Karen Soka

  • Hello what’s your name and what do you do?

My full name is Karen J De Freitas- Fraser. I am the Designer and Creative Director of the Brand Soka and Charles & Olive.

Professionally I also work under the name of Josephine De Freitas.  It is my second name but I use it specifically when it comes to my artwork and styling work.

I’m also the Founding Director of The Kevin Squared Foundation, which is a non-profit organisation, dedicated to bringing innovative methods to alleviating challenges of cancer warriors in the Caribbean.

By day I’m also a teacher (pays my student loans).

  • How do stay motivated? Do you have a mantra that you tell yourself regularly? 
I listen to so many podcasts, from the Bodega boys to the Friendzone, Soul Sessions to Daymond John. I’m inspired by listening to people’ stories.  I also try to read as much as I can, from the Alchemist, to history books or I try to teach myself things on business and marketing. New ideas come in the process of not knowing and trying to know.
Most importantly  I try to surround myself with like-minded people. I think your tribe is key, especially when you’re struggling.  It’s from your hunger and passion that you will push each other.
Motivation is great to have, comparatively easy to find but discipline is more important to have.Discipline gets you through especially when you have no motivation to do anything. Its the habit of doing things, failing and learning from your failure
  • What are you passionate about? 
Too many things honestly. I’m generally curious, so I always want to try new things and sometimes I always have to check myself to stay focused! I want to do everything.
Music is a huge passion for me, it drives my mood and my headphones are always in. I kinda wish I was more involved in it. I once toyed with the idea of being a DJ.
Even though I’m more of an introvert, I’m really interested in people and behavior, History and culture. I was either going to be Historian or a designer. Most of my collections are based on research of culture but I focus on telling the stories of Caribbean people. We have built nations in the background, so I’m working to bring us to the forefront.
And of course, I just like to create. There is something spiritual about the process of thinking something, sketching it out, and creating it with your hands.  Maybe it is a God complex. 
  •  What made you create your business? Why did you start?
After returning home to the Caribbean after college, there was simply no jobs for the creative person here. It’s either you work in the tourism field or you work for the Government. So I couldn’t just apply to be a designer at any company. So I had to create My own lane for myself.
  •  What made you do it,  what was the idea?
When I developed my brand, I wanted to speak to and for a female that I think is being ignored by most designer brands. I want to dress women who don’t fit into the Eurocentric idea of beauty.
My woman is bodacious, She is unapologetic in showing off her curves. She is a young female of diverse backgrounds. She is anomalous, and she assimilates well in this concrete jungle but still holds her own, being aware of her roots.

 

  • Tell us about your journey. What were the biggest challenges you ever faced?
After graduating from high school, I didn’t have the funds to go directly to college. So in the meantime, I worked as a French teacher, I also was a self-taught designer.  I began to produce my own fashion show at the time.  I knew I needed to know my craft to be the best designer I could be, so I saved money to go to Parsons the New school of design. 
I took every opportunity I could while living in New York . I first interned as a stylist at Bullett Magazine . I was a design intern at Alice and Olivia , Yigal Azrouel , Bibhu Mohapatra and Zac Posen . I began to work as a freelance stylist for photographers around New York . Then I graduated, I couldn’t find a job in time. I  then returned to Saint -Vincent to serve out my bond, which placed me back as a teacher here.
I started Soka in 2015, after producing my thesis collection, and worked on growing it out of the Caribbean. I have been featured on Vogue.com , Haarpers Bazaar Serbia , Ellements Magazine and seen on the runway of Brooklyn Fashion week and Bermuda Fashion Festival. I have dressed Shiona Turini, Nailiah Blackman and Dej Loaf.
The same year, I  was named one of the top 10 best Caribbean designers and 2 years later, won the  Karib Nation; designer award of innovation and excellence.
In 2016 I launched Charles + Olive, the brother to Soka.
In 2018, I launched my online store Sokanow , working to make Soka more accessible.
In the Caribbean, fashion still isn’t seen as a viable industry, so a lot of infrastructures and financial backing is missing.  I do everything by myself, from production to marketing to PR. Even though it’s draining, It’s forcing me to understand this business inside out.
 
In 2012 and 2016, I lost both my cousin and uncle to different forms of Cancer. Dealing with this loss and the frustration of dealing with health care, I wanted to help families; especially because of the lack of oncology in the Caribbean.  Then I formed The Kevin Squared Foundation in 2018.
  • What is inspiring you?
Right now, I’m really into the growth of entrepreneurs, especially of the female persuasion. I see a lot of my peers setting up their own thing, quitting their 9-5’s and going after they want.  That is really inspiring to me.
  • How do you think having a strong personal brand can help your business?

In my case, they’re so many great designers out here. It’s my story that makes me stand out. I honestly have to work more on my personal brand because I get so caught up in building the brand of Soka or the charity, that I leave myself in the shadows.

But I think if someone can connect with the person, their product is so much easier to swallow.
It’s like that for me and a lot of my favorite brands, the persona alone sells me on their merchandise, it’s more being  part of a community. Especially with social media,  a lot of barriers are being stripped back and you feel you are winning with the person and you personally are adding to their success . (proud member of the Bodega Hive)

In my case, they’re so many great designers out here. It’s my story that makes me stand out.
  • What is your message for the ModernMuses community?
Accept your failures, as it is more valuable than succeeding. I struggle a lot with self-doubt. So when I feel like I failed, I have to take a step back and look at the situation in its totality. Internalize it, meditate, think of a new game plan and keep it moving.
Also, belief in self is key. Most times, people around don’t understand your dream, so you have to rely on what your vision is, no one else will see it and that’s ok.  Despite what people might say; You’re really not crazy.
Most times, people around don’t understand your dream, so you have to rely on what your vision is, no one else will see it and that’s ok.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
I see myself running a successful international designer brand, on the level of Stella Jean and Alexander Wang.  I see Solange wearing my pieces. My company will also base its production out of the Caribbean, developing infrastructure here.
I see Soka supporting artisans and craftsmen here in the region. I also want to support the arts and fashion here, ability to hire up & coming designers from the region here, developing a scholarship program for aspiring designers through the brand. With The Kevin Squared Foundation, I want to establish an oncology centre in Saint Vincent and train doctors and nurses in oncology.
I’m also working on a book. By then it would be published, along with the blog I am writing.
  • Where can we connect with you?

You can view my website: www.madebysoka.com  and purchase merch from my store: https://sokanow.myshopify.com .

My instagram : officiallysoka .

My twitter/facebook/ youtube : madebysoka.

Or email me directly at madebysoka@gmail.com

 

 

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  • Hello what’s your name and what do you do?

Hello my name is Priscilla and I am the founder of Match Your Vibe, an online fashion store that sells matching outfits for couples family and friends 

  • What’s your preferred quote or motivation mantra

So, I don’t really have a preferred mantra or something. I think six months ago I tattooed a diamond on my wrist to remember every morning my values, no matter how hard life is, a diamond never breaks.

  • What are you passionate about? 

So I’m very passionate about business fashion and branding. I think branding is how you create a brand that resonates with people. That always fascinated me.

  • So what makes you do what you do by setting up your business?

Wow that’s a very very tough question. I always had a passion for business and I always wanted to set up my own business from a young age. I was still waiting for the idea to come and nothing really came until a year ago when I went on a trip to Paris with my ex-boyfriend, and yes that’s where the Match Your Vibe adventure began.

  •  What made you do it,  what was the idea?

I always had a passion for business and fashion and I always wanted to set up my own business, but I was looking for the idea. You know the kind of idea that will make you invest time, money and effort. The business idea I was desperately waiting for, came during Summer 2016 when I went on a trip to Paris with my then boyfriend. We both had quite a strong passion for fashion and we always try to coordinate our outfits to make sure that it looks like we are together. You want to show the world that you are with someone that you love, so I went online and try to find a matching outfit and I couldn’t find anything, can you believe that!

The only thing that I could find was really cheesy and tacky, and that was not really my style. I decided that I should launch an online fashion store where I could find matching outfits for me and my boyfriend. That’s how the story began.

And yes during that time I had a lot of time to think about my life and realise that I was extremely unhappy. At the beginning of 2017, I went through a huge depression, I questioned my life and  I just quit my job and decided to follow my dream, and here I am and here is Match Your Vibe

  • Tell us about your journey. What are the biggest challenges you ever faced?

That’s another really tough question. I think the entrepreneurial journey is faced with many challenges and I can’t really think about one in particular. I think that what I have experienced is loneliness. Even if you have the right network, because I do have one and I do have the right people around me, it’s your business, it’s your idea, it’s your baby and no one can feed your baby better than you can. So yes it’s very difficult not having the light from friends & family so I would say this is my biggest challenge.

  • What is inspiring you?

I think I’m very inspired by love and fashion and that’s why  I have created Match Your Vibe. A concept around togetherness. In a way, I wanted to feel closer to the People that I love.  I think that’s what actually inspiring me the most.

  • How do you think having a strong personal brand can help your business?

That’s a good question for me I think it’s everything. A personal brand can help you in many aspects. I mean, when you go to a meeting the first thing people see is how you portray yourself. I’m in fashion so I think people expect me to dress well, it’s kind of normal. I think a lot of people under evaluate the importance of thinking about their personal branding and yes I would highly recommend someone who doesn’t really know how to do that to ask advice. At the end of the day, your business and yourself are linked and you need to make sure that you are well branded.

  • What is your message for the ModernMuses community?

I would say start somewhere today just do it you know, even if you have to take baby-steps it doesn’t matter but you need to start somewhere straight away. You can’t say that you are going to do it in a month’ time two months, years you just need to start! I think the most difficult part is to start. If I go back from the beginning when I started Match Your Vibe, this was the most difficult thing because I didn’t have anything. Now I have more than I had before. It’s really difficult to stay motivated at the beginning so just do small baby steps, just do one task every day, and then you’ll see after 30 days what you will have accomplished will just blow you away. So believe in yourself and don’t be afraid of failing because you never fail when you start your own business, you always learn. 

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?

Okay, where do I see myself… I hope in five years I could be someone who has inspired the younger generation as a black woman. I would say that I really want to inspire Black young women to start their business, to appreciate themselves and to have more confidence in themselves. As a woman, I would hope to inspire other women not to be afraid, not to try to fit into the norm. No! we can all be an entrepreneur if we want, we can all decide the life that we want to do. It’s okay to be 29 and not being married and have kids. It’s okay, so just believe in yourself, follow your guts. That’s the way I see myself in five years that’s what will make me so proud. Seeing people coming and tell me “you inspired me to start my own business” that will be the most amazing gift that I could receive!

  • Where can we connect with you?

Matchyourvibe on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Online:  www.matchyourvibe.com

We can help you build a strong brand and a successful business. Let’s talk!

 

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  • Hello what’s your name and what do you do?

” I am Laurence, I am a paid search analyst. I do advertising across search, paid social and display channels.

  • What’s your preferred quote on motivation mantra

My motivation mantra is: ” keep going despite the difficulties and keep going until you reach your goal.”

  • What are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about music, this is my first love. I love Hip-Hop and can’t live without music. Because I have been passionate about music for years I wanted to be involved in the music industry in London which was complicated at the beginning.I started to tweet and retweet a lot to share a lot of music content across social networks.

  • Tell us about your journey. What are the biggest challenges you ever faced?

I remember, last May, there was a Music event called This Is Wired.  They organised a “This is Wired” Birthday and as I was following their twitter account, I saw that people could win an invitation to the event by sending an email. I sent my email and a girl got back to me and mentioned that I could get in. The day of the event I was thinking that I needed to get in touch with this girl and be smart enough not to blow out my chances and my luck.I went to the event, it was amazing, there was a lot of performances. This was my first step into the industry. In September I then had my first contract with a client.

  • What is inspiring you?

The simple thing that inspires me every day is the music and the artist because the music industry is very hard to get in. As an artist, you have to be talented and smart. Talent is not enough, you need to be smart and be surrounded by talented people who will help you to get to the top. The artists I love inspire me every day. And my Mum as well! She is a strong woman!

  • Do you think having a personal brand is important ?

Having a strong personal brand to reach your client is good but not enough. You need to get an attractive personal brand, to make sure you reach the right audience. You need to make sure that the message is straightforward because people need to remember your brand, the creativity behind it and your message. If your message is attractive enough they will remember you

  • Where do you see yourself in five or 10 years?

In 10 years I am 100% sure I will run my music digital company!

  • What is your message for the ModernMuses community?

For the Modern Muses community, my advice is to keep going despite your difficulties! “

  • Where can we connect with you?

@Tiloucia on Instagram and on Twitter

 

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