San Francisco Bay area natives Shauna Harper and Selena Young aren’t related by blood, but they are sisters just the same. They predict each other’s thoughts, are a daily presence in each other’s lives, and share a baby called Define Me Greek.
The Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters launched their business in 2011 when they realized the t-shirts they made for their organization’s conference satisfied a common need. Members of Greek lettered fraternities and sororities needed apparel that did more than advertise their letters. They wanted what they wore to stand for something.
On the cusp of their two-year anniversary, Shauna and Selena sat down to talk about how they expanded their business from a t-shirt to a growing enterprise with an active social media community.
Madame Noire (MN): Describe the premise of Define Me Greek for those unfamiliar with the brand.
SELENA: Define Me Greek is an apparel and accessories company that looks to capture the essence of organizations. We create designs that are bold, modern, and give people an opportunity to express who they are and what they do as Greek lettered organizations. Our company gives people the opportunity to see that there is more to us than just the letters that we wear.
MN: How did your business relationship start?
SELENA: Shauna and I were preparing for our international conference. We decided to create a shirt for our region. As we began to brainstorm, she and I were thinking that we wanted something that’s a little more meaningful. That turned into, “Well, if we are looking for something a little more meaningful, what if we could do something like this for all the organizations?” That’s when really we started looking at doing something different than what’s already out there, and having a story behind what people wear.
MN: Tell me about the first days of Define Me Greek. How did you get the company off the ground?
SHAUNA: I don’t want to say it happened overnight, but it was one of those things where we just took an idea from a concept to reality. We were sitting down chitchatting and said, “Let’s have a business meeting.” The next week we scheduled a business meeting, and next thing you know we had to-dos and we were doing them. It just ended up turning into what it is today. Sometimes we don’t even have a chance to look up, and when we do it’s like, “Oh my God! Look at all we’ve done!”
MN: What confirmed for you that this was a viable business?
SELENA: [A year and half after we started] Shauna and I were going to a regional conference in Rhode Island, one of the biggest regions in our organization. This was our first major event. We looked up how much it was going to cost and we — literally by faith — took every single penny we had. We flew all the way to Rhode Island with really nowhere to stay. We just said we’re going to go out there and see what lies ahead.
We took everything we had in two suitcases. We took trains, buses, and cabs. We walked blocks to get this venue. When we got there, it just really solidified who we are and our existence. We were able to make so many connections. Define Me Greek became known around the United States after that event.