Financially, it was a hard transition because I was overworking myself and not getting paid nearly as much as I should have for the amount of work I was doing. After like a year, it came to a point where I had to raise my prices, stand my ground, and then I decided to also give myself time to rest. It was hard, but also a learning process.
Letting go of a steady paycheck is terrifying for most people, did you have a financial safety net or a back-up plan?
I had a certain amount saved, but since I gave three weeks notice I also prepared and booked up the following month with photoshoots. [I was booked] every single day, and I was excited. I was good financially the first month, but I wasn’t charging a lot so the money didn’t go a long way.
I should have saved up more. I had a couple thousand dollars, but in Los Angeles, you never know when your rent is gonna go up or you’re going to have more bills.
You’re both a photographer and a clothing designer, and clearly have worn many different hats. You recently decided to make some changes to how you’re balancing these things. Can you talk about this?
I made things work for about two and a half years, doing freelance photography and other things on the side. Whenever I would get into a financial scare zone where I was like, ‘How am I going to make rent?’ I did promos or started doing other work, like graphic design and social media. I became a kind of one-stop-shop.
I realized that I needed to stop doing so much and just focus on one thing. I had to decide what to grow. Photography, or my clothing business? I picked Wasi and I’m happy with that choice—clothing design has always been my first love.
Recently, you went back to a full-time job after being a full-time entrepreneur for over two years. How has this transition been and what comes next?
I decided to go back to a full-time job so that I could focus on just Wasi. It’s an e-comm job; I build websites and do graphics. I can work remotely and meanwhile all of the money that I make I put directly into Wasi. Before, all of the money that I made was going directly back into the business, I wasn’t making any profit. Now, I’m making a profit and have a good extra cushion from my full-time job, so I can produce a lot more than I used to.
Back then, an order would come in and I would sew it and with that money I’d buy extra fabric for the next order. I had just enough money for my rent and maybe an extra couple hundred dollars. Now, I’m so much more financially stable. I hope to go back to Wasi full-time in the next year when I have more money saved up.
You’ve been bootstrapping Wasi since its inception, and you’re financing it through this new job that you’ve taken on. Looking ahead, what’s your plan to profitability—are you thinking of raising capital?
One of the things I’ve been working on this year is raising capital. I’m putting together some places to apply that specifically help POC businesses, like investors who solely support people of color. I’m in the beginning process of looking into that right now; I really do want investors but I’ve also seen success in crowdfunding, so I’m not sure if I want to do that quite yet. I have work to do before talking to investors, I want to get it right. But it’s gonna happen.