Q&A with Sara Crawford, a Philanthropist and Trail Blazer in Urban Couture
Sara Crawford is in the business of helping people to look their best. Sara is a fashion designer and founder of Anara Original. She uses her fashion platform as a stage to support important social causes. As an albino African American woman that is slightly visually impaired she has faced her fair share of adversity. However, Sara did not let her disadvantages slow her down she has worked with premium lifestyle brands including; DDC Lab, H&M, and Tommy Hilfiger. Determined to succeed, Sara received her bachelor’s degree in fashion design and marketing in three years. In addition to being a successful entrepreneur that has not let her visual disability hold her back, Sara is a philanthropist she contributes regularly to The Diabetes Association and The Division for the Visually Impaired. Her brand name Anara Original is truly an extension of herself —the name ‘Anara’ is a derivative of her first name (Sara) and her middle name (Ann). She enjoys taking something plain and making it into something extraordinary and she lives by the phrase, ‘fashion is a hobby for some, for me it’s a lifestyle’. Small Biz Diamonds caught up with this inspiring entrepreneur to learn more about her business experience.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what lead you to starting your own business
Entrepreneurship runs in my family, my mom has a catering business, my dad had a cleaning business, my grandfather owned a store and a restaurant, and my uncle was the first African American printer in Wilmington, Delaware. I hands down believe it is in my blood and considering fashion and art were always huge interests of mine this is the only thing that made sense. I knew it would take a lot of work but I was up for the challenge and in 2005 Anara Original was born!
What resources did you use to start your own business?
I learned a lot from my parents, over the years watching their business ethic, business decisions, and overall their love for what they chose to do for a profession was one of the biggest resources I had. I learned a lot throughout my time in college but learning hands on working for small local businesses was a great resource tool. In business people speak about all the great things but do not speak about the realistic struggles, these are the things I learned and applied them to my daily day-to-day.
When you first launched did you experience ‘naysayers’ or ‘haters’ that said your idea was crazy or it would never sell? If so how did you handle their negativity?
You will always have to hear the opinions of “outsiders” but staying true to yourself, dreams, and goals is what a business owner’s focus should be. When I was young people told me being a designer was not a “real” job and of course I knew different! When I started Anara Original people then told me no one would want to wear something you painted or airbrushed on, it is just too different. It definitely did hurt to hear but I knew there would be someone that would appreciate the original aspect and creativity and my brand.
How does social media impact the way that you do business? Which social media platforms do you prefer?
Media is key to any business in this day and age. If you do not have a social media presence it is as if you are not even a real business! Although all these different platforms can become overwhelming with our day-to-day routines its a must to be relevant and to stay present. I have several social media platforms. But I prefer twitter, instagram, and tumblr. I feel for me they have been the most effective and I believe they allow me to give my clients an exclusive look into the brand and into my life as the visionary of the brand.
Where and how do you network offline?
I do a lot of networking at events and when I am out and about. You never know who knows who or what you will run into. I research and try to connect with relevant groups or organizations locally as well to expand my network. Honestly although I do these things a lot of my networking really happens online!
What is the toughest part about running your own business?
The two toughest things for me are balance and time. There does not seem to be enough time in the day for me to complete all the tasks I need or want to get done. And because I am a workaholic I am never completely comfortable with just taking a break! I feel like I allow my business to cross over into my personal. They have to be separate and I am still learning.
What is the best thing about being a small business owner?
The best and rewarding things I feel about owning my business are the rewards of working hard for myself accomplishing all the things I use to dream about and executing. It is a very satisfying and accomplished feeling.
Do you have a business plan? If so, how did you go about gathering the information contained it and how do you use your plan?
I do have a business plan and because I have changed some of my directions for the brand it should be updated. I was blessed enough to have a great colleague whom is a marketing director and specializes in business plans. He was a great resource lining me up with checklists and realistic deadlines. And lot of research took place especially when it came to creating projections for the brand. Overall I see your business plan as your handbook of the how, what, where, when of your business, the most important thing is how your going to execute and what you need to be successful at your endeavor. It keeps me focused on my ultimate goals for the brand and when I become unfocused for any reason I revisit the plan!
If you were granted $100,000 for your business, how would you use the money?
I would use this money to have a flawless trunk show showing in New York City or Los Angeles, I would then use a portion for material I need and the remainder for production. And the way I love to save money I would still have a little for the business account for a rainy day.
What three adjectives accurately describe your experience as a small business owner?
Rewarding. Fulfilling. Privileged.
Are you/Anara Original directly involved with any charitable giving or events?
Anara Original is involved with a specific charitable organization right now but there are many that are dear to our heart! Usually when the brand has a fashion show we donate a portion of the proceeds to a organization, giving back is very important! In the past we have supported Police Ahletic League, American Diabetes Association, Rick Vanstory research center, and several others.
What is in the future for Anara Original?
The future is bright for Anara Original! There’s always work to be done because this is such a hard industry. Closer to the new year we will be doing a re-launch of the Timothy Reese tie and bowtie collection, we will also be re-launching a new website for the brand within the coming months, and the brand is looking to potential do a trunk show during New York fashion week. There are so many things so I always ask people to keep their eyes peeled.
Please share a small biz diamond that you would like to pass on to other entrepreneurs and small business owners?
When you think you have done everything you can do and you feel like giving up, keep doing more, do not ever stop! It can be hard but do not stop. I trust in God in at all times, he always sees me through. So I encourage every and anyone to go for your ultimate dream and goals!
Ashley Neal is an entrepreneur and small business advocate that enjoys writing about topics pertaining to small business. She is the owner of Small Biz Writer, where she specializes in providing quality content online for small business owners which in turn increases visibility and sales. Additionally, Ashley is the editor/writer and publisher of her own small business resource blog Small Biz Diamonds. She also writes for Examiner.com as the Atlanta Small Business Examiner, and Future Simple’s small business blog: Growth University.