How a Former Prisoner Expanded An Underwear Line For Kids, With Help From Beyoncé

Yolanda Perkins, the founder and CEO of Undies by BlendiTone, a line of underwear for children of color, has faced numerous challenges throughout her life. She has gone from being a prison inmate to a successful entrepreneur who advocates for Black children’s representation. She is also a supporter of the reintegration of ex-prisoners. 

Yolanda couldn’t have imagined how the Beyonce Effect would help her children’s underwear business gain traction in the market, but she’s grateful and delighted to be on her way to making a difference.

“I see the reaction from my kids when they see faces that actually look like theirs on their underwear, not a Disney character that doesn’t look like them. It’s a sense of empowerment, and I want to give that to Black kids all over the world with this line,” she explained.

Yolanda now has startup capital to scale her company, Undies by BlendiTone, at the same rate as her now-viral renown as a recipient of the NAACP and BeyGood Impact Award. 

The idea came to her in early 2019 as she was shopping for panties with her then 6-year-old daughter at a large retailer. Yolanda’s daughter, dissatisfied with the design and character options offered to her, made a remark that spurred the business concept. “She said ‘I want something with someone that looks like me on it. None of these characters look like me,’ and she was right,” Yolanda said. Yolanda then conducted market research and had samples manufactured of children’s characters who resembled her own children.

Yolanda was no stranger to company ownership, having already launched many ventures. Dealing with hurdles arising from the stigma of her past as a former federal prison convict taught her that the only road to liberty was through self-employment. She decided to try selling underwear on Instagram and Facebook to see how quickly she could sell out. 

Despite some success with social media sales, Yolanda discovered she lacked the financial resources to bootstrap the expenditures required to compete with big retail companies. “I would see their packaging and presentation and I knew I didn’t have enough savings to keep up. It paralyzed me for a while even though I had two boxes left to sell,” she admitted.

Yolanda was motivated again months later, in late 2020, when a mentor invited her to a grant writing for a business course. She’d heard about the BeyGood Impact Award for Black-owned businesses and knew she wanted to apply at that point. 

Yolanda’s prison-to-promising-entrepreneur narrative has gone viral a couple of times on social media after the prize winners were revealed in January 2021. Yolanda believes she’s ready to get into the market and establish her brand as a representation and restoration agent now that she has startup capital and great visibility.

She comments, “My vision is to bring all production and distribution in-house so I can give job opportunities to returning citizens like me. I understand how hard it can be fighting against that stigma when you’ve made some bad decisions in your life, and I want to be able to give people the second chance they need to move on in a positive direction.”

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