Five Questions: Flare and Square
Mawukle and Fatima became friends roughly 15 years ago, when six-year-old Mawukle and his family moved to Denver, Colorado from his native Ghana. They kept in touch throughout the years, and in September 2015 they started a business together called Flare and Square.
The Curatours had a discussion with the Flare and Square co-owners to learn about their budding business and entrepreneurial experience. Below are five questions from our conversation.
How did Flare and Square begin?
Fatima: Throughout the years, Mawukle and I kept in touch, obviously. And we [would] kinda always share our dreams and talk about our dreams.
One day he called me and was like, hey will you help me with a project? I want to make a pocket square, but I don’t want to buy one because they’re too expensive, but I want to beef up my style for work. I was like sure. I didn’t know how to make a pocket square, but I [knew] how to sow. From that, whatever it was, we just expanded and it became popular.
Mawukle: It really was like that. Fatima’s being nice. Growing up she was the one who always had the entrepreneur ideas. She had a sketch book. She was always talking about all these different businesses she wanted to start.
I was kind of late to the game. I studied international business. And so my junior year when I really decided that I wanted to you know, go out and start a business one day, she was kind of the only person who came to mind that would help me even think about starting a business. She studied fashion design, so she knew about fashion and stuff.
Fatima: I went to Denver School of the Arts, so that’s where a lot of that came from – the knowledge. And my mom had her own design business for a little bit while I was growing up.
One of Flare and Square’s first pocket squares — cotton-only, tag-less, and smaller than current offerings.
Silk pocket squares from Flare and Square’s current collections.
What are the biggest challenges with starting and growing a business?
Fatima: The fabric, honestly. The way we’re getting fabric is very local, and our goal is to find bigger distributors and better fabric, where we can get a lot more fabric. But we’re at a weird crossroads. We don’t want to get so much fabric — the brand’s not there yet. But we also don’t want to have too little fabric as demand gets higher. We’re waiting and trying to figure that part out. So I’d say that’s a difficulty.
Mawukle: And going off of that, overall, scaling out right now. Like we said, we’ve only been in business for a year. The whole time we were thinking, let’s just grow this slowly. And now it’s really picked up a lot and so we’re really thinking about scaling out with the fabric, also with managing inventory, and all the things that come with managing a bigger sized business. It was a little easier when we were doing it all out of her house. Now it requires a little more operational focus.
Fatima: And I guess time management to go along with that. Along with that comes more time and more work, each individually, [and] crazy schedules.
What’s some advice you would give to someone looking to start a business?
Fatima: Just start.
Mawukle: Just do it (Collective laughter).
Fatima: It might suck at first, but you keep making it better. I had no idea what I was doing. I said this is what I think a pocket square looks like…and you do it.
Mawukle: And I had no idea she didn’t even know how to sew a pocket square (Collective laughter). I was like, yup, this is a pocket square. This is dope.
Fatima: And it’s just having confidence behind your project.
Mawulke: Yeah, exactly. We really started a business – we had no idea about how to run a fashion business. So we really went into it without knowledge based on previous experiences – except for her fashion design experience. I’d tell everyone, just do it, you know. It’s a growing process so we’re literally learning every day. It’s better to start it a year ago than to start it today because it’s going to be the same kind of learning curve.
What is the importance of teamwork?
Fatima: I don’t think we’ve ever had conflict, that’s the funniest thing. Our minds are pretty much the same. But if there’s something that he doesn’t like, I trust his opinion and we don’t really argue with each other. It’s kind of like we’ll be shopping and I’ll be like oh I like this and he’ll say eww that’s ugly (Collective laughter). I’ll be like ok, I’ll put it back. There’s not really conflict.
Mawulke: I think a big part of that is, growing up together. You’ve just known someone for so long it feels more like [a] family [decision] than a business decision. So I’m very open to us having disagreements. There might be a design that I think is ugly and then, we’ll go make it and it’ll be one of our best sellers. So after I realized that I was like, you know, as long as one of us feels really good about something, I’m just going to trust [it] wholeheartedly. If I have a really good feeling about a design and she doesn’t like it, she’ll trust me and we’ll see what happens.
Why is buying black important to you?
Fatima: That’s extremely important to us and I think our partnership, too. We’re trying to push out there a positive image for the black community as well. I think we are going through a slight renaissance period again as a black community – especially with our generation trying to push the entrepreneurial spirit. We have a really good edge for upcoming, really strong, black business out there.
The more we can push it, the more we can show our faces on our products and whatever we’re doing, the better we can inspire those underneath us and really influence those above us to tap into the mission of buying black and improving our community as a whole.
Mawulke: Personally, for us, all the money we make, we invest it back in ourselves and the business. It’s kind of the idea that the money not only stays in your community but it has a direct impact into the business owner’s personal dreams as well as the community’s dreams. I know that with the growth of our business, we’ve been able to help out a few organizations. I also do some work with young black males, so we’re even working on making pocket squares for them.
It’s just one of those things that when you support black business, you get to see your money have a direct impact on the community as well as stay in the community. That’s one thing that we try to hold on to. Whoever’s buying our products, the money that we get, we’re going to keep investing back in ourselves and in the community. I think that’s the importance of supporting black business.