Keesha & Larissa – Sisterhood, Business, and Faith

by Terry Watson | July 19th, 2021
Larissa Gilmer and Keesha Sinclair (Photos by Brandon Thomas}

Larissa Gilmer and Keesha Sinclair (Photos by Brandon Thomas}

Sisters, Larissa Gilmer and Keesha Sinclair are successful entrepreneurs, growing and expanding their businesses, meeting the needs of customers and planning for the future. The two have separate businesses, but their family bond and strong entrepreneurial spirits keep them connected and producing great products for an increasingly supportive and expanding clientele in the customized product and services industries.

Entrepreneurship is far from new to them. It’s a way of life; one they have been exposed to since they were born.

“We come from a family of entrepreneurs,” said Gilmer. “It was only natural for us to do the same.”

“I believe it’s just instinct. It’s just in us. Our dad currently owns and operates R&B Janitorial, and Lawn Care Services. Our mom ran a lucrative daycare for many years,” said Sinclair. “Their hustle was always inspiring.”

Gilmer – the younger of the two – is the owner of Elle Accessories and More, selling and designing hand-crafted, custom earrings, pin-back buttons (the kind often worn on jean jackets, backpacks, and other pop style items), Jibbitz (the cool accessories worn on Crocs shoes) and custom branded items for businesses. She’s been growing her business since 2012, but over the last few years, Gilmer has really tapped into her specialty and honed her craft.

“A lot of what I do is cultural-based. For example, I have a Black Excellence collection which include croc jibbitz, custom pins, button earrings and stickers. It’s all based on black culture surrounding HBCUs, sororities/fraternities, and popular culture tag sayings in the black community,” said Gilmer. “I can do customized buttons and earrings and more for customers. It’s all specific to what they want.”

What started as a hobby and sporadic opportunities to earn extra money has become a true labor of love. “I do a lot of custom branding items for my clients who want to market their businesses with custom logo pins, button earrings, and stickers,” she says. Gilmers options are limitless. It’s specific to what her clients want.

“I think we are all in a space that we are striving to create multiple streams of income. And that’s fine, but it’s more than that. My products resonate with me and hopefully my customers,” she said. “When I saw the interest of people; I was prompted to take it to another level.”

“At first, I didn’t know my business worth, but that was because I was looking at it like it was a hobby. Someone once told me as long as I looked at it like a hobby that’s all it was going to be. Once I started putting time into the business and allowing it to be big on paper and in practice then it would be big to everyone else as well.” Gilmer says that sentiment has not only been true, but it has been one of the guiding forces and principles in her entrepreneurship arsenal.

Older sister and entrepreneur veteran of the two, Sinclair owns and operates Kreat’ N Stitches, a customized product business Specializing in custom apparel, embroidered designs, t-shirts, etc.
“I have always love the idea of creating and I love to craft in my spare time,” says Sinclair. “Years before my current business, I created gumball machines made from flower pots. I also made fleece tie blankets and personalized them by hand. Many of the things I do now evolved over time.”

Sinclair was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug many years ago in elementary school. Her business model may have changed somewhat, but her passion never waned.

“I was the candy girl in school. I sold candy out of my bookbag,” she said. “During the summer, my parents allowed me to sell candy from our patio to the neighborhood.”

“I’ve always had side jobs. I want to create generational wealth for my family. I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck. More importantly, I love what I do and take pride in what I do. I love to create something and see that the customer is proud of it too. I get joy when I get emails, texts or phone calls after an item is received. That’s satisfaction. It’s a little piece of me and Kreat’ N Stitches spread all over the world. I love that. I want people to enjoy it as much as I enjoy making it.”

Born and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Gilmer and Sinclair followed similar paths. Both graduated from Fayetteville State University, are members of the same sorority – Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, and ultimately became Career Technical Education teachers in the Guilford County School System. Their connection is strong. They admit they are fiercely protective of one another and support each other’s endeavors.

“We work well together. We often find we can improve the client experience and meet their needs by collaborating,” said Gilmer. Customers might go to Keesha for a shirt, but they will come to me for earrings to match or to design and place a logo on the earrings.” She says they learn together, improving their individual businesses as well as their collaborations.

“I love seeing how we grow together, as well as individuals in our businesses. We are able to feed off each other,” said Sinclair. “Our collective efforts allow us to provide fantastic products, services, and a solid business model for the community.”

After purchasing her first embroidery machine and developing her products and production system, Sinclair spent years working from her kitchen table, then her home office before making the move to a separate facility on West Friendly Ave., in Greensboro, N.C.

A great deal of the clients that she serves also patronize Gilmer. They could be considered an entrepreneurial one-two punch, where customers can get all their items designed and personalized in one convenient stop. Additionally, they host and attend pop-up shops. Not only do they support one another, but they often provide the space and opportunity for other business owners to highlight and sell their goods.

“Larissa and I have a lot of success, but especially when we host holiday pop-up shops or when we set up at other shops,” said Sinclair. “Eventually we even started inviting friends that had businesses to do pop-ups with us.”

“When people come to the shop, we want them to leave feeling good about their experience at Kreat’ N Stitches and excited about their products. To accomplish this, we intentionally create a positive atmosphere. One summer I initiated “Feel Good Fridays.” When, customers come in, they feel a sense of excitement about their experience and leave feeling good! We hope to share that same experience with our customers this summer as well as every time they shop with us,” they shared.

The sisters both stress the source of their success. “Before every Pop Up Shop we pray with our vendors, and we ask for God’s wisdom and guidance. We pray that our customers will receive whatever they need, whether it be products, a smile, a hug, or even an encouraging word. We are not just selling products, I consider it ministry and a gift that God has given us,” Sinclair shares.
Gilmer and Sinclair often point their success and foundation back to their parents’ example of strong entrepreneurial leadership, family commitment, and love.

“It’s a family affair,” said Gilmer. “Our parents have been married 43 years.” They are inspired beyond words by their parents and appreciate the many lessons they have been taught as they look to do the same within their own families.
Gilmer and Sinclair are always looking for ways to grow and expand. Although the circumstances were certainly not ideal, the pandemic provided an unexpected opportunity. “We’re always looking for ways to expand and stand out. When the pandemic started, the shop closed for seven months. I couldn’t open the doors. So, I switched up the model a bit and started creating embroidered masks,” said Sinclair. “You have to go with the times and what’s needed and what’s in. We’re always trying to be cutting edge.”

Whether it’s Black History Month, Christmas, New Year’s, a customer’s birthday or maybe it’s not a special day at all, Sinclair and Gilmer can provide custom items that meet the need. For example, they have the “Black Vibes Only” collection – sweatshirts, earrings, buttons, t-shirts, just name it.

Recently, Sinclair has expanded her shop location with more square footage to display products and meet the growing needs of customers. Additionally, she’s looking toward establishing an entrepreneurship camp for children in the future. She wants to invest and instill the same ideals and foundation of business savvy and acumen in them that she gained from her parents.

Like any business, certainly, the point of Elle Accessories and More and Kreat’ N Stitches is to make a profit, but for Gilmer and Sinclair, it’s also about family and positively impacting the life of someone else. To them, it’s not just a pair of earrings or just an embroidered shirt. It’s making and selling a product with love that will bring joy and satisfaction to someone else.

To learn more about Elle Accessories and More, and Kreat’ N Stitches, please visit their websites, social media pages, or contact them directly.

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