Chris Williams (CW): Tell us a little bit about who you are and where you’re from.
David Gandy (Gandy): My name is David Gandy, Gandy for short. I am originally from Cincinnati, OH. I moved to NY from LA in the mid ’90s to pursue a voice over/acting career.
MarQuerite Hamden (MarQuerite): My name is MarQuerite Hamden I’m an artist (dancer/choreographer, actor, singer), entrepreneur, facilitator, creative healer, beauty of life seeker, scholar, foodie/cook and mom of 3. I’m Afro-Dutch, first generation born and raised in the Netherlands. My family is from Surinam. I came to NYC in 2000, to educate, expand and deepen my crafts/gifts, pursue a career in the Arts, experience life, and to build a life with my then boyfriend now husband, Gandy! I am also the founder of TogetherWeAreTimeless, an organization focused on building and expanding a global community through collectives creating art, performances and wellness spaces for a movement of people to have greater inclusivity and visibility where we are seen and valued. Creativity and wellness are the core to our existence!
CW: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue a career as an entrepreneur?
Gandy: Somewhere between when I got my first series of residual checks from a commercial I booked in 1999, and the first time I received applause from an audience from a play I did at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe that same year.
MarQuerite: I’m a Multi-Hyphenate and I realized that probably in 2004/2005 where I was working as an actor with our Playback theater company, designing one of a kind ready to wear clothing pieces, doing some private chef gigs, creating original works to present, I was still finding myself and building my community/village! I started to understand that we all have our own unique path to follow and wouldn’t settle for being status quo. Looking back I really just let myself be guided by spirit, to be independent in the sense of not being locked in by a corporate job. There are challenges but definitely there is some freedom that comes with having your own business.
CW: What was it that sparked the idea for Ecowrist and why watches?
Gandy: A trip to Saint Martin, on the French side, in 2007. We purchased a simple bamboo watch with a coconut band. We brought them back to NY and people wouldn’t stop commenting. We, MarQuerite mostly, had the idea of creating our own designs based upon this natural piece of “art”.
MarQuerite: And again, I was led by spirit, understanding some years later what we were actually building with our company. The depth of some of our relationships with our then costumers have now become either lifelong friendships, family, advisors, consultants, collaborators and a global village of folks that we can call upon. The expansion and diversification of Ecowrist, which is TogetherWeAreTimeless!
CW: Who has been your biggest mentor(s) in this industry and what is the best advice they have ever given you?
Gandy: Eileen Moran My Brother Tim Gandy and Robert Taylor, our accountant, have given financial advice. Jasmin Heatley who turned us on to the Harlem community. I’m not sure where I heard/learned the idea of selling your story through the product so that people are ultimately buying a piece of you. Observing other brands such as Debbie Hardy of Martines Dream and Dr. Sunyatta of Calabash Tea and Tonic in D.C. They both have nice items BUT, it’s ultimately their energy and sense of community that draws folks in. There’s a little piece of them in every item they sell that, when you put it on or ingest it you’re reminded of their essence.
MarQuerite: Wow, over the years it’s been quite a few people. To name a few: Debbie Hardy (Martines Dream), Jasmin Heatley, Olubode, Carine Eustache-Jones, Tim Gandy, BFI (Brooklyn Fashion Incubator), Wunmi, Kim Meijer, Eileen, Head-Roc, Kim Springle, Yolizama. The best advice has been probably, to let yourself shine through your authentic Story, your unique voice! Customers will connect to you and your products. Folks become part of your brand and at times lifelong supporters because they see themselves in you! Use the social media tools for what they really are intended for, weaving stories that folks can connect to. Always think of the Value matrix, we all have value in different ways and capacity. When we do collaborate, we grow and expand all together.
CW: If you could go back and tell yourself one thing before beginning your journey as an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Gandy: Be consistent and expand the brand especially via social media.
MarQuerite: Find small or large grants in the beginning that will set you up. Connect with a mentorship program.
CW: What role do you think social media plays in entrepreneurship/business today?
Gandy & MarQuerite: It’s an integral aspect of branding which is a full-time job in itself. We definitely need a more consistent social media presence.
CW: What are some of your biggest fears or challenges that you faced when you chose to launch Ecowrist?
Gandy: Will people support us, a small Black Owned watch company, in an age where everyone is becoming more dependent on their phones for everything, especially telling time? Enough Capital to sustain.
MarQuerite: To always improve on the quality of the product/design(longevity). Having clear, consistent and transparent communication and follow through on tasks as well as enough capital.
CW: Where do you go for inspiration when working on a new design?
Gandy: The inspiration has generally come from our life experiences, i.e., child births, dance, community, travel, our culture/history, fellow entrepreneurs and various life events.
MarQuerite: Ditto on that, and I would like to add colors that I see in nature, in clothing and through travel. Also go within thy creative self!
CW: What is your favorite part of creating these beautiful timepieces?
Gandy: The reactions from customers, especially those of repeat customers.
MarQuerite: The way the process of how the customer finds their time piece, learning about people’s story, their life’s journey. It’s a beautiful thing! With our Timeless timepieces it’s more than just wearing a unique accessory. It’s a connection beyond fashion, something that makes you feel special. It’s spiritual often times and it supports your healing on your journey. It reminds you of who you are and who you will become!
CW: What is your lifestyle like outside of business? Does it include fitness, family, healthy eating?
Gandy: All of the above and then throw some travel on top of that, especially with calm tropical oceans and lush landscapes. Right now we are navigating three children in 3 different schools and extracurricular activities in NYC. Community, Dance, Sleep and Good Food are the pillars of our existence.
MarQuerite: I would say all that, and definitely delicious food. Building TogetherWeAreTimeless, working on our own mental health and well-being through Dance, acupuncture, therapy. Moving back into creating some music.
CW: How do you want people to feel when wearing your watches?
Gandy: That they are part of our Ecowrist family and that “Together We Are Timeless”.
MarQuerite: And again, that it reminds you of who you are and who you will become! You are part of a bigger purpose that is manifesting globally.
CW: What/who are the most important things that keep you motivated to create and build?
Gandy: Our three children and showing them, not just telling them to be free and create your own story.
MarQuerite: Yes, our 3 children, our ancestors that paved the way for us in so many ways, our global village of family and friends and our customers that are part of our Ecowrist Family. To share our unique gifts with the world through our designs with love, alignment and connection. To keep creating your own story which comes with a certain level of freedom and to leave a legacy for our children, our community and beyond.
CW: What advice do you have for men and women of color who are looking to enter the lifestyle/creative industry?
Gandy: Tell your story through your medium and allow yourself to be vulnerable.
MarQuerite: And stay true to self! Your core is your spine line, you are the black gold of the sun! Know that there is a place, a niche for you! There is enough for everyone! To understand the importance and value of skill sets and perhaps social media of your friends social circles, so when you collaborate or build collectives there is a win/win for everyone and a level of trust that is invaluable to your business.
To find out more about Ecowrist, follow them on Instagram: @ecowristllc and visit their website: www.ecowrist.com.