When April Showers connects to our Zoom call, I ask her how she’s doing. She’s in the middle of moving but still agreed to take an hour out of her day to chat with me.
“I am living the dream as I always say,” she says.
Being mindful of her time, I dive into the interview, starting with: So, tell me a bit about yourself.
April tells me many things in response to this prompt, but one thing that catches my attention is that she’s always had a very specific vision for her life.
“I’ve always known that I was going to live an extraordinary life,” she says.
She explains to me how her mom fostered this vision of success and a certain lifestyle in her.
While April grew up in South Central, Los Angeles, she never spent the weekends there. Her mom always chose to take her out to prestigious areas like Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Santa Monica.
“Even if we were going to the movies we would go far out,” she says. “So yeah, my mom definitely put all that in me at a very, very young age.”
While April admits that she didn’t always know how she was going to get the life she envisioned, her work history demonstrates her determination to figure it out.
More than dreaming big, April seemed to know how to build success from an early age through business. She started her first business at the age of 19. It was a personal assistant agency where she connected celebrities with PAs.
Later, April moved on to having a successful insurance agency and becoming a licensed real estate broker.
The last two businesses are still running, and April has even started one more, the business we’re here to talk about today—Afro Unicorn™, a conscious brand with the mission to positively uplift and impact unique, powerful women and children of color. The brand has recently made it into Walmart.
“And I’m a single mom of two amazing honor roll boys, ages 16 and 11,” April adds when she’s telling me about her accomplishments.
If you think it’s crazy that April has three businesses and looks after two kids, you’re not alone.
In fact, I find out as I’m interviewing April that her reputation for balancing many things at once is what lead to the birth of Afro Unicorn™ in a way.
How Afro Unicorn™ was born
“I was being referred to as a unicorn over and over again from a friend and I had no idea why,” April explains.
So, one day she asked him about it.
He responded it was because she was doing it all at an extraordinary level—running her businesses, taking care of her boys, a booming social life.
April tells me she told him, “I’m just a black woman.”
I want to snap my fingers and say ‘yes girl’ in response to this, but the story is getting good, and I don’t want to interrupt so I refrain.
“I didn’t grow up with My Little Pony or Strawberry Shortcake,” she says. “I grew up with mud pies, video games, and basketball. I knew nothing about unicorns. So, I googled it to see what they were all about.”
April liked what she found out. She read that unicorns were magical and unique and she felt they were a good representation of her.
She decided at that moment to begin embracing her inner unicorn. Anytime she texted or wrote copy she began to sign off using the unicorn emoji.
“Then one day it hit me like a bag of bricks,” she says. “Why is it that something that’s supposed to represent who I am, doesn’t look like me? Who determined that unicorns were supposed to be white? They’re supposed to be unique and magical. Who determined that those qualities equal being white?”
April set out to find a unicorn emoji that represented her better. When she couldn’t find one, she hired an illustrator to create it herself.
That image would eventually become the visual representation of her empowerment brand.
The Business Vision
April tells me when she started Afro Unicorn™ as a business, she was trying to develop a brand with an important message that would become a household name.
Her idea was that part of the business would be about selling goods from T-shirts to everything they are doing now, then another part she wanted to be about helping other women create multiple streams of revenue.
“I have always wanted to help others,” she tells me. This is another notion that rubbed off from watching her parents help a lot of people in their community, but also an idea that was further instilled in her by Zig Ziglar.
“I started to get into Zig Ziglar as a young adult and I caught on to him saying, ‘if you help enough people get to where you want to be, you’ll get to where you need to be’. And I believed that,” she says.
Her idea was to help women figure out multiple streams of revenue at an annual business conference.
“I wanted to have these annual conferences, where I brought women from all over [together]. I wanted them to figure out what they were passionate about. We were going to work on business plans and we were going to see different opportunities,” she says.
For the conference, April wanted the image of Afro Unicorn™ to be a symbol that other women could have as a representation of who they were, something to remind them they were magical and to empower them.
In early 2019, April began working on the e-commerce side of her business selling t-shirts using a model called P.O.D. (Print On Demand) through Shopify while also thinking through plans for her future conference.
Then the pandemic hit.
“I couldn’t do those conferences [anymore],” she tells me.
But April has a motto that helped her pivot quickly—All gas, no breaks.
No longer being able to hold conferences, she instead planned to go live on Facebook every Saturday morning to give free business advice and to promote other businesses. Something she still does to this day.
“I am big on promoting other people,” she says. “And part of our sales strategy and marketing strategy for Afro Unicorn™ is that we highlight anyone that wears our shirt, and we highlight who you are as a businessperson.”
April says her DMs are flooded with people wanting her to share their brand and their business.
“I don’t think I will ever stop promoting other businesses,” she says. For her, it’s part of why she is successful.
Her marketing strategy is indeed effective, attracting a large audience including celebrities and Walmart.
How Afro Unicorn™ got into Walmart
April explains to me that one of her patrons, a little girl by the name of Cassidy Brianna was out with an Afro Unicorn™ T-shirt on. Her mom took a video of her when a stranger walked by and said, ‘I like your hair’. The girl replied, ‘Thank you, it’s an afro’ and the video went viral even being reposted by Viola Davis and Oprah.
That’s when Walmart discovered the brand. They emailed April asking her what she thought about an Afro Unicorn™ x Walmart collaboration for party supplies.
April says she always likes to highlight that it was the engagement from her community on the viral post that really made her stand out to Walmart.
Days later, April found herself on a call with Walmart. “That started the train,” she says.
April tells me that while she always imagined the brand would be a big household name, she didn’t think she was going to be able to take it there herself.
“I honestly thought that some major company would have to come to buy it, like a Mattel, to get it out to the world.”
But her partnership with Walmart was set up in a way that she would learn to do it herself.
When I pry more about the partnership, April tells me that Walmart introduced her to licensees – the holders of brand licenses.
“So, it really wasn’t me negotiating with Walmart, but more so me negotiating with the [product] partners that they use,” she says.
She explains further that all products found in major retailers like Walmart are produced by partner manufacturers ie approved vendors, that hold licenses to produce branded products.
She says learning about licensing deals, intellectual property, and royalties was like learning another language, but she promises to help other women like her figure out the process in the future after she’s got it down pat.
“I eventually will write a book that’s going lay it all out,” she says.
Her goal is to bring other brands in and show them how to do it too.
In the meantime, April shares that watching the documentary, The Toys That Made Us on Netflix was a resource that helped her, and her team wrap their heads around some of what they were diving into.
Gratitude for Walmart
When I ask April what her thoughts were when Walmart suggested she bring Afro Unicorn™ to the world herself she replies, “How, Sway.”
I completely miss the culture reference and I think April can see it on my face.
“There was this interview with Kanye West where he kind of went spaz on Sway a long time ago,” she explains. “He was talking about the fact that he’s not able to get on the Ralph Lauren level, and Sway just keeps saying you have money, just go get your own warehouse, just go print your own stuff. Why do you need them?
[Kanye] kept saying, you don’t have the answers, Sway. I’m trying to tell you the level other people are doing it at, and I’m not able to do it [at that level] because they’re not giving me that information to be able to do it.”
I Google the clip after our interview and I can’t believe the parallel and the luck, for lack of a better word, that April has had with this connection that’s willing to teach her how to become a licensed brand.
“Now I’m on the same level as Disney. I’m next door to Disney Princesses on the shelves, LOL [dolls], we’re all together,” she explains.
April says she likely would not have access to the information if it weren’t for Walmart.
“Walmart was able to open that door and that’s been the biggest thing for this brand,” she says.
With the June 2022 launch of party supplies and accessories, Afro Unicorn™ is one of the first Black female-owned brands to launch in Celebrations at Walmart.
And that’s just where they’re starting.
April tells me apparel will be out in Walmart soon too and there’s lots more to come.
When I ask April if she has any advice for women who want to follow in her footsteps, she offers two simple pieces.
The first, she says is technical – Patent, Copyright, or Trademark whatever your idea is.
The second piece of advice is to be consistent.
“So many people give up too soon,” she explains.
She says you’ve got to show up even when other people aren’t there.
“When I started our Small Business Saturday, I would put the post: Hey, send me your business and I’ll put it on my story. Crickets. I wouldn’t get a response. But do you think I was like Oh, nobody’s responding so I’m not going to do it? No, I went into my group and if I saw someone had a business, I just started sharing it and tagging it Small Business Saturday.”
I always say if you want to create a movement sometimes you have to move the movement along. You have to initiate it until people see what you’re doing. They’ll catch on but they’re only going to if you’re being consistent.”
Winding the interview down, I ask April for her final words.
She leaves us with, “If you haven’t got it… never give up.” And “believe in yourself.”
If you’d like to support Afro Unicorn™ you can follow the movement on Instagram and Tiktok @afrounicorn_official and shop the brand at your local Walmarts in the apparel and party supply section.