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Shades of Color, LLC

 

Company Q&A

Who Is Shades of Color?

Shades of Color, LLC  is a black owned business dedicated to bringing the highest quality African American and inspirational gifts available. Our brand UPLIFTS and INSPIRES through the curation of distinctive one-of-a-kind African American and faith-based gifts, home décor, stationery, accessories and calendars.  Our company is Black owned and has created dozens of jobs for talented African Americans in the Los Angeles community.

When was Shades of Color established and by whom?

Shades of Color was established in 1995 by two high school friends in their late 20’s,  Adrian Woods and Courtney Hines. Together they dreamed of creating a company to showcase African Americans, and now as men their dream has grown far beyond expectations over the last two and a half decades.

Why was Shades of Color created?

Shades of Color was originally created to fill the void in the black calendar market.  Since 1995 we have expanded to a full catalog of over 350 products designed to uplift and inspire the community with beautifully designed gifts designed around African American art. Shades of Color’s mission is to bring positive images of African Americans to homes, schools and offices everywhere!

What makes Shades of Color unique?

Shades of Color is one of the leading African American gift companies and we work directly with genuine African American artists nationwide. We manufacture innovative products and are pioneers of marrying functional market-leading products with Black Art. Our team curates dynamic and original gifts, calendars and stationery that merge real art with African American colloquialisms and inspirational sayings that touch the soul. Our Black History Series products pay tribute to the African American icons before us and we strive to shine light as well on our present day unsung heroes and sheroes.  We believe anyone can inspire and be inspired if given the right tools to do so. We are committed to actively engaging our community to promote change and motivate all ages.

What are Shades of Color most popular products?

Some of our most popular historic products include our decorative African American Art Wall Calendars that feature Black History facts all year round, Inspirational Weekly Planners, and our fashionable Woven Tote Bags. Our customers resonate most with products that look like them and remind them that they are fabulous! We get excellent feedback on the calendars because everybody loves to learn more about our history, and not just during February.  They use them to teach the kids too, so that they get the knowledge about their ancestry that they may not get in school. Recently we have expanded to a Home Collection, and our Shower Curtains, Floor Mats and Kitchenware items are also taking off. It is nice to have products that are nice to look at but actually functional too!

Who designs Shades of Color products?

Our design team has worked together for years to generate a myriad of gifts designed specifically to reflect African American women and women of color.  We work with a select group of handpicked African American artists that produce authentic Afrocentric motifs, tell a universal story of Black Americana, and portray compelling expressive phrases that spread hope, faith, humor and inspiration. A few of our artists include Sylvia “Gbaby” Cohen, Ernie Barnes, Cidne Wallace, Frank Morrison, Larry Poncho Brown, Lavarne Ross, Henry Battle, Kiwi McDowell and the late, great Annie Lee. 

How does Shades of Color choose its artists?

We choose artists that are eclectic, versatile, individualized, professional and motivational. Shades of Color actively networks within the art world to recruit notable artists, alongside with considering submitted portfolios.

Who are Shades of Color’s customers?

You may see our products and say, “Oh yeah,  I’ve seen that!” That is because our artists and our products have had a growing presence around the country and are even starting to make waves overseas.  Retail customers buy from us directly online, from our catalog or at Black Women’s Expos. We also have an exponential number of museum and hospital gift shops, small stores, and online e-commerce stores that sell our products.

How does Shades of Color Uplift & Inspire?

Our original products are designed to stand out from the typical offerings in today’s market.  A champion for black culture, Shades of Color was generated to spotlight the beauty, resiliency, and contributions of African Americans.  Our collections are designed to dispel societal stigmatization and highlight Black excellence and its contributions. The majority of our products touch on a “Blessed” or other faith-themed nature as well as black achievement.  The exquisiteness of the African diaspora intentionally shines throughout every product.

How does Shades of Color help the African American community?

We collaborate with several African American community groups, churches and sororities as well as new and established businesses. Our Fundraising Program has helped groups and individuals raise thousands of dollars, and it is a great source of pride knowing that we are able to help others grow in wealth. We have repeat fundraisers that sell year after year, so much that they have truly become part of our extended family.   In addition, Shades of Color has a philanthropy program orchestrated to contribute to the positive development and support of African American youth, women and faith-based groups across the country as well as local seniors, cancer patients and veterans.  The Shades of Color Gives Back Program has been an integral way for Shades of Color to stay connected with the community and give back to these like minded organizations. With this program Shades of Color has donated over $467,000 worth of in-kind gifts since its inception in 2011. This includes nearly $30,000 worth of calendars to the Challengers Boys & Girls Club, $35,000 worth of calendars to a mega-church in Gardena and an average of $10,000 a year of products for the last several years to a black women’s network that donates to worthy causes.  Additionally it has been our pleasure to contribute a portion of proceeds from select products to organizations that promote breast cancer awareness in the African American community (such as Carrie’s TOUCH, Inc) and our local Black Lives Matter chapter.

What legacy does Shades of Color want to leave behind?

Representation truly matters.  Shades of Color’s intentions are to create constructive depictions of African Americans by providing quality products that inform, encourage, and uphold solidarity among African Americans. We are one of the original African American gift proprietors who utilize wall calendars, stationery and gifts as a way to distribute our message, and have been actively redefining the imagery of African Americans for nearly 25 years. When we hear that customers in rural cities are excited to finally see products with brown faces, or when we see women walking proudly head-held-high with our tote bags, we know we are doing the right thing. We hope that our company will always UPLIFT and INSPIRE by depicting a story of the African American experience through innovative products designed for US and by US.  Lastly, it is our hope that others will be inspired to follow their entrepreneurial dreams and know that business can thrive by remaining true its original mission, especially if that mission is to shine light on our community from within.  

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