Fashion Foward (and Reverse)
Meka Harrell is hoping to become a “driving force” in local women and children’s fashion.
The Baltimore native is the proud owner of Pink Culture Inc., billed as the Triad’s first fashion truck. She opened the doors to her vibrant “Barbie pink” Chevrolet Step Van in August during a Greensboro event, officially embarking upon a dream that began more than a decade ago when she got her first job working in her godfather’s clothing boutique.
Harrell said she was a tomboy prior to starting at the boutique, but she quickly fell in love with clothes and fashion there.
“Honestly, I worked for clothes when I was 16,” confessed the 32-year-old. “I worked and bought clothes … I was kind of like a walking billboard for my godfather’s store.”
Fashion was a positive escape from the harsh realities of Harrell’s youth. She grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Her father was murdered when she was four, and her mother was addicted to drugs. Many of her friends had dropped out of school by the time they reached eighth grade. Never one to follow the crowd, Harrell, who relocated to Winston-Salem during her senior year of high school, earned her diploma and then became the first person in her family to earn a bachelor’s degree after completing her studies at Livingstone College.
“I’m always asked the question, ‘How do you do that when you don’t have any positive influences around you?’ I’ve always had this motivation to be successful,” related Harrell, who also holds an MBA from Pfeiffer University. “I think it’s weird, but I always believed, I felt like God told me to be successful.”
Harrell spent years in the corporate sector at Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina and later at BB&T, where her husband, JoColby Harrell, works as a mortgage loan officer, but says she never felt fulfilled. With the birth of their second child, Maveric, six months ago, the couple decided it was time for her to take a leap of faith and start the company.
“After Maveric was born, we prayed about it, and we decided she was finally going to step out on her dream, and I was 100 percent behind her,” JoColby Harrell said. “This is her passion.”
Harrell used her maternity leave to research and plan Pink Culture Inc. The couple purchased the used van after finding it on Craigslist and, with the help of family, their church family at Winston-Salem First and friends, began to outfit the former plumbing van into a destination for fashionistas.
“It’s something for everybody … anyone who loves fashion,” Harrell said of the fashion offerings creatively displayed in the van.
The van has logged many miles with Harrell behind the wheel. She’s parked and opened her doors to attendees at festivals and events in Greensboro, Charlotte and Winston-Salem, where Pink Culture Inc. was a hit attraction at the recent Pride and Fiesta festivals. The van also has made stops at Winston-Salem State University and Salem College. Being able to meet her customers where they are – literally – is one of the many advantages of operating a mobile business, Harrell said.
“The main advantage to this is not having to pay a lease fee because everything you need is right here in the truck,” noted Harrell, who will bring the truck to her customers if they commit to a purchase of $25 or more. “I have the advantage of going to people’s homes, going to different festivals, or just parking on a random street. It attracts attention because it’s bright pink.”
Fittingly, Harrell’s most successful venue to date was her alma mater, Salisbury’s Livingstone, where her fellow Blue Bears were keen to open their wallets during last month’s Homecoming.
“I had a line wrapped around my truck of people waiting to come in,” she happily reported. “I’m still on a high from that.”
Overall, Pink Culture has received high marks from customers.
“They love it,” Harrell said of her customers, who patronize her in person and on Instagram, where she also sells her wares. “They love the concept. I always get great compliments on the items and how innovative it is, the fashion truck.”
The truck is just Harrell’s latest venture. She started Colby’s Closet – an online children’s clothing store named for her four year-old daughter, ElleMari Colby Harrell – and Pink Culture Momtourage, a nonprofit for other mothers with a philanthropic bent.
“Pink represents femininity, and culture is for all cultures,” she explained. “That’s how I came up with the name.”
Although the Harrells are saving on day care costs because Meka cares for Maveric, JaColby Harrell said going from two incomes to one to make the business a reality was a sacrifice for the family. The reward – seeing his wife happy – was well worth it, though.
“I’m just so happy to see her finding her passion,” said the WSSU alumnus. “A lot of people don’t get achance to really follow their passion in life.”
Meka Harrell said she believes she’s found her purpose in life, and she’s never felt more fulfilled. Already, she has inspired several friends to chase their dreams in their careers. She hopes to one day parlay her story as a first generation college graduate and businessowner to motivational speaking engagements, where she can encourage youngsters from difficult backgrounds to believe in their dreams.
“If you want things to happen, you just need to really pray about it and everything falls into place,” she remarked. “I feel like I’ve been stress free ever since I started the truck. It’s just in my spirit; I always knew what I wanted to do.”
view more photos of Harrell’s mobile business here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.667504286615110.1073741852.355902327775309&type=1&l=e8a7957f53