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In 2016, when Brittany Antoinette founded The Idea Girl, it was the culmination of a winding path to recognizing her own entrepreneurial spirit. A creative agency committed to uplifting Black and women-owned businesses, The Idea Girl aims to create generational wealth through visual and brand identities that truly stand out.
In retrospect, founding a mission-driven agency might seem like the natural outcome of Antoinette’s inherent drive and creative talent — and in many ways, it is — but the reality of her work experience was one of trial and error for years. From designing prom dresses and launching her own size-inclusive denim store while still in high school, to making the leap from a managerial role in a car dealership to becoming a full-time small business owner, endless motivation has been one of the keys to Antoinette’s success.
Her agency’s mission — and her personal aspirations — include continuing to scale and strengthen the empowered community she’s helped bring to life. She recently reflected on her journey to launching The Idea Girl, sharing why she’ll always bet on herself and her creativity, even in the face of unexpected obstacles.
SQUARESPACE: What inspired you to launch your business?
Brittany Antoinette: I've always been passionate about conceptualization, and entrepreneurship was my calling, even when I didn't know it. I was always the go-to person for making things feel, look, taste, and sound good. I dabbled in hair, makeup, and nails because I loved the reward of making someone else feel beautiful. In high school, I would sketch everyone's prom dresses and write papers for my friends and family members. I got my first job as a Visual Merchandiser at a fashion brand when gold foil leggings were a thing. Before going to college, I even used to direct shoots with my friends and random models without knowing what a Creative Director was. I would create the makeup looks, get production in order, and book talent to bring my vision to life.
Most of all, I loved problem-solving. I've always been an ideator, whether it was illustrating an entire ready-to-wear line or coming up with names and concepts for businesses. During my senior year of high school, I created a denim-store called "Jeanius" that offered high-quality Japanese denim with onsite tailoring because the sizing wasn't inclusive.
I enrolled in my freshman year of college as a Marketing major with a concentration in Fashion Merchandising. From there, I would continue building brand concepts through assignments that seemed a little too good to just be an idea. I remember coming up with a food truck idea that sold brunch and mimosas, a closet concierge service, and even a cocktail-themed nail salon. I wanted to work in marketing at a large firm until one of my professors convinced me that I should try being an entrepreneur because I would have the freedom to be creative. Her story of flipping her first house at 23 from savings, becoming a bridal dress designer, and teaching at my school seemed inspiring but not the American dream I aspired to live up to. I believed if I worked hard enough, I'd have the career I wanted and the life I wanted. Let's just say I was wrong about that and took her advice just a few years later. By the time I entered my senior year, I quickly realized that I was more interested in the "creative side" of business while balancing my tanking GPA. I was fighting with depression and battling to find my true self. I ended up not enrolling for my last year and was just 12 credits away from getting my BAS in Business Operations and Finance.
At the time, it felt like I was all over the place and had so many talents, but was missing a piece to bring it all together. I thought of my professor and remembered how happy she was doing multiple things and turned her passions into profit. Right before I made that move, I enrolled in an Africana Studies class just the semester prior that highlighted the commerce and exchange of goods in Africa, which resulted in wealth-building some of the most revered institutions known to man. Ultimately, it inspired me to spread the knowledge of what I learned some way, but I had yet to figure it out. By this time in my career, I had gone from a sales associate to assistant buyer, and an operations manager to a marketing manager. I played hopscotch in every organization that I worked in from that point forward. In between, I began doing more self-fulfilling projects, like working for an event marketing agency to throw a brunch series and even creating crystal jewelry. While working with a previous event partner, I inquired about creating the graphics and event collateral even though I had no skills in that area. I expressed the situation to my mentor and he gave me instructions on which programs to use for graphic design. It was only up from there.
One day it all clicked, and in June of 2016, I founded The Idea Girl. I figured it was best to find a way to merge all of my skill sets and find a way to work with small business owners, mostly Black women who were my friends. Many of them were launching side-hustles and needed help with marketing, logos, content creation, and event planning.
Over the years, I've invested so much into my ideas. I've spent hours learning how to design via online video resources, and I've spent summers locked in my bedroom, learning a range of programs. I took classes on UX/UI design, HTML and CSS, iOS design, and whatever else I could learn. Not having a formal education in design didn't stop me from teaching myself. I knew I had an eye, taste, and perception that needed to be expressed, seen, and heard. I pulled from my previous pleasures as a child, designing homes and neighborhoods in computer games, and sketching outfits as an adolescent. It was the same inspiration, the same wonder, and the same principles that I applied when building my own "world."
From 4 years ago to today, I shifted my one-woman show to a full-blown creative agency that partners with innovative ideators to bring their business ideas to life. We do everything from identity to product development, and overall we work with ambitious millennials to help them create brands to build generational wealth through entrepreneurship. It still trips me out to this day that I've helped create an ecosystem of Black and women-owned brands to shake up the industry.
SQSP: What was the first step you took to make The Idea Girl a reality?
BA: Aside from figuring out my passion and purpose, the first steps I took were creating a business plan that aligned with the two. One of my uncles is a serial entrepreneur based in Australia, and he sent me over a business plan template of one of his previous ventures. He helped me figure out what purpose I was serving and what value I could bring to potential business partners. Without him, I’m not sure if I would even know what entrepreneurship looked like. Almost a day ahead, he would sit with me on the phone for hours going over my mission statements, values, model, and vision. His guidance started during the beginning when I was a freelancer. It's even lasted through my transition into a creative agency.
SQSP: In every entrepreneurial endeavor, there are unexpected risks and challenges. What was the biggest risk you took?
BA: The most significant risk I took was betting on myself. I used to seek external validation in the choices I wanted to make, and frequently, it would lead to me doubting myself. Betting on myself looked like trusting my gut and doing the things that made me feel whole. When I first launched The Idea Girl website back in April 2017, I quit my full-time job as an Operations Manager at a car dealership. I had no savings and no backup plan, but I remained hopeful that everything would eventually fall into place. Even though I was scared AF, I would tell myself, “I got you; everything is going to work out just fine.” Years later, I can attest that everything worked out beyond my imagination because I believed it would.
SQSP: What surprised you the most while building your business?
BA: What surprised me most is my resilience to keep going. I’ve quit so many jobs in my life and I realized it was because this one was destined for me. Even when times get hard, my tenacity to push through still shocks and empowers my inner child.
SQSP: After a challenging day, week, or month, what keeps you motivated?
BA: The bigger picture keeps me motivated, and that’s helping people develop household brands to be passed down for generations. Even when everything feels like it’s going wrong, I feel responsible to keep working harder and never let up because our presence is needed.
SQSP: How has your online presence contributed to your business success?
BA: I have a really quirky and expressive personality which inspires people and galvanizes them into action. My audience has seen me go from the baby phases to my CEO phase while staying true to my values and helping others along the way. I’m a huge believer in paying it forward and being intentional with everything I do and I feel that my success is a direct reflection of that. Truly a shared mission, love, and unity is what got us there.
SQSP: How do you see your online presence evolving in the future?
BA: I see my online presence evolving by creating a digital community for female entrepreneurs to expand spiritually, professionally, and financially.
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