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Meet Ethea Farahkhan of African Waistbeads by Ethea in Southwest

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ethea Farahkhan.

Ethea, before we jump into specific questions about the company, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was already wearing and aware of waistbeads (since 2008) because my brother moved from Oakland, CA to Accra, Ghana 18 years ago, and this was my introduction to the culture of wearing beads. Fast forward to June 2010; I got laid off my job from the City of San Francisco; I immediately Skyped my brother in Ghana and asked him to please send me some waistbeads because I realized that I was not the only African Diaspora woman who had never heard of the culture of wearing waistbeads. I needed Black women and girls to know what I know and start wearing beads. But in actuality, my main reason for creating African Waistbeads by Ethea LLC was to create a business for myself (since my layoff) because I knew that by doing so, I would never lay myself off. I have been in business, June 2020 for nine years, and this has been the most memorable, fun and fulfilling career I have ever had.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I learned early in this business that I have a product geared specifically for Black women and girls, and 98% of my targeted population have never heard of waistbeads. So I had to quickly find out places where Black women congregate the most in social and business settings to introduce them to the culture of wearing waistbeads.

Another main challenge in my business is when I had to return to work for the City of San Francisco, after 20 months of being laid off, and hustling waistbeads. I was grateful to have another source of income after returning to work, but trying to juggle my work from African Waistbeads, my City work and school work became a bit overwhelming. Investing in myself first became my number one priority, and getting a grip on my time management and finances was also a challenge for the first two years in my business. Since I retired in 2017, my time management has improved, the business has increased and finances can always stand to increase.

We’d love to hear more about your company.
June 2010 is when I received my first inventory from Ghana, and I hit the ground running, literally. I went to lots of beauty salons, gyms, hairstylist beauty events, hosted bead parties, attended Black History events at Bay area colleges, and traveled to Houston and New York every 3/4 months to build up a clientele of bead wearers. Because of my many trips to Houston (my hometown) for six straight years, Houston became my number one market. When I retired in February 2017, of course, I moved to Houston to expand my business and to bead more women. Not only do I sell waistbeads, but I also sell headwraps created from beautiful, colorful Ankara fabric that I get from Mali and Nigeria.

What I am known for is how good my shop smells; my wonderful musical playlists, great energy and good vibes, and the dopest, authentic African waistbeads ever. My clients dubbed me the Waistbead Queen over eight years ago, and I am still striving to live up to this title.

As a company, I am most proud of African Waistbeads by Ethea’s reputation, high level of professionalism, and its great customer service. What sets me apart from others in this business is that I don’t mind bringing awareness of wearing waistbeads to women no matter where they are. I set up an online store on my website for all those women who do not live in the area where I reside so that they can have the same type of access to beautiful waistbeads as those who live near me. I also have a YouTube channel with lots of tutorials that show how to tie waistbeads and wrap headwraps.

Finally, I invested in going back to school, where I received an undergrad degree in Ethnic Studies with an emphasis on African American Studies. I put the work in for a couple of years researching the history, culture and tradition of wearing waistbeads so that I could answer all of my customers’ questions. I have also traveled to Africa a few times to get first hand knowledge of these beads and to see African women and men wearing beads.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
By far, the proudest moment of my career is convincing mothers how important it is to let their daughters wear beads either as chokers, bracelets, anklets or around their waist. Only this year, 2020, have I seen an influx of mothers bringing their daughters to get beaded. Thank you, Queens, for beading your little princesses. Do it for the culture!

Pricing:

  • Long beads for our curvy girls. Prices start from $25 to $35 per strand
  • Short bead prices begin at $15 per strand to $30

Contact Info:

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