Jeanette Sellers has a mission: to build community that celebrates the beauty of diverse, African cultures. She wants her children to “feel their culture” and see it represented in everyday life.
Jeanette didn’t plan to be an entrepreneur. As an undergraduate, she joined a student activist group to address the injustices she experienced on her recently de-segregated campus. She noticed her fellow female activists crocheting hats and scarves, so she learned fabric arts and lotion-making and started selling her products at festivals to support her education. Soon after, she told her family that she was leaving her PhD program in Chemistry, moving to Atlanta and opening a shop.
Getting started wasn’t easy; her first shop faced multiple break-ins and she had a difficult time getting the funds she needed to succeed. On top of that, she was a single mother supporting her first child. She closed the store and moved back home to Pennsylvania. With determination and perseverance, she returned to Atlanta a few years later and opened Axum Culture. “Once it’s in your mind, there’s no other option but to make it work.”
One day, an entrepreneur friend told Jeanette about LiftFund and she was able to get funding for inventory, payroll, working capital and remodeling. “I’ve been through funding processes before; it’s always been a nightmare. LiftFund was hands down the best experience. I have never had that kind of treatment. They wanted me to get [the loan] more than I did!”
Today, Axum Culture supports more than just her family. She buys products from local vendors as well as craftspeople all over Africa. Jeanette employs three staff, some of whom started as customers. Her three oldest children sometimes help out in the store and are learning entrepreneurial skills.
This year, Jeanette plans to diversify her inventory and redesign the store’s layout in order to give her vendors increased visibility. She is proud that her children have watched her build a business from the ground up. “They saw what it takes to build community; they didn’t just walk into it. They saw me solving problems, doing whatever you need to have your best life”.