Some people's mental health suffered greatly during the pandemic. Forced indoors by the lockdown, people had limited forms of expression. How did people deal with this lack of contact and isolation from friends, family, and loved ones? Some people had to find alternative outlets to work through emotions that surfaced. One mixed media artist noticed this disconnect and decided to do something about it. Angelica London is the Founder of Lit Kit Art Box, a monthly art box subscription that lets you create art at your own pace and comes with three step-by-step painting instructions. During the pandemic, Angelica also offered monthly live painting sessions.
As a nationally recognized painter, she decided to pivot her business to support people virtually through art. Angelica said, "With all the things that were happening during that time, let me realize that people were finding it hard to connect to loved ones, to find an outlet for themselves, artistically and creatively. I wanted to bring people together who could not be around each other physically."
This pivot was well-received. Later, Angelica realized people didn't know what kinds of art supplies to purchase. Therefore, within the Lit Kit Art Box, customers found a one-stop shop in their subscription box that includes numerous art supply surprises, surfaces to paint on, premium medium paint, and 2-3 painting YouTube tutorials links. There's a kid version for ages 6-14 includes acrylic paint bottles, a paintbrush set, a tabletop easel, (2-3) 8x10 canvases, a paint palette, and video tutorials. If you don't want to subscribe, you can purchase a Lit Kit Box for one-time use.
What are you most proud of when it comes to Lit Kit Art Box?
Angelica is proud of the community. The live guided zoom paint sessions have been a powerful way to connect, and sometimes she'll have a DJ present. Through her community, she understands what impacts people's mental health. People are in careers that don't always allow them to tap into their creativity. People have also created friendships through the community, which ultimately decreases the level of isolation that people have been experiencing.
What fears did you have along the journey?
Angelica's primary fear was how she would maintain her business as a solo founder. As a full-time teacher and an entrepreneur and the company's vision was so grand that she knew she would eventually need help. She has all of the ideas, but the day-to-day operations of running the business frightened her.
What's the biggest risk you've taken so far?
The Lit Kit Art Box applied for a trademark. This was a substantial financial investment for Angelica, but she also understood that it was essential to keeping her business sustainable. Communicating with overseas manufacturers was scary because she was unsure how to communicate with them and whether they would meet deadlines. She had to trust that they would deliver what they promised. Settling into the unknown of entrepreneurship was a scary and risky process. However, Angelica hasn't run into any hiccups so far.
Tell us about any major setbacks that you had and how you recovered.
Like most entrepreneurs, Angelica struggled with finances. Winning this pitch competition allows her to focus on creating a shelf product for her customers. The financial life-cycle of the subscription was too long. Therefore creating an actual product that only had to be made one time would be another cash flow stream for Lit Kit Art Box.
Describe what it was like preparing for the pitch competition.
Angelica has pitched before. Before the Black Girl Ventures pitch competition, she had pitched at another competition and won second place. Angelica was a part of an 8-week incubation program that required her to pitch. She said, "Black Girl Ventures helped me fix the things that I did wrong in the first one. So my slides in my first competition were terrible. Now I look back on it like they were so ugly. This competition helped me elevate what I was presenting to such a different level. It really improved my pitching and skills. So, yeah, I've done it before, but nothing was like this. I think that this has gotten me more prepared for another one in the future."
Her advice to those pitching is, "I'll say the BGV community is so supportive. I think that any nerves that I had in the practices and then post practices in the group are always backing you and giving you really great support. So, the nerves will be there. But you just have to put that aside and realize that this is just a leap that you have to take if you want to better your business. And knowing that you have such a strong support system, that's got your back, that's not there to judge you, but even those critical comments are to make you better."
The funds help to accelerate product production. Angelica used the pitch funds to manufacture more shelf products and pay for air shipping to receive the products sooner. She admits to feeling a bit nervous about using the money wisely. Angelica also hired a graphic designer, paid her box designer, and is holding off on making much bigger purchases with the funds.
Support isn't always given to Black and Brown women in business; when has this shown and hurt or disappointed you the most?
Angelica said, "I actually have not come across any obstacles like that thus far. I know they will come. I've been very fortunate to be around Black business owner organizations that cultivate us as a group, and so like the business cohort I did was all Black women. So that support has really helped me a lot, but I know that's a rare case in building a business. So I'm sure I'll come across some obstacles, but thus far, thankfully, I have not so far."
What's the most critical lesson that you've learned about business?
Angelica's mother was an entrepreneur while she was growing up. She learned a lot of lessons by watching her be a small business owner. She said, "One of the things that I learned from my mom is. Entrepreneurship is 24/7. Like my mom, she got dressed like she was going to work every day. There's never a working day in your pajamas, like you still have to act like you are going into a job because this is your job. Some days that's cool, but other days, like it's a mindset thing. Even the smallest things can make a difference."
What do you think is an important skill or asset you need to succeed in business?
The number one asset for an entrepreneur, says Angelica is "Flexibility. Flexibility is very important. Just like, deadlines may not be met at certain times, emails may not be responded to at certain times, so you will have to bend in some instances. But also like one thing I noticed when building my products, I realized that one of the things I want in the box doesn't fit anymore. So I now have to change some things, take it out, and change the size of the box, like flexibility is so important. Not everything's going to go your way. Not every measurement is going to be exact."
How do you measure success?
Angelica witnessed the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, watching her mother work. She truly believes when you find something that you love, you never have to work a day in your life. Angelica said, "I measure success by joy—that internal joy, like that intrinsic joy like waking up super excited about what you're doing. And even when things aren't going the best, the outcome can be better if your mindset is on a positive track. So that's how I measure success, just being happy about what you're doing."
What's the most exciting part of your business?
Angelica loves connecting with the people and seeing them have a good time. But most importantly, she loves supporting people in life changes that include better self-care. She said, "So knowing that I'm doing that for someone else makes me feel good because it's so important."
What do you think the future holds for Black and Brown women entrepreneurs?
Angelica said, "I think the future is vast. I believe we are at a great time right now. So many corporations and organizations are highlighting Black and Brown businesses right now. I love seeing that Target commercial with all those Black-owned businesses. The tides are changing. I feel it for sure. So I think the possibilities are endless. I hope that this is not a fad. I don't think it is, though. I think, you know, with the addition of all these diversity and inclusion titles and different organizations, I think it's here to stay. So if that is the case, I think the trajectory of our businesses is going to be just ridiculously vast."
If you and I were meeting three years from now, looking back, what would it take for you to feel over the moon about your progress?
Three years from now, Lit Kit Art Box hopes to donate scholarships funds to minority art students. A portion of their sales is currently deposited into a fund for this specific purpose. Angelica has a nonprofit called the Black Art Box that supports student artists.
Running a business while balancing a personal life can be demanding and taxing. How do you take care of yourself?
Because her business requires a lot of creativity and she's a teacher, Angelica will find herself tuning out to mindless Tv and indulging in reality Tv shows. Part of her self-care is doing what she pleases when she wants.
What's your favorite quote or mantra?
"What would you do if you knew you could not fail?"
"Don't compare your journey to others."
What is a book and podcast that you would recommend?
Podcast: Balanced Black Girl and Launch Your Box
Book: The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks
What's your favorite business hack or app you can't live without?
Amazon and an app called Inventory.
What's one food item that you have a hard time saying no to?
What's next for the Lit Kit Art Box?
The Lit Kit Art Box is creating more product lines.