After a career on Wall Street, how one Brooklyn woman decides to give back to a global community
Lisa Deveaux, a veteran of the financial services industry for over 20 years, explains her impetus for starting an entirely new venture. One sunny afternoon in Brooklyn, her younger sister sits down with her in the intimacy of Lisa’s Clinton Hill apartment to get to the root of this seeming mid life crisis/professional awakening. Marie questions Lisa about inspiration, her unique selling proposition and the target audience for A Small Token.
1.Why did you decide to start A Small Token?
I started A Small Token because I wanted to do something different from what I had been doing since I started my career which was working in financial services. And I wanted to do something that I was really passionate about.
2. Where does your passion come from?
I think it comes from the fact that I grew up around creative people and the fact that my grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet and how to use a knitting machine. And Ii was always surrounded by creativity. And then, always being on a plane as a kid; spending my summers in the Bahamas and spending my summers back and forth in Atlanta with family and being very connected to the Caribbean culture and the organic nature of [you know] using you hands to create something.
3. How do you see the connection to your family incorporated into your brand?
I think family is very important. I think that culture is very important and [you know] we have in the Bahamas anyways, my family had this strong sense of [um gosh], they were exposed to so many thing. They did so many things, and I guess the handmade stuff is just one piece of it. But being connected to culture and art and artistic expression through dance, and Carinvale and Junkanoo was a big deal for us. I think being exposed to all of those things, even just sitting around in someone’s kitchen while they talked politics about what was going on in the world, influenced me to feel like yeah, I could be independent and I could do something on my own, and I think that comes from my roots, my family, because you had no choice but to create your own way, to find your own way, to establish a source of income for yourself, that did not require you to work for somebody else but to work for yourself. You made it happen. And that sense of community and being able to provide a service to your community is where that is born from.
4. So you’ve mentioned a lot about community. Who is A Small Token for?
A Small Token is for men. It’s for women. Its for those of us that are influenced by culture, that embrace culture, that have appreciation for the authenticity of what the diversity of culture brings and contributes to the global view and to the world.
5. What are some of the key sources of inspiration for your buying decisions?
Color is a big influence. If I see a color that moves me I get excited. If it’s handmade it just speaks to my spirit. You know, if it’s something, even though [you know] it’s not my personal style but, I can see that it has an edginess to it and I can see that people would appreciate it . . . yeah, that appeals to me too. You know it might not be my style, but most of what we pick when we pick handmade stuff is stuff that we would use or carry or give as a gift to someone that we care about and love.
6. Is that where your tagline comes from? Handmade from our heart to appeal to your soul?
Yes, because it is all about the heart. You can’t, you aren’t, going to say or do anything that doesn’t come from the heart. So when you create, when your write a book, when you make a blanket it comes from the heart. Its an expression of what’s inside that is being expressed through the artistic and the creative expression.
7. You mention storytelling on your site multiple times. How is storytelling tied into your brand?
Well, I think each handmade piece tells a story. I think culture and the oral tradition of culture tells a story and understanding that oral tradition and understanding that history and being able to sit and listen to those stories if you are fortunate enough to know someone from that generation, that believed in that oral tradition - I think that definitely says something. I think that with the onset of the digital age and the internet and the shift to the world being so open to us, everything is changing. [And] part of telling the story is to be able to maintain the authenticity of handmade products. Some of what we offer is not 100% everything is stitched by hand per se. There are some machines but minimal like a sewing machine and even some of the clutches we feature are made on a very old sewing machine. The first set of clutches that we just recently got were made on this very old looking sewing machine, which was just amazing, and the quality is amazing. I think being able to tell that story authenticates who we are and authenticates our products.
8. Looking at some of your product line, I know you market both fashion and home accessories. How do you differentiate yourself from some of the big names like some of the Pier One Imports of the world?
I think what differentiates ourselves from some of the bigger name companies is that we are very hands on. You can see from our site that we are actually going to these countries and handpicking and negotiating with our vendors to purchase their products. And we establish very real relationships with them to make sure that we maintain those relationships and preserve the integrity to the handmade stuff. Our artisans are very proud and take a lot of pride in the quality of what they deliver and what they give to us. And I think all of that is relative in that vein.
9. If ten years from now a small token takes off, what will your brand be known for?
We’ll be known for handmade home and fashion accessories that come from the heart and appeal to your soul.
Source: Lisa Deveaux Interview from 5/14/2016