IIt took a role model to show Erika-Rae Griffin that her path to entrepreneurship was possible. Her hands were always at work, from sewing to painting, but she had never dreamed of starting her own business. So when she got the opportunity to freelance for a local designer in 2014, something clicked. “It was my first time working with someone who was my age, looked like me, and was building a brand from scratch,” she says.
Today, Griffin is working to build his own business, Create or Comply, to sell jewelry and t-shirts that she describes as “handmade items for the Afrocentric minimalist.” Her mission is to share what she sees in black and African culture. “There’s a richness and a beauty that I appreciate,” she says. “And there’s something about [the culture] it calls me to express it in my own way.
One of the ways she accomplishes this mission is by adding meaningful and educational touches to her jewelry. On her Instagram account, Griffin often explains the unique purpose behind the charms and beads she uses. In a recent post, she featured a rose quartz bracelet with a West African Adinkra charm symbolizing “beauty, cleanliness, kindness, and love.”
While the pandemic has seen many businesses struggling, the extra downtime has been a blessing for Griffin, allowing him to transition to full-time work at his business. She started with beaded jewelry and eventually moved on to creating jewelry from sheet brass, which became a staple of her work. She uses a jeweler’s saw and a bench pin to cut out shapes from hand-drawn templates, then polishes the metal and adds texture depending on the design she wants to achieve.
One of the keys to Griffin’s creative journey has been participating in farmer’s markets across the city, though she dreams of one day having a showcase for Create or Conform where she can support other entrepreneurs. “I want to be able to give them a platform somehow,” she says. “Or give them the help I wish I had before I started.”
She has three words of advice for anyone considering taking the plunge themselves. “Just do it,” she said. “The feeling you get out of it is more powerful than the regret you’ll have if you don’t.”