While Black History Month is certainly an ideal time to celebrate African-American excellence, and historical trailblazers who paved the way for justice, a devoted 14-year-old named Kalimah McKeaver stays busy working in her home studio making clay key chains, bow ties, African activity tubes, African greeting cards, and hair beads throughout the year.
The mission of her company, Dinkra Stylez, LLC is to educate clients about their African heritage through the creation of fun, colorful and engaging products. Kalimah is the CEO of the world’s first craft design firm with this integrated mission. The kid boss who loves her job, teaches ancestral knowledge to individuals of all ages. Her demanding schedule entails participating as a vendor at events, representing her brand as an inspiring leader, teaching and networking.
“My products are geared towards educating girls, boys, men and women from ages three to 103,” Kalimah said. “I wanted to start my company, because I was inspired by other kid entrepreneurs that I read about or saw on TV.”
The Clinton, Maryland resident who started Dinkra Stylez, LLC at the age of 12 is home schooled. She is in the ninth grade. Her mother, Kalimah Abdul-Sabur explained how Kalimah’s passion to teach, create and sell her products began with a school research assignment.
The forward-thinking mother assigned a research project to her daughter about the Ancient Empires of Ghana and how their inventions and contributions benefited modern day society. Kalimah who was in seventh grade at the time, embraced the empowering lesson, which sparked her entrepreneurial journey.
In order to complete the assignment, the ambitious student used encyclopedias and online articles, which were really intended for college students and older researchers. Nevertheless, Kalimah was not pleased with having to gather fascinating information in a boring manner.
“She asked me if she could make something as her final project for the assignment, instead of just writing about the subject. I told her that as long as she retained the information she was free to deliver the final project in any format. She created hand-sculpted clay hair beads adorned with the Adinkra symbols— at that moment Dinkra Stylez was born,” Abdul-Sabur said, also explaining the meaning of the company’s name, Dinkra Stylez. “The name Dinkra is derived from the word ‘Adinkra,’ as in the Adinkra symbols. We just dropped the ‘A’ and borrowed the rest of the letters. We added the word Styles with a ‘Z,’ to indicate that her products (although hand-crafted) were stylish, fun, colorful, and engaging.”
Kalimah further explained that she was fascinated with the rich and inspirational heritage of Africa, while doing research for the school project.
“I wanted to find a way to help others experience this same feeling without having to spend countless hours in the library or online,” Kalimah said, “One of the most rewarding aspects of being a teen CEO is getting opportunities to do some pretty cool stuff.... like teaching workshops and meeting new or famous people.”
Although Kalimah is a teen with observable discipline, good manners, and a memorable smile, running her business also requires a great deal of personal sacrifice. Challenging aspects of being a teen CEO include: mastering time management; producing large quantities of her products; and finding a balance between school, work, and fun. However, young Kalimah is able to save some of her profits, and not bother her mother for an allowance.
Learning real-life skills is an added benefit of being a teen business owner who knows that growth is a part of being successful in business now and in the future.
“I definitely needed the skill of patience and the tolerance for failure in learning to make my products. It often takes my attempts to get a product just right before it goes to market to be sold,” Kalimah said. “As a result, patience and a tolerance for failure were the two biggest skills I needed to learn.”
Abdul-Sabur pointed out that as a home schoolteacher, evaluation is key. While reflecting on her daughter’s journey, the supportive mother said that she believes that her student has learned a very important lesson. Anything is possible with a little bit of planning.
“She has learned that the management of time and resources are key components in running a successful business,” Abdul-Sabur added. “Finally, she is learning that entrepreneurship is truly one of her passions in life.”
To learn more about Kalimah McKeaver and her products, visit: www.dinkrastylez.com.