Yolanda Perkins, founder and CEO of Undies by BlendiTone, a line of underwear for children of color, has overcome a lot of obstacles in her life. She has transformed herself from being incarcerated in prison to a successful entrepreneur who promotes representation for Black children. She also is an advocate for the restoration of former prison inmates.
Yolanda couldn’t have predicted what the Beyonce Effect would do to catapult her children’s underwear line into market exposure, but she is thankful and excited about her journey to making a dent in the industry.
“I see the reaction from my kids when they see faces that actually look like theirs on their underwear, not a Disney character that doesn’t look like them. It’s a sense of empowerment, and I want to give that to Black kids all over the world with this line,” she explained.
As a recipient of the NAACP and BeyGood Impact Award, Yolanda now has startup funding to scale her company, Undies by BlendiTone at the same rate as her now-viral fame.
The idea started in early 2019 when she and her then 6-year old daughter were shopping for underwear at a major retail store. Displeased with the options of designs and characters available to her, Yolanda’s daughter made a comment that sparked the business idea. “She said ‘I want something with someone that looks like me on it. None of these characters look like me,’ and she was right,” Yolanda said. From there, Yolanda began to do market research and had samples made with children’s characters that looked more like her own children.
Yolanda was no stranger to entrepreneurship and had already started several businesses at that point. As a former federal prison inmate, dealing with obstacles stemming from the stigma of her past taught her that the only way to liberation was through self-employment. She decided to test underwear sales out on Instagram and Facebook and was surprised at how quickly she sold out.
Despite having some success with sales on social media, Yolanda realized she didn’t have the funding to bootstrap costs necessary to compete with big retail brands. “I would see their packaging and presentation and I knew I didn’t have enough savings to keep up. It paralyzed me for a while even though I had two boxes left to sell,” she admitted.
Months later in late 2020, Yolanda was inspired again when a mentor invited her to a grant writing for business workshop. By then she had heard about the BeyGood Impact Award for Black-owned businesses and knew she wanted to apply.
Fast-forward now one year later as a recipient, Yolanda’s prison-to-promising entrepreneurship story has gone viral on social media a few times since the award winners were announced in January 2021. With startup funding and high visibility in tow, Yolanda says she’s ready to tap into the market and build her brand into an agent for representation and restoration.
She comments, “My vision is to bring all production and distribution in-house so I can give job opportunities to returning citizens like me. I understand how hard it can be fighting against that stigma when you’ve made some bad decisions in your life, and I want to be able to give people the second chance they need to move on in a positive direction.”
About Undies by BlendiTone
Undies by BlendiTone was created by a wife and mom of two kids, who noticed the lack of diversity in undergarments while shopping for her kids. Realizing that if her kids enjoyed seeing more characters and images that looked like them, then for sure there were other parents and kids of color that would enjoy the same.
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