By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
Centered around “community, culture, and sisterhood,” SoulSistah3.0 is an “Africa-inspired business” that not only offers a variety of stylish earrings—wood-burned, hand-painted, authentic pairs from Ghana—but also promotes literacy to at-risk youth across Birmingham.
The company was founded by Tamica Banks in 2017, after the Birmingham native traveled to Ghana on a mission trip that sparked her desire to become more knowledgeable about the continent’s rich history.
“It’s breathtakingly beautiful,” she said. “My love for Africa, African literature and culture definitely increased. I will never forget that trip.”
Motivated by her mission trip, Banks realized she could spread the knowledge she acquired in Ghana through her originality in Birmingham.
“I’ve always had a lot of art, but I didn’t know my own creativity,” she said. “Being in Ghana really inspired me to pass along the message and beauty I personally got to see there. I really wanted to start a business that would inspire young girls of African descent to see beauty in themselves, their culture, and mother country—Africa—through sisterhood.”
“I wanted to highlight who we truly are,” she added. “As Black people, some of us have history that goes back to Egypt. … We are kings and queens, gods and goddesses, and our ancestors-built dynasties and empires for centuries. I want to showcase this through my business.”
That rich history inspired the name SoulSistah 3.0.
“I wanted to do something that was very popular in our community among Black women,” Banks said. “A lot of businesses had ‘Soul’ this and ‘Sistah’ that, … [but] I had to make it my own and put the 3.0 behind the name to take it to another level. We are Black women and Black culture … simply taken to a maximized level.”
“Diversifying My Brand”
Banks filed an application with REV Birmingham, enrolling as a first-time vendor at the economic development agency’s October 2020 Woodlawn Street Market, which is designed for “local entrepreneurs to launch their businesses and interact with customers while also adding to the vibrancy of downtown Woodlawn.” The event was significantly scaled back last year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but Banks was convinced that the positive experience was an “opportunity for build and grow her business.”
“I love meeting my customers, and their friends and family,” she said. “Vending is my favorite part about being an entrepreneur in Birmingham. Something about knowing someone has a piece of something you created in their home and is rewarding.”
Even though the 2020 Woodlawn Market was scaled back, Banks was still able to grow the popularity of Soul Sistah 3.0 and incorporate new products like bracelets, hand-painted art imported from Ghana, necklaces, and a men’s jewelry line to both her street market in Woodlawn and her virtual platform in the online Marketplace. She also has added T-shirts promoting reading and awareness of the school-to-prison pipeline, as well as natural product lines for all skin and hair types.
“When I first got started, my brand was really just for Black women,” said Banks. “I had to remarket myself, rebrand myself, and reach out to different markets … by diversifying my brand. I’m able to get into more communities and markets, which helps to increase my customer base and my revenue, so it is growing my brand.”
Banks has spent the last year, “growing her business, creating new products, and utilizing digital platforms like Facebook and Instagram.” She also set up a website on Etsy,www.etsy.com/shop/soulsistah30, to better reach her customers.
In January 2021, Banks started working with Robert Emerick, REV Birmingham’s client relations manager, to organize her business finances. They have created an accounting system, hired a tax accountant, and developed a plan for an optimized vending booth. Now, Banks said, she has created a “solid business plan that will allow her to continue building her brand and growing her business.”
For Banks, giving back to the community where she grew up has always been a top priority. As an alumnus of Woodlawn High School, community has a “special place” in her heart.
“It’s where I grew up. It’s my home,” she said. “My grandmother grew up in Woodlawn. It’s where I really just kind of went from a little girl to a teenager to the transition of becoming a woman.”
The love of her home community is so strong that Banks often features her high school colors throughout her work.
“You will always see green and gold earrings in my collections,” she said. “When I am in the community, I am always at home. I also love seeing old classmates, which brings back special memories.”
Banks, who has a son, makes it a point to encourage young people to read and better themselves.
“I give out free books whenever I have events,” she said. “In the summertime, I set up at a lot of farmer’s markets and keep little wooden basket filled with books in my area.”
“I want to do something to make a difference in the lives of kids,” Banks added. “I love kids, and I put a strong emphasis on African literature because I want them to know who they are. I want to teach young girls who they are and that their history starts in Africa. It’s important to empower them, to encourage them, to motivate them.
“There are all these negative images of who Black people are, … [and] I think it’s important we educate on who we really are and not how we are portrayed or stereotyped to be.”
For more information on SoulSistah 3.0 or to shop the collection, you can follow @SoulSistah3.0 on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or visit the site on Etsy: www.etsy.com/shop/soulsistah30.