The best connections happen organically. That is what happened when Erica Strunkey, CEO and Founder of Sincerely Glamatrix. I met Erica during a professional development event, she was seeking a new career venture. After realizing the opportunity was not the right match, I didn’t think I was going to hear from her again outside of a thank you email. I was wrong.
Since meeting Erica two years ago, I have been able to watch her grow into something that I know makes her family proud. She acted on her passion and started a business. A business that is going to make a significant impact on her and her community.
Born and raised in the Bronx to Caribbean parents, Erica always knew that she wanted to be the fashion industry. “I remember my mom used to give us the JCPenney catalog and we would circle the gifts that we wanted for Christmas. And every Christmas I would circle this briefcase with a cell phone and an appointment book”, says Strunkey. “My mom would say, ‘What do you want that for?’ and I would respond with that I knew I wanted to be a businesswoman. I always remember identifying as a businesswoman”.
It’s always interesting to learn when someone’s childhood dream comes to fruition. As a kid, I did beauty pageants, and I remember being asked, What do you want to be when you grow up?. My immediate response was ‘Rich‘! What does that even mean! Growing up, I bounced from a veterinarian to a cosmetologist to a TV news anchor. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I got older, unlike Erica. And it wasn’t until 2015, at the age of 30, when I finally discovered my passion, and my career and life goals. It’s OK if you don’t have it figured out early.
After graduating from Baruch College in New York City with a degree in Public Communications, Erica dabbled in a few different jobs before taking a leap of faith to start her one-stop glamour shop. And her company is based off a business plan she created when she was 14-years-old.
“I have two younger siblings who are twins. I have always loved to help them with their homework, kind of like their teacher. It was empowering. I always loved to empower people,” says Strunkey. “When I was younger, I would always love to play school or house. Then it turned to me playing businesswoman”.
Connecting people, providing resources for those who do not have access to fashion development, all while celebrating Black Excellence is what Erica had in mind when she created Sincerely Glamatrix. This is how Erica describes and defines her companies name.
“I wanted to use the word matrix because it means to develop, take form, or change. And growing up, I was always called a glamour girl. The word Glamatrix just came to me. And it means to change a person or environment glamorously. I put sincerely in front of it to showcase my passion. How I genuinely want to help people build confidence through their clothing choices.”
Erica’s business has two focus areas – personal and professional development image consulting and styling. Sincerely Glamatrix is designed to help you clean out your closet for the season, help you match your wardrobe to hair/make-up for a photo shoot, and also to assist transitioning college students dress for corporate success. “In college, they teach you how to prepare and land the job. But after that, there is no additional support on how to show up day one or keep a corporate image throughout your career,” says Strunkey.
The average college student has a limited idea of what professional attire is with the increase in startup cultures, lax dress codes, and a rise in co-working spaces. Professional dress standards are being blurred more today than ever. Couple that with the increase in the cost of living and tuition throughout their educational career. A good suit can cost hundreds of dollars. What college student has that lying around?
“Not enough students know how to start or even begin, especially women of color. I want to help and empower women, especially Black women, to answer questions like these – Do I wear my natural hair or wear it straight? Do I wear this floral pattern or stick with a solid color. Is this a professional heel?” she explains.
Thinking back to my college career, assistance like this would have been significant to have on campus. Black women and Latinas are scrutinized in the workplace more often than White women when it comes to attire. The over-sexualization or focus of black and brown female bodies makes us hypervisible in any environment. So we already are overly cautious about what we decide to wear to work. Erica created a business to help with this.
Creating a business is not about setting up a storefront, spending years developing a business plan, or waiting until your Instagram account has over 10,000 followers. It’s about discovering your passion, building your strategy, taking action, and putting yourself out there. Erica did not wait until she had a strong following to host her first event or go after a large client. She was convinced and confident that she created a unique business that has value and purpose in an already saturated industry, personal styling.
“I had my first launch event in August of this year, almost a year after I officially started Sincerely Glamatrix. I also decided that I would not host a free event. If people were going to take this and me seriously, I knew I would have to start with a ticketed event. I charged $41 per ticket and ended up selling 25, which was more than what I projected. This event was to introduce myself and the services that my company can provide. Since the launch of my event, I now have two people on staff and one major client. I did not imagine that all of this would happen in such a short time frame.”
“You know, looking back, I had clients before I even knew I had clients,” says Erica. At 15-years-old, she recalled giving fashion advice to women who were twice her age. They would ask her fashion advice for date night or big event. They were seeking her out. But it still didn’t click for her that years later she would be where she is today.
People follow or pay attention to things that are close in proximity. They look to their friends and personal networks for suggestions or advice. You could have a natural talent that can be transformed into a business plan. All it requires you to do is take action, build a plan, and take that leap of faith. You don’t have to be the best at it or the first. All you need is a passion for doing the work. And the right tribe around to support you along the way.
From watching Erica grow, I have learned how to stay focused on the result and how to find the courage to take action. Our partnership has blossomed into a two-way street. Similar to Erica, my passion lies in bridging the gap and connectedness. Her talent is through fashion, and mine is through words.
Get out there and take some leaps. But don’t forget to lift others as you climb. You the old saying, It’s lonely at the top. Make sure you take others up there with you.