The entrepreneur is currently crowdfunding to take her brand to the next level
YOU MIGHT have seen the likes of BBC 1Xtra presenter Yasmin Evans, singer Jamelia or actor Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù wearing one of Hannah Pratt’s vibrant and bold designs, or simply have noticed the bright hoodies or T-shirts with words like ackee and jollof emblazoned across the front pop up in your timeline.
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Founded three years ago, at its heart Hannah Pratt Clothing is all about celebrating Black culture. Motivated to start her own line after becoming increasingly frustrated with by the lack of representation on the high street, Pratt is now working on scaling her brand. She’s launched a crowdfunding campaign with a £20,000 target, which she hopes will raise the money she needs to take her business from her bedroom to new heights.
While members of the diaspora are still split over the correct way to pronounce plantain, they’re united in their love for Pratt’s hoodies and T-shirts on which the word is displayed. Her Sierra Leonean heritage, her father is from the West African country, has influenced her designs, which feature African prints.
“For me, my love of African prints and making my clothes was my way of connecting with my culture, embracing and celebrating that part of my identity. As I was exploring who I am I found myself wanting to find a way to connect with my culture and later celebrate it, preserve it and share it this was my way of doing that,” Pratt told The Voice.
Crowdfunding has proven to be a successful way of raising money for the causes of individuals and organisations, but there are many instances of campaigns falling short.
If Pratt doesn’t reach her fundraising goal, she will still receive the money she’s raised – almost £4,000 so far – and will channel it into the area where she feels it will have the most impact.
The full target will mean she can make the size range more inclusive and outsource elements of production and other areas she’s so far managed single-handedly.
“As I’m a one woman band, I wear every hat in the business from customer service, manufacturing, marketing, you name it I do it. Being stretched so thin has made it difficult to really grow and work on the business rather than in it. I realised in order to scale I would need to outsource manufacturing, hire some extra help and invest in some marketing,” she said.
The challenges black-owned businesses face when it comes to securing capital are well known – and the figures are even bleaker for black female entrepreneurs who face racism and sexism. For Pratt, other types of funding have never felt accessible.
“We’ve all seen the stats of how disproportional investment in black owned/black woman owned businesses are vs men and white businesses and it doesn’t spark hope. I didn’t even think about funding until this point, that’s how out of reach it felt. I felt like I had to do it all on my own,” she said.
A growing community of customers and online followers has supported Pratt and she credits them with making her believe scaling up her business is possible.
The entrepreneur, a self-taught designer and seamstress, is determined to pay it forward. Among the rewards donors to her crowdfunding campaign can choose is to sponsor sewing lessons for children. She said the idea to include the workshops was partly inspired by her the struggles she experienced when entering the fashion industry.
“I know what it feels like to want to work in an industry and feel all the odds are stacked against you,” Pratt said. “I didn’t go to uni and for a very long time I thought I couldn’t work in fashion because of this. Every internship or job required experience that I didn’t have. I couldn’t understand how a level entry role had so many barriers. So when I had the idea for the business I thought, you know what, I’m just going to do it. If no one is going to give me the opportunity I’m going to create one for myself.
“I want to empower children to know they can do whatever they want, the possibilities are endless and that if you don’t go down the traditional education route it doesn’t mean you still can’t do it.”
Pratt’s current focus is on growth so it’s fitting that her advice to small business owners stems from lessons she’s learned along her journey.
“It’s easy to get swept up in a great idea, especially as a creative but it’s just as important to think about is this product profitable, where will I sell, what will I do to market it and etc,” she said.
As a sole founder who built her business from the ground up, Pratt’s strong work ethic is clear – but she’s also an advocate of rest.
She said: “You are more than just your business and your health is a priority, as someone who has burnt herself out one time too many, it’s something I always try to remember.”