Names: Jasmine Larmond, Cara Jacques, Nicole Mayes
Ages: 26 (Jasmine & Cara); 28 (Nicole)
Ethnic backgrounds: Jamaican (Jasmine); Haitian (Cara); Puerto Rican & African American (Nicole)
Hometowns: Orange, NJ (Jasmine); Montclair, NJ (Cara); Piscataway, NJ (Nicole)
Business: Banafrit – Ancient Egyptian for “Beautiful Soul”; Handcrafted jewelry, apparel & more
Web address: itsbanafrit.com
Comprised of three super dope, creative queens, the Banafrit brand has been making waves online since its birth last summer. And it’s not hard to see why. Busting through with funky hair jewels, one-of-a-kind floral earrings, neck bling, and rings, these ladies put all kinds of Earth, wind and fire into their designs.
Now expanding to apparel and smell-goods (YASSSSS!), Miss CM chopped it up with owners Cara Jacques, Jasmine Larmond and Nicole Mayes to get all the threads and beads from this eye-popping-show-stopping brand. Check it out.
CM: I know you ladies have been doing really well with your online store, so congratulations on that. How does it feel getting all the love and support from your customers?
Banafrit: After launching our website and receiving the love and support from our customers, it definitely feels amazing. We were so used to interacting with customers in person, it was a nice transition to promote and try to interact with people all over the US.
How did you three come up with the idea to start a jewelry line?
Banafrit sort of just fell on our laps. We always loved shopping, styling, and definitely had a knack for accessories in particular. We wanted to create a brand with unique designs because we always loved standing out.
You all have a lot of unique items, particularly your floral pieces, which are obviously influenced by nature. What are some other things that inspire your work?
Our floral designs are definitely becoming our signature pieces. That is how many people recognize our creations. God’s nature being the first thing that inspires us, we’re also inspired by cultures all over the world, boldness in our environment, and other jewelry, of course. Sometimes we look at other designs and say ‘How can we do this a “Banafrit way?”’
Do people often stop the three of you on the streets to compliment your accessories when you all wear them out?
We get stopped all the time and it is our number one way of communication to promote our brand. Word of mouth. Even our customers who have purchased one of our unique designs get stopped all the time.
I see that you three have a knack for designing clothing as well. Any plans to expand to a full clothing line?
Yes. Yes. Yes! We are already in the process of releasing some apparel pieces. We have always created our outfits for different festivals like Odunde, Curlfest, and Afro Punk. Our first line will include exclusive, limited edition graphic tees.
What are some others things that you ladies plan to include under the Banafrit umbrella?
Banafrit is a lifestyle brand. We decided to make it a lifestyle brand after realizing we possess so many different talents and goals; Banafrit can be the foundation for all of it. We hope to expand to have a baby line, a fragrance, bridal line of wedding rings, and so much more!
We hope to make Banafrit a non-profit organization to uplift and inspire our community. We find it absolutely necessary to spread positivity, give back and make a difference in the world. That is a part of our passion. That is why you can tell all our pieces are handcrafted with LOVE. Our work reflects even on our name ‘beautiful soul.’ Everything we do embodies love.
Do you all see yourselves owning a physical store one day?
We envision ourselves in a physical store one day. We already have our eyes and heart on one location and, God willing, it will happen sooner than we imagined. We dream of even having franchises in different areas of the country. Our possibilities are endless as a lifestyle brand.
Since there are three of you, is each person responsible for a separate task? Like is there one thing that one person is strong in and just sticks to, or are all of you involved in the creating, marketing and shipment processes, and so forth?
There are three of us and we ALL create. In the very beginning, we would all come together and create as one. We each have strengths and weaknesses that we make up for between all of us. Our teamwork is solid. If someone can’t finish a task, another one puts in the work. But for the most part, we each play an equal role in all processes.
Does the fact that’s there are three of you make business and your creative process easier or harder? For instance, are there ever any moments when one or two of you want to do things one way, but someone else disagrees?
Like any healthy relationship, we have our ups and downs, but we keep God first and he leads us to a compromise. We all have very strong personalities too, so he keeps us humble ourselves because we each have a significant role. We take criticism well and know anything we say is coming from a good place in best interest for the brand. We don’t let ego or pride get in the way of keeping our success a priority. Because we have known each other for so long, we know each other so well and it’s like we’re always family first.
What’s the best part about having your own brand?
The best thing about having our own brand is that ITS OURS! We’re entrepreneurs. We were fearless in the pursuit of our dreams and made it happen!
The worst part of having our own brand is that sometimes people will try to project their fears onto us so we are constantly battling with remaining TRUE to ourselves. We do our best not to let external influences throw off what God has planned for us.
Has it been difficult for you all to try and balance out your personal lives with managing a business?
Honestly, yes. It has been difficult. We all have personal lives and issues that we have to deal with on a daily basis like everyone else in the world. That’s life. It’s challenges and obstacles we all have to face.
How do you survive the challenges?
What keeps us grounded is prayer. We come together and solidify our foundation when we speak to God. It helps us stay focused and disciplines us to walk on faith and always remember to keep Him near.
What accomplishments are each of you most proud of thus far?
[Cara]: Our website launch, our multiple designs, constantly growing and having new ideas everyday.
[Nicole]: I’m proud of how much we’ve inspired others and the fact that we’re fulfilling our purpose. [I’m also proud of] all our successful events and the connections we’ve made
[Jasmine]: I’m proud of having one of a kind pieces, hearing people say how proud of us they are, creating our festival outfits and making our own marketing strategy for exposure.
Often times, people who are really artsy tend to have more than one passion and talent. Do you all see yourselves doing this for the rest of your lives, or are there plans to venture off into other areas of art?
Whatever God has planned for us [is what we’ll do]. Banafrit will always exist and thrive. We each have other passions and talents, but we can still [explore them] under the Banafrit umbrella. We are a lifestyle brand. We will definitely branch out to accomplish our own personal goals but still keep Banafrit alive in the process. We are Banafrit. Beautiful souls. Forever.
What advice would you give to young people out there who aspire to start their own business?
DO IT ! Don’t wait. Take risks! You can do anything you put your mind to. Accept failures as part of the journey. Prepare for sleepless nights. Nothing is handed to you, so work hard. Stay inspired. Don’t let anyone project their fears onto you, be brave and STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF. Most importantly, Keep God first.
Flip through the tabs below to get a peek at more Banafrit designs.
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