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Penny Clarke was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia and immigrated to the United States in October 1986 at age 16 to attend college. She founded Millie's International Creations after a 2015 visit to Cape Town. It was during this visit to South Africa when she decided to bring her passion and desire to help women around the world achieve their dreams to fruition. Now she works with a team of female designers who are all located on the African continent to help with her line of necklaces, earrings, bracelets, headwraps, handbags, and more. And this is all in memory of her mother, the late Mildred F. W. Yancy.
She started the company six years ago when she become a furloughed government employee working in Washington, DC. Since then she has partnered with local female artisans in Ghana. And now she has grown the business from about $5,000 in monthly sales to now more than $50,000 month. Her business, like many other Black-owned businesses, really took off after the pandemic began in 2020. Part of this had to do with the powerful global movement to support Black entrepreneurs after the brutal killing of George Floyd. However, the major part of her continuous sales growth has to do with 7th Pro Solutions, a digital marketing agency that she hired to help her optimize her website and run very profitable Facebook ad campaigns.
“When I started working with Edwin Jardin (the founder of 7th Pro Solutions), he really helped me to create a sales funnel for my website that has literally increased my revenue by 500%. My company now gets sales every single day, and it's a challenge to keep up with inventory – which is a great problem to have.” – Penny on how her business grew during the pandemic.
The ideal Millie's customer is anyone seeking unique jewelry. Especially authentic African jewelry. As well as African skirts, Dashikis, Bohemian-like, Tropical or Vintage Chic fashion and accessories. Millie's is a unique boutique. They specialize in authentic African and other international fashion. Selling everything from African fabric, men's shirts, jewelry, handbags and more. Her customers love the products she sells. And the proof is in the constant and consistent growth in her monthly sales.
I know from my own personal journey, it's not always easy to find authentic African items like these. Feel free to make fun of me, but after watching the movie Black Panther in 2018 I felt as though I needed to be more in touch with my African roots. Don't ask me what roots they are, because I have no idea. I hadn't done any type of ancestral search to even know my history. To be completely honest with you, I didn't even know how to spell the word “kente”. I just went to Amazon and searched for “kinte” cloth and was soon corrected. That was the point that I realized that maybe I shouldn't be trying to find traditional African clothing and jewelry on Amazon. And that is when I began my search and attempts to find quality pieces.
Penny's upbringing and childhood is a strong part of who she is. She is the youngest of her mother's 8 children. She named the company after her mother who was a schoolteacher and principal in Liberia. But Penny got the entrepreneur gene honestly. Because her mother also made and sold cornbread as a side hustle. She says that her mom taught her and her siblings the importance of having multiple streams of income.
Sadly, her mom died of breast cancer and congestive heart failure in 2014. But her legacy of entrepreneurship and education lives on through Penny and her other siblings. As a part of Penny's commitment to women and the continent of Africa, proceeds from every sale generated on her website are donated to various nonprofits that she supports in the U.S. and around the world.
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