Oakland, CA based designer, Rashima Sonson is the owner of SONSON®, a bow tie brand that offers unique bow ties made of African wax print fabric, lamb leather, pearls, and Swarovski stones.
In 2005, her life drastically changed from the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. After being displaced to Philadelphia and living in a shelter, Rashima had to start her life from the bottom. She continued to push forward with her goal of creating her fashion brand.
Now, she is shifting the gears on the traditional bow tie by adding a bit of lagniappe to its style and showing customers that women can wear bow ties too!
We caught up with her to learn more about her entrepreneurial journey.
What inspired you to start SONSON?
SONSON® was inspired by a big sister of 7 brothers—which happens to be me! In 2013, I had a difficult time finding a father to be a gift for one of my brothers who was expecting his first son.
I wanted to give him a meaningful classic and useful gift. Something commemorative, something he could teach his son, something they can bond/build a relationship with, and something his son could pass down.
Sadly, I could not find the perfect gift online or via brick& mortar, so I decided to put my fashion design degree to work—I created a men’s accessory brand to positively support the psychological and sociological experiences in a male’s life.
SONSON® embodies everything that is important to me—family, fashion and building lasting relationships. The fact that SONSON® is my last name was a divine sign! And I have not looked back!
What has been the most fulfilling and the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
The most fulfilling thing about being an entrepreneur is getting up every day to grow a business with a mission that I am passionate about. When that passion is fused and embedded in a product that you are familiar, it makes the entrepreneurial journey worthwhile!
The most challenging part about being an entrepreneur is the risks and uncertainties! For example, I might invest in marketing (financial risk), but the uncertainty of the ROI from a marketing ad/campaign is a challenge.
I may or may not get the ROI that I forecasted. However, this is all part of being an entrepreneur—you have to take the good with the bad and keep pushing!!!
How do you select your unique designs and materials?
The designs and materials are selected by a mix of art and science. The art is based on my own personal attraction to beautiful fabrics, prints, as well as cultural inspirations.
You may see a collection celebrating Black History Month with items adorned in cowrie shells, black onyx, to vibrant African wax fabric. Or designs celebrating Chinese New Year with gold foil on the fabric!
The science is based on the internal voice of customer research. From conducting customer intention surveys from over 100 pop-up/vendor events (i.e. Wedding Fairs, Holiday Pop-Ups, etc.) throughout the Bay Area as well as automated post purchase surveys.
The selection of my designs and materials were based on research conducted over a span of 4 years.
Where do you see the business in 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I see SONSON® thriving, opening a showroom, partnering with major e-commerce, corporate brands, and private organizations! In 5 years, I see the business as the go-to brand for commemorative dapper gifts.
From new dads being gifted one of our classic items in celebration of his first son, young men wearing our ties during their draft pick to the NFL, NBA or MLB, to an artist wearing one of our pieces when accepting their first Grammy! This is where I see the business in 5 years.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
The best and most relevant advice I can provide to aspiring entrepreneurs are:
- Know yourself and your craft—be authentic
- Know (research) and cater to your target audience/industry—be their advocate
- If you don’t quit, you will win—never give up on yourself or your dream
- The best and most valuable investment you will make in your life is investing in yourself, but make sure you have a clear plan on how /when you will get an ROI on your investment—remember you are building a brand/business (YOU)
- Surround yourself with people who help build you up and support your goals. Life is too short to be surrounded by negative people or people that are not interested in seeing you grow mentally, professionally and spiritually.
- Always pay it forward! (i.e. time, resources, etc..)
- Last but not least, the answer is out there you just have to be mentally present to listen for it. How many times have we missed out on an opportunity or blessing because we weren’t present to listen and then take action? The most successful entrepreneurs that I have watched and read about, listened and took action (strategically)! Seize the moment!
-Tony O. Lawson