Creating and starting a brand or a business is fairly easy once you are able to identify the process and understand the steps needed to create your own business. Repeating the process consistently is the difficult part. Many business owners and entrepreneurs have to repeat that process time and time again not only to maintain their business but to also help their business grow. Being an entrepreneur myself, the fun part for me was building the foundation and being able to sell my first collection of t-shirts. That was fun and all but what happens after that? How do I continue this brand to make sure it sticks around for the long run? Longevity is what everyone should be focusing on when starting a business because the initial opening or start will come and go, and many businesses fail because entrepreneurs fail to realize it’s about consistency.
Introducing Emeka Chukwurah, Creative Director for Rhythms of the Village & Only Do Good Clothing Brand
As we continue our series to highlight Black and brown owned businesses, one of the brands that has been around for almost a decade is Rhythms of the Village founded by Onochie F. Chukwurah. I was able to interview his son & creative director for Rhythms of the Village and Only Do Good (ODG) clothing brand Emeka Chukwurah.
Yoo what’s the good word Mek Dot?! It’s a pleasure to be able to do this interview with you man, it’s been a long time coming! How’s everything going during this recovery process of the crazy year we just had & how is the family doing?
First off it’s a blessing & an honor to chop game with you fam. We both represent the many roses that grow from the concrete. Appreciate you working to make sure our stories are told.
I feel like this year brought a lot out of me. There was a sense like we were being tossed into the deep end of shark infested waters, forcing us to sink or swim, to eat or be eaten. I’m very fortunate to be facing the adversities of a pandemic surrounded by like minds, my family & having the love of my life as my business partner, creative director, stylist, backbone… has been the source of my drive to power through. I see honoring my father’s legacy & working side by side with him prolongs the life of my parents & I know it makes the ancestors proud. The family is growing stronger & our mission remains the same. Do whatever it takes to keep our culture alive.
Can you let the people know a little about yourself? (Who you are, what you do, where you’re from?) Also why is it important to you to understand and know the culture and heritage you come from? Can you tell us a little bit about your brand and how you got started?
I’m first generation Nigerian/Jamaican, raised in Pasadena, California. I’m my ancestors’ wildest dreams. I’m a designer, humanitarian, rapper, entrepreneur… I’ve been using my culture, my heritage & my humility to break down doors & welcome everyone into my world where my blackness isn’t defined by the status quos or stereotypes, it’s defined by me. It’s important to know thyself.
I grew up drumming and performing with my father. I’ve always been his righthand man, soaking up game and wisdom that predates colonization. From a young age I was groomed for the stage. I enjoyed everything about it: the costuming, developing showmanship and dazzling crowds with rhythms and stories from Africa. I realized young that embracing my heritage gave me a great sense of confidence. Rather than assimilate & conform, I’ve always chosen to stand out. That’s why I choose to build a brand that would give me opportunities to channel my roots in innovative ways.
What is the purpose of your brand? ( What are you trying to say with your brand)
ODIEGWU is an IGBO word that means something miraculous or something incredible! To shorten it I began calling the line ODG and Andrea helped coin the tag Only Do Good. This was a very soothing name because it coincides with our mission to keep our community united. We provide our customers with a unique sense of style with textiles that tell our stories.
I consider myself a leader and fearless dreamer. My mother Marilyn was a teacher & an incredible seamstress. I grew up assisting her making clothes for fashion shows, theater plays, graduations… Fashion has always been an outlet for me to express myself. Growing up we weren’t rich so I had to learn how to style myself in a way that looked like the world was made for me to shine as bright as the stars. I used my style & my fashion sense to create a godly aura around myself. I want people to recognize people like me as those who are descendants of the original people. Coming from such greatness we want to inspire new leaders and new dreamers.
When people see us in ODG we are doing as much as we can for the community. Through our brand we’ve created various programs to give back. Through the tribe we’ve opened up our space for other creatives & entrepreneurs to thrive. I get inspiration from being surrounded by the youth & providing a space & resource for them to develop their gifts.
When was the last time you visited the motherland and what are some of the differences between our way of life here in the states in comparison to how they live back home?
I haven’t been to the motherland yet but it’s in my soul. I live it every day and carry the ancestral knowledge with me everywhere I go with pride and a smile. I’ve been to Jamaica where my birth mother is from. It’s amazing to see what people can do with so little. You can take the little that you have and create a dynamic aura & vibe.
How do you think your business/Brand can contribute to the community? What are some of the influences or inspiration that you pull from to constantly try and innovate the brand’s direction?
I draw inspiration just from being from Pasadena. I feel like we got a lot of sauce out here, brains, beauty and muscle. So many people with legendary styles, hustles and athleticism are bred in this city. I take pride in being one of them. I’ve always done my own thing in one way or another to bring more life to the city. With the brand I’ve been able to make a global push connecting my city upbringing to the motherland. Pasadena/Altadena is a big part of me that hasn’t left. It’s been a hometown hero journey building the brand here. I enjoy checking out the trends of high fashion and figuring out how to make it my own interpretation. My cultural experiences allow me to do things with that tribal flair. Infusing western styles, street wear and African textiles allows me to come up with many 1 of 1 designs. My love for music also fuels my creativity. As an artist I want my look to be iconic. ODIEGWU helps me achieve this. I observe how people tend to gravitate to the people who can pull off looks they wouldn’t dare try.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would you tell them about creating a business/brand to help move them along quicker?
I’d tell my younger self read a little more, jump on credit early. Don’t be scared to get started on the road to your dreams. Anything is possible and don’t be scared to ask for help. Build business plans and seek investors. Save as much capitol as you can. The words of the day are consistency, adaptability and perseverance.
Lastly, are there any other businesses or brands you guys are liking right now besides your own? (In this section I would like you guys to just let people know about other brands you want to shout out, if there are other brands or businesses owned by women please highlight them first)
Saturdays we’ve started pop ups in The Village and right now it’s a team of beautiful, strong, brilliant women that come out. We have Yardi Strong organic Sea-moss, Crack N Pop delicious organic popcorn, Planted amazing handcrafted planters and more. We love Pasadena CLCS, love IV What it’s worth, Infantry, PasaD.N.A, Irishlatina… These are a few of the brands we love to see building their own legacies.
As we close out this interview we would like to thank Emeka for taking the time out to answers our questions. I have been friends with Emeka for a couple years now, but growing up we always heard about each other through mutual friends (shoutout Mo Will & J Hill) and we finally got a chance to link up through weekend hoops pre-quarantine. It’s been an honor to finally be able to interview him about his brand and business because he has been involved with clothing longer than anyone that I know because of his father showing him the ropes early. So if you haven’t taken the time to visit The Village, it is located @ 2279 Lake Ave. Altadena, CA 91001 and they are open Monday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and closed on Sundays. Support your local Black and brown businesses!