We were introduced to Charnae' Stanley, the CEO and Designer behind RAW (Recognize A Woman) Handbags at the Hustle Her Way Summit back in June and fell in love. Not only were her handbags beautiful, so was her message around the empowerment and celebration of women. Something we can 100% get behind.
When Charnae' was gracious enough to share her story with us, we were thrilled to learn more. From the importance of living out your passion to planning and saving before leaping, Charnae' drops some truth bombs in this interview.
We hope you enjoy learning about Charnae' and the passion behind her work as much as we have. We think more than a few women will find comfort in knowing they weren't the only ones who chose the safer, more "stable" path over their childhood dreams.
In the end, though, something will never feel quite right. To quote Charnae', "you will never be fulfilled in life if you do not pursue your passion."
So here's to following your dreams and living out your passions.
For those that may not be familiar, tell us about yourself and what you do.
My name is Charnae' Stanley, mainly going by Char! I am a very outgoing, loving, and joyful young woman. My interests include public service, mentoring, shopping, sewing, and being a foodie!!! I am a two-time college graduate, graduating from Morgan State University with my Bachelors in Accounting and Masters of Business Administration.
I quit my accounting job in February 2016, and have since been operating RAW Handbags full time. I sometimes dedicate my time to the educational system as a substitute teacher. I also recently started my YouTube channel dedicated to Loc tutorials, DIY's, and Fashion!
How did the idea for RAW Handbags take shape?
Well, just a bit of background...since I was a young girl I wanted to be nothing else but a fashion designer. I used to draw clothes at the age of 10. However, I never made any of the dresses or clothing I wanted to make. I was even a fashion major before switching to accounting in college for "security".
RAW Handbags was literally an epiphany. I was experiencing extreme stress and anxiety on my auditing job and one day I woke up to the idea of making myself a clutch. I lived in Brooklyn, NY so it was a train ride away from the Garment District. I made my first clutch after several hours and thought this was not my thing. I tried again and sent a few pictures to my friends. One of my good friends Fey told me "you know your sleeping on your talent, right?" So I started to make more bags. After so many compliments, I thought maybe I could sell them since everyone wants to know where I got my clutches from.
The name Recognize A Woman has been in my head for a few years I just never knew what I wanted to use it for. When I started making bags I knew I wanted to give each one a name. I noticed boutiques had the "Ashley dress", "Kate sandal", or "Naomi skirt", etc. but I don't know Kate, Naomi or Ashley, there was no connection or relation in which I wanted my customers to feel. That's when I came up with the concept of naming each bag after a powerful, iconic woman as a way to recognize women, compliment women, and build a connection with my consumers.
Can you share more about your transition from the corporate world to the wonderful world of creative entrepreneurship?
The initial transition was tough because of several circumstances (tests) happening that caused me to question my leap. However, there wasn't anything in the world that could make me turn around. I had planned out my first year of my quit with several goals I wanted to achieve each week, month, and quarter. I created a budget, along with other fun hustles I wanted to dedicate my time to create multiple streams of income.
Entrepreneurship takes a lot of discipline, you are your own boss! I have had to discipline myself to have better time management, prioritizing, speaking in public, budgeting, etc. Without discipline, I would have been back working a 9-5 and my baby (RAWH) would be in shambles.
When you create a business from scratch and work hard to raise it and watch it grow, it's like your baby and that's the most rewarding part of this transition; the evolution! This was and still isn't a walk in the park, however, I have truly been the happiest I have ever been in my life.
The transition was tough, yet it is a fun and exciting journey. I have flexibility, ownership, and peace. I can say I definitely work extremely hard — and more than I did on my 9-5 — BUT I feel sooooooo FREE!!!!!
How has this transition affected you both personally and professionally?
Personally, I feel free, I feel like I'm finally giving that little girl who wanted to be a designer what she always dreamed of. Sometimes I think about how my life would be had I stayed in corporate, but I haven't yet thought about returning. In fact, the plan is to never return!
Professionally, I still have my networks in the corporate world however after leaving that atmosphere there was no common ground. I do use techniques and tactics from the professional world, which I'm grateful for when it comes to being a professional entrepreneur. I can say the transition has allowed me to now be 100% 24/7 myself. When I go to networking events or even professional events, I am Char the CEO of RAW Handbags, I'm not the girl who works in accounting. So I get to be who I'm supposed to be and not live in that box I was in corporate.
Where do you pull inspiration from for your handbags (which, by the way, are absolutely stunning)?
Thank you! My inspiration comes from a number of things. I have an overload of ideas in my head I want to create, along with women who inspire me that I want to make a bag in recognition of. Sometimes I have the name of the woman I want to make a bag after and I think of designs or fabrics that remind me of her. Sometimes I make a bag without a woman in mind and I think to myself "hmmm who does this look/feel like?". And sometimes I read about women and I feel she deserves to be recognized. The process is quite personal and inspiring. I love when my customers read the name of the bag and say "OMG this does look like her!" :)
What does it mean to you to spread womanhood and inspire other women to be phenomenal?
Spreading womanhood to me means to encourage and display complimenting other women regardless of favor, race, age, appearance, etc. Just simply recognizing the beauty of being a woman. Inspiring other women to be phenomenal is female empowerment. I love to uplift other women and inspire them to be all they can be in whatever it is they are passionate about whether it's through fashion, testimony, photos, etc.
With your first year in the books, what does the future hold for you, your work, and your life?
I believe my future holds a successful serial entrepreneur. I plan to continue this year out with my RAWH tour, traveling to various cities to penetrate new markets and attract my audience outside of my current market. I'm hoping for RAWH to continue to grow beyond measure and I will become noted as a celebrity handbag designer. I just accepted a job as a professor and started my YouTube channel, so those are also goals I am looking forward to committing to long-term. I'm hoping to soon take my talents to California and expand on the west coast.
Famous last words... What advice would you give to women who are feeling trapped in their 9-5 and are looking for a way out?
PLAN, ACT, JUMP, SUSTAIN!!!
I cannot stress enough how much you have to plan. Plan out your business and personal goals and budget. You must have a quit fund. Act by actually following the plan and doing those things you need to do and need NOT do to achieve them. Jump comes from effectively planning and acting on the plan which will allow you to create a space to jump. Sustain comes after you jump, you must stay consistent and disciplined. This also comes with networking, accountability partners, seminars, summits, mentors and etc. to keep you abreast.
You will never be fulfilled in life if you do not pursue your passion. You will always feel trapped and it can eat you alive. Get over any fear of taking a leap because I actually think the feeling of being trapped is far more damaging than taking a risk on your dreams.