Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

I graduated from Duke with a degree in Computer Science, and kept pretending the next job I landed in that field would be “the one.” This, of course, didn’t happen. After many failures, I decided to go in a completely different direction. I began by writing a blog to house my interests. And then, I started playing with leather and nose-dived into a life as a designer and founded Freshly Given. Freshly Given’s signature accessory is an envelope clutch. I channel my creative spirit into sourcing the leather and designing patterns for the brand.

What is your vision for change? Why is this important to you? 

As a mother and woman of color, I'm exhausted by the external pressures to be successful. I want to see a space where women of multidisciplinary backgrounds can mesh and create amazing ground breaking "things". This is important to me because at first glance I'd be considered low on the food chain, so to speak. But I know I'm good at what I do - in the most humble way. There is so much untapped expertise out there, especially among women of color.

Tell us about the defining moment when you decided to make the leap towards your dreams.

Unfortunately, a late term pregnancy loss. The pain was too much to bear. Over time I allowed the grieving process to push me out of my comfort zone and into a role I had previously only dreamed about. Freshly Given was born out of this process.

What is the impact you believe your work makes in the world?

I have a Computer Science degree from Duke, and currently stay at home with 3 kids and make leather accessories. Society says I'm wasting time and not accessing my potential. I believe Freshly Given encourages others to rebel against norms and focus on purpose and drive. Even if you have no idea what they are. Listen, I never thought I'd create a business, let-alone, a "fashion" brand. But every part of this process has given me so much life. Degrees are only a piece of a big picture.

At Project #SWFHD we are all a work in progress but we believe in walking our own talk. Tell us how you embody the mission your work serves?

One way I embody my work is sharing my story with others. I encourage women to take risk. I encourage mothers to take risks. I make myself available to others struggling to find an out, and land in a role that is fulfilling. I am vulnerable and open to sharing my failures so that others can thrive in areas I did not and do not.

A big part of going for your dreams is about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Tell us about a challenge or fear that got in the way of going for your dreams? How did you handle it?

Money money money. When people constantly remind you of your money making potential and you look up at them, surrounded by a pile of leather, and just stare because you know you have to be crazy to do what you're doing. I often felt stupid. I struggled with the thought that I'm wasting my degree. I handled it by pushing through, completing a handbag, going live with it, and enjoying the moment.

What is one piece of business advice you would give to someone starting out? 

To do this you need to be a bit looney. But there are so many others who will follow behind you. Be looney together.

Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that inspires you and your business?

There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise." – W.E.B Dubois


Learn more about Whitney and Freshly Given, here.

Follow on social media @freshlygiven