Her personality lights up a room, her laughter is fluttery and infectious, and her passion for making a difference in the community creates that warm fuzzy feeling inside. She has a way of making you feel like you’ve known each other for a lifetime, and it’s her ability to communicate and connect that creates a familiar sense of comfort. She is, Black girl magic!
As the Co-founder of Indy Mindy Inc, Deborah Vassell is making waves on the Black-owned business scene with her children’s pajama line, which came to fruition after an unsuccessful shopping trip, turned into a lucrative business with a wholesome goal. What is the goal? “To encourage, empower, and represent Black children” through the creative design of inspirational pajamas.
Deborah is also using her business savvy nature to help other Black-owned businesses gain exposure and avoid the potentially dangerous pitfalls that many new business owners face as they get started. I could go on an endless rant of appreciation for Deborah and the hope that Indy Mindy provides for Black children everywhere but, I’ll let her tell her story.
Indy Mindy is defined as a purpose-built clothing brand for Black children. What does purpose mean to you and how does it inspire the work that you do?
Purpose means that we have a goal, and a mission behind everything that we do. My business partner, Tajia, and I are very intentional about the characters that we draw and how they are represented. We are even mindful of the features we include in each design. We purposely incorporate images of both male and female doctors, artists, firefighters, dancers, musicians, and a variety of other professions on our pajamas as a source of inspiration for Black children.
I know from experience it can feel alienating when you have nothing or no one to resonate with, especially as a child. It’s human nature to seek belonging so I completely agree with your sentiments about the power of representation. What does representation mean to you and your brand as a whole?
Representation is a step on the path to identity building, self-acceptance, and establishing self-confidence. This is a major area that influences the way Black children view themselves and it’s important that they are reminded that they can be anything that they want to be. Children are naturally impressionable, so they need constant reminders that their race, or gender are not barriers to reaching their goals. There are no barriers; the sky is the limit!
I love the cultural prints and fun colours you add to your designs. But I have to wonder, do you have a favourite Indy Mindy pajama set?
I love all the Indy Mindy pajamas! But I’ve always dreamed of becoming a doctor. The problem was, as a young Black girl growing up in Brampton, Ontario, I didn’t see representation of Black female doctors. I had no one that remotely resembled me to serve as my role model and a source of inspiration in that occupation. So, unfortunately, I didn’t pursue my dream of becoming a doctor because it felt like a goal that was completely out of reach for me at the time. So, when I created the girls’ doctors pajamas, I had the younger version of myself in mind, and that’s why they will always hold a special place in my heart. I did it for little Dee!
What sparked your interest in becoming a small business owner?
It’s funny, I actually had no interest in business and absolutely no desire to become a business owner. But when I saw the lack of representation of Black children’s clothing in the marketplace, it was clear there was a desperate need to be filled. I decided to be the change I want to see in the world. I automatically felt compelled to act and I haven’t looked back since. It’s important to promote positive representation through imagery especially for children because that is one of the main ways they learn. The designs included on the Indy Mindy pajamas creates a sense of identity for Black children. Hopefully, that will inspire Black children to have even greater aspirations to seek opportunities within a variety of professional occupations, and actually believe they can achieve them. I remembered how rewarding my work is when I saw the excitement bubbling up in my nieces after they received their first pair of Indy Mindy pajamas. This is why I started Indy Mindy. I love watching my customers eyes light up when they see images of people who look like them, represented on our clothing. I never had that experience growing up. So, I want to make sure young Black children have a clear vision of their future and are willing to put in the hard work to achieve their dreams. This is what keeps me going every day!
What part has Meridian has played in your development as a Black business owner?
Meridian has helped personally and professionally with Indy Mindy by connecting me with creative teams to enhance my brand. I really appreciate Meridian for taking the time to listen to my story and support a local Black business!
How do you hope your clothing brand will influence the youth of today and tomorrow?
I hope that Indy Mindy increases a sense of ambition in the mindset of Black youth, so they actively pursue their wildest dreams. Aside from being comfortable in their Indy Mindy swag, I want them to feel seen, heard, valued, and proud to rock Indy Mindy.
What are some of the challenges you face as a Black female entrepreneur?
Tajia and I face a lot of scrutiny as a Black female entrepreneurs. There are many competing voices and sometimes negative opinions which can be overwhelming at times. I’m not sure if it happens explicitly because we’re Black. But being Black and female, means that we tend to be under a lot of pressure.
What steps have you taken to overcome those challenges?
When faced with challenges, I stay motivated by remembering why I got started. I started Indy Mindy because I absolutely LOVE what I do! I’m genuinely passionate about representing Black children in a positive light, so they can nurture their ambition and develop confidence to pursue their dreams. While the critics are inevitable, I realize that most people are coming from a good place and actually want to see me succeed. I think they just want to feel included and share their experience with me. That’s why I try my best not to take things personally. Tajia and I prefer to focus our attention and energy on the positive ways that we can improve and grow the brand, by taking one sustainable step at a time.
Do you have any other events or projects on the go?
2023 is going to be an exciting year for the Indy Mindy brand. Tajia and I have some exciting plans in the works! We will be participating in a number of pop-up shops in and around the GTA, and we are currently planning our Culture summer market which will be an outdoor event. Last year, we hosted the event at Square One Mall in Mississauga, Ontario, and it was a huge success! The support we received from the community was truly heartfelt. We are aiming to host another event this year that will include food trucks and Black-owned business vendors. So, stay tuned for more details! Now that we have seen some of your amazing products, how can those interested in your brand get in touch with you? All of our products are available on our website and can also be found or purchased by connecting with us through our social channels on Instagram and TikTok. We currently have a pop-up storefront located in Dufferin mall across from the Toys“R”Us. If you’re in the area, make sure you swing by and check us out!