By Tonyaa Weathersbee The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Black Butterfly Beautiful" is a monthly subscription box with items such as books, toys, cards, treats and accessories that are geared towards building esteem in black girls.
The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.
A year ago, Journi Prewitt had a decision to make.
She could continue to pump up crowds as a cheerleader. Or she could pump up African-American girls by showing them why they should be cheering for themselves.
Journi chose the latter.
Along with her mother, Shauntay Prewitt, the Memphis teen started Black Butterfly Beautiful. It's a monthly subscription box with items such as books, toys, cards, treats and accessories that are geared towards building esteem in black girls.
In October, for example, the box had a Halloween theme, but instead of ghosts and goblins it featured information on songstress Nina Simone. Known as the High Priestess of Soul, one of Simone's famous songs was "I Put a Spell on You." And each box features a Monarch of the Month -- as in Monarch butterfly -- which are women like Simone, Oprah Winfrey, and others.
Journi, who said her favorite book is "For Colored Girls Who Have Committed Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf," said the idea of turning her love of reading and black heritage into a business opportunity called to her more loudly than the crowds.
"It took a sacrifice," said Journi, who attends Power Center Academy High School. "I gave up my favorite sport to start my business. I've done competitive cheerleading since the ninth grade, so this year, I had to choose: Do I want to be a competitive cheerleader, or do I want to be an entrepreneur?"
So far, that choice has paid off for the 17-year-old.
It started with an idea In June, when Journi started the service, she sold only 10 subscription boxes -- which cost $30 per month. Last month, through advertising on Facebook, Instagram and her website, www.blackbutterflybeautiful.com, she sold 200 boxes.
"Sunday night, we got our first request for one from Australia," Prewitt said, gleefully.
Much of what led Journi to the subscription box idea came from a variety of influences that she cemented with her energy and her love for reading, her heritage and her mother -- who has always called Journi her butterfly.
"That's after the Deniece Williams' song, 'Black Butterfly,'" Prewitt said. "Being able to spread your wings and fly is how I think of her."
She seems to be taking off -- not only with her business but in using it to promote reading and positivity in girls who look like her.
"I've always had a strong passion and love for reading," Prewitt said. "I have a lot of books in my room, and I love poetry a lot, but my little cousins, they're 7, and they don't like reading.
"So, I was thinking that I could create something that could enhance their love for reading and help other kids enhance their love for reading."
Black Dragonfly In addition to Black Butterfly Beautiful, Journi recently added a new box called Black Dragonfly. The new box is geared toward African-American boys, she said.
"In August, my little brother was saying, 'I want a box, too, with all this great stuff! So now, we have Black Dragonfly. It's more centered toward boys, with games and books."
Prewitt, who calls herself a serial entrepreneur, used her own money to help Journi start the subscription box service. The boxes also feature products from black businesses, which gives them an additional way to introduce their wares to the public.
But most of all, they introduce black girls with the tools they need to empower themselves in a world that constantly devalues them, Prewitt said.
"I really believe in her," Prewitt said of Journi. "All of her life I've been pushing her to seek and learn about other black women. So, when all these subscription boxes came out, the Birch boxes and everything, and I saw there wasn't anything for black girls, we started working on this...Journi liked subscription boxes, but most of them were too grown for her.
"We've gotten a lot of response from parents who love the box, and grandparents, for some reason, are our best customers because they have grandbabies, and they live far away and have the box delivered every month."
Journi is not only inspiring the girls who subscribe to Black Butterfly Beautiful. She's also inspiring friends like Rayvin Chavis, who recently sat cross-legged in Prewitt's living room like a student working on an art project to help her and Journi prepare the boxes for shipping.
"I'm very proud of Journi," Rayvin, who is 17, said. "We've gone to school together since middle school, and Journi is known to be real high energy. To go from that to becoming an entrepreneur and to inspire little kids, I think that's amazing."
It's also amazing in that Journi realizes, at a young age, that helping others to find ways to cheer for themselves always beats cheering before a crowd.