Bryanda Law isn’t your average millennial. On a good day you might find her nerding out about digital design or geeking it up on a discussion about cosplay wigs. Bryanda is the definition of the “free-spirited, quirky black girl”, and she owns her individuality proudly. So much so that in 2014, she launched a personal blog that evolved into the now niche online platform Quirktastic, a site that offers a safe space for alternative black culture. Bryanda’s passion for an open and diverse digital space for people of color has transformed into a growing digital business that has amassed more than 0.6 million pageviews and mega partnerships with big brands like Aloft Hotels and Colgate. The University of North Carolina, Charlotte graduate is unabashedly creating her own lane on the interwebs and we are all the way here for it. In this interview with BAUCE, Bryanda shares what inspired her to launch Quirktastic and the trials and triumphs she’s faced on her journey thus far as a business woman and creative.
Bryanda, let’s start with a real question. What does it mean to be quirky? How would you define this?
Bryanda: I would define quirky similar to the dictionary definition of having unexpected traits. With all of the stereotypes of what it means to come from various ethnic backgrounds, I consider people to be quirky if they don’t let these societal expectations define who they are if they don’t agree with it.
So, what makes you quirky?
Bryanda: What’s crazy is that when I was growing up, other people considered me quirky before I ever did! People at my school and within my family thought that it was weird that I spent most Saturdays at Hot Topic or going to various alternative rock shows. People have also picked on the way that I talk and how I used to dress. Even nowadays, people see my colorful and vibrant platform and are surprised to meet me in person and see how mellow and laid-back I actually am. What makes me quirky, in my opinion, is my outlook on life. I spent so much time worrying about how I was perceived growing up, but I realize that everyone feels insecure about things. Therefore, I try my best to stay true to how I feel and want I want to do. I act, behave and dress accordingly.
For the people who don’t know, explain how you built Quirktastic. What inspired your brand makeover from Quirky, Brown Love to Quirktastic?
Bryanda: Quirktastic the media outlet actually started as the blog, Quirky, Brown Love in 2014. I started publishing online because I was tired of the narrative that was being told about Black people online. I didn’t see a go-to place online for Black people who considered them quirky, nerdy or alternative, so I decided to create it myself. I decided to rebrand to Quirktastic at the beginning of this year because I felt like the name and new site I designed fit better with my mission. The name “Quirky, Brown Love” didn’t fit with what I was trying to create. I am working on building a hub for all thing quirky, alternative and Black and I feel like the name and website for Quirktastic.co embodies that. Plus brands didn’t really take the name Quirky, Brown Love seriously. Even though “Quirktastic” definitely sounds quirky and out there, it definitely gets me further with brands than Quirky, Brown Love ever did.
Your new site is beautiful so we are here for the rebrand! Now let’s get serious. What has been your biggest business challenge to date? What has been your biggest win?
Bryanda: I’d definitely have to say getting my email hacked and having someone falsify information about me to a potential partner. It definitely embarrassed me in front of my staff (that I had literally just hired days before) and put a strain on what could’ve been a great relationship with some amazing members in the Black tech community. In the end, however, it definitely made me more cautious, forced me to boss (or “bauce”) up and helped me build a stronger relationship with my staff.
As for my ‘biggest” win, I’m not sure that I have one. I’ve been thankful to have several victories throughout these few years, such as working with Venus Williams, attending New York Fashion Week, booking both some amazing national and international clients, and building a trustworthy and reliable staff (for those who have ever tried, building a team before, you know how big of a deal this is). My favorite win, however, has been the success Black businesses have seen from being featured on our holiday gift guide and list for quirky, carefree black women. Receiving emails about how much money they made in sales from being featured has been so inspiring!
Do you believe there are stigmas or stereotypes that exist around “quirky” people? How does your brand seek to combat them?
Bryanda: Definitely! I was actually shocked to see that some Black people online don’t like when other Black people who consider themselves “quirky” or “alternative” talk about problems that they’ve faced or identity issues that they have struggled with. I’ve even talked about it with some of my fellow quirky creators online and we’ve all received a lot of push back from using the words “quirky”, “alternative”, “soft” and “weird” in the same sentence as “Black people”. A lot of people accuse us of self-hate, even though a lot of us are working really hard to make sure that Black people are represented as multidimensional in the media. I’ve even been called a Nazi before for using “alternative” and “Black people” in the same sentence!
If I could say one thing that my brand is trying to do is to show the world that what you listen to, how you wear your hair and what activities you like doesn’t make you any more or less Black. To be Black is to be multidimensional. Being Black is such a beautiful thing and nothing can take that away from us.
You’re currently based in North Carolina instead of the media metropolis of New York. How does being in the south help or hurt your brand? Is there a growing community for digital media and tech in NC?
Bryanda: Although I do travel to metropolitan areas like New York City often, I absolutely love living in Durham, North Carolina. Durham is actually one of the Code2040 and Google For Entrepreneur hubs, so it is great for people in tech and media. I currently work out of American Underground, which is where several successful start ups and established businesses in the city work out of, including Burt’s Bees and Shoeboxed. Also, a lot of people here have made a Forbe’s 30 Under 30 list so it definitely provides a lot of inspiration. I’d say that being based where I’m at has been the best thing for me because the media market is not saturated.
In larger cities, a lot of people are trying to work in media which can make it harder to get press passes or access to certain people. In Durham, this is not the case, so we are one of the go-to media outlets for most press events and festivals. I’ve also had the amazing opportunity to work with our homegrown festival, Art of Cool, so every year, I always get to meet or hangout with the artists in a more intimate setting, which is something I’m not sure that I’d be able to do in a larger city. There are sometimes well I feel like I would be further along if I lived in a bigger city because of my work ethic; however, I feel like making the most out of where I’m currently living has been the best thing for the brand.
What are your goals for Quirktastic this year? As a businesswoman what are you seeking to accomplish with your company?
Bryanda: Well now that I have officially quit my full time job (yesssss), my goals are revolved around substainable monetization. Currently, I have a team of 11 contract freelancers and I’d love to be able to offer full-time positions within the next few years. The current focus for the brand, however, is growing The Quirk Shop! The Quirk Shop is a lifestyle e-commerce shop that pulls from references within my target audience. The response so far has been great, so I am excited to see how I am able to evolve and grow it to reach more people.
BAUCE readers are self-made women that aspire to higher tastes. What is the one luxury thing you divulge in as a quirky, brown girl?
Bryanda: One thing I divulge in is high-quality food because I absolutely love to eat! I also value eating healthy food because I believe that food is a form of medicine. I’m also very adventurous when it comes to food, so I like eating a good variety. I swear that I eat at least three different countries’ cuisines several times throughout the week. I also love to invest in journals! It’s kind of weird, but I am very picky about the textures of my journals, the paper line width, as well as the pens that I use to write in the (Pentel RSVP pens, anyone?). I guess that comes with being a writer!
Want to keep up with this queen of the alternative black folk tribe? You can say hello to her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. We’d also highly recommend listening to her site’s podcast, “Outchea University”, to learn more about her transition from blogger to BAUCE.