REIMAGINING THE GIFTING EXPERIENCE
The whimsical wrapping paper that Ashley Fouyelle gifted a friend—as a reminder of the $40 he owed—sparked the idea for her game-changing brand. Since launching in 2017, UNWRP has expanded its offerings to include gift goods, throw pillows and notebooks that are consciously produced.
Created in my bedroom, UNWRP was born from the desire to create beautiful, quality goods that are produced with ethical and environmental values.
The native New Yorker even partners with various graphic artists to create bold and unique designs that elevate her offerings while reaching wider audiences. We caught up with Fouyelle to discuss her beginnings, inspirations and what it means to her to be sold in Sweet July’s flagship store.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to start your brand?
UNWRP is an elevated gifting experience serving as a one-stop-shop for all of your needs. We offer wrapping paper, fabric wraps, greeting cards and home goods all designed by the most talented artists around the globe. Created in my bedroom, UNWRP was born from the desire to create beautiful, quality goods that are produced with ethical and environmental values. When gifting, I didn’t want to give the traditional holiday-themed gift wrap–I wanted art! Something that would be appreciated and repurposed.
What steps did you take get UNWRP off the ground?
In 2017, after quitting my job a few months prior, I used the last bit of my 401k and purchased a printer. I used that printer to print large-scale designs that I would then offer on both a website and Instagram account. On November 1st, 2017, I pushed launch and my dreams went live; it has since taken on a life of its own. The growth has purely been organic. People have fallen in love with the product, and they tell their friends, and their friends share it with their friends. The quality is unmatched; we really serve what was missing on the market.
Can you shed some insight into your creative process?
My creative process always starts in the shower. As crazy as it sounds, some of the best ideas were mere shower thoughts. From there, I get my Post-its out and start to conceptualize the idea. I break it out into small tangible action items, and from there, I attack and execute.
What keeps you inspired?
The streets of New York keep me inspired. You never know what you will run into or see. We are the world’s largest melting pot for food, culture and art. It is a blessing to be able to witness its greatness daily.
Sweet July Oakland is located on The Block—an area known for its community of Black women-owned businesses. How does it feel to share space with this group of entrepreneurs?
It is so inspiring. That even in a pandemic, Black women are out here getting it shows how far hard work and determination can take you!
“People have fallen in love with the product, and they tell their friends, and their friends share it with their friends. The quality is unmatched; we really serve what was missing on the market.”
How are you navigating the struggles and woes of running a business during a pandemic?
I remind myself that I am not in this alone. The whole world is experiencing the effects of this pandemic. And as long as my family, friends and I remain healthy, there is nothing to worry about.
How do you practice self-care while balancing the rigors of entrepreneurship?
There is no team. I am the woman behind all things. I’m wearing all hats for now! So, I try to find time each day and meditate, whether it be for five minutes or fifteen. I listen to “Passage,” a guided meditation album for people of color curated by Steven Othello Brown. Pausing allows me to level-set my anxieties and shift my energy.
What are some challenges that you’ve faced, and how have you overcome those obstacles?
In my first year of business, I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to do all of the creative things my heart desired. But when running a business, that can be risky. I found myself overspending and pricing my product way too low. I wasn’t profitable when I ignored the business side. I had to sit myself down and give myself a stern talk. I decided that if I wanted to be in this for the long haul, I had to stop making decisions without considering how they would affect the bottom line.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through your entrepreneurship journey?
A lesson that I am still trying to learn is how and when to ask for help. As a Capricorn, I am stubborn and believe I can handle any task, but when you’re drowning in customer orders, backed up on your emails and have a calendar full of meetings; at some point, you have to ask for help and learn to start delegating tasks.