work and push it.

JET: What is your tactic for making people believe in your vision?

LMT: I think being clear about what the brand is and people understanding it in the first place. And then your energy and enthusiasm about it. If you’re excited then you can be the circus that brings everybody to the party to be excited about it. All of that comes through and people feel that.

JET: What obstacles did you overcome when producing your collection?

LMT: I think the biggest obstacle for anyone manufacturing a product is the process of manufacturing. Anything can go wrong at any time and you’ve got to be quick on your feet and creative. I re-branded the line a year and a half ago and the process of getting the glass to look right, if I told you the nightmare stories I had…you wanted to just say forget it. But it’s having the patience that stuff is going to go wrong and having the ability to problem solve is imperative. That was my biggest learning curve. But it’s fun and I love it!

JET: Where would you like to see the Marie Todd Collection to go next?

LMT: I’m building a plan for further expansion in the home fragrance category. There’s also plans to do more organic lines and products. And for me, personally, there are plans to do more lifestyle stuff. I’m all about home and cooking, so I’m working on a project with that. Eventually, the whole plan was to become a full lifestyle destination to enjoy and share with people! I like that.

For more about the Marie Todd Collection, visit marietodd.com.