BY ADINAWA ADJAGBODJOU AND LAYLA KANAAN
To start, tell us a bit about who you are and what the things you care about are?
I am so happy to be here! I am Fajr DeLane, I recently graduated from Howard University and my major was International Business with a concentration in finance. I am also a Bill Gates Scholar and I lived internationally for seven and a half years. I was born in D.C. and my parents are from California and I am currently residing in Georgia so as you can see I am all over the place with my locations! I am really passionate about passing on that passion for the next generation and allowing them to fulfill their purpose. I really do believe everyone has a great purpose here on this earth and it is just about tapping into yourself. One of the things I came up with was “Fun, Fit, and Fabulous” which is my non-profit I started my junior year in high school. I try to always remind myself “have fun, be fit and fabulous” throughout my life and to really enjoy what I am doing.When that inside is together the outside automatically shines which I feel is fabulous, so that is something I am really passionate about: making sure people are equipped with the tools to be their best selves and ultimately fulfill and live in their purpose.
I just always love your energy and how no matter what you do you put so much passion and fun into it- it’s amazing. You also mentioned this philosophy of giving that have. So I want to know what are those parts of your identity that are really important to who you are? Is there a philosophy that your parents have shared with you that has shaped you into who you are today?
I would definitely say my faith for sure. My faith has definitely played a big role in just who I am and how I conduct myself and the people around me: treat people how you want to be treated, be honest, have good character, those things that I consistently try to uphold myself too. I fall short in some areas, but we all do. We’re all humans, but having that in the forefront of your head of just trying to be that best human being and giving yourself your best that you can. So I would definitely have to say faith has definitely been at the forefront of my values, how I treat people, how I operate in life and knowing that we’re here for a purpose. Also my family’s definitely a big part of who I am. I have a huge family. And they are so supportive. I know you guys know me on the platform, but the people at home, it’s important that they love me and honor me and they see me on it every day. So if they love me, I’m like, “oh okay I know I’m doing something good.” So it’s really humbling to have such a supportive family. They are all into all different types of stuff, but we all support each other and we rock with each other and we’re here to see each other succeed. Also, I just think that having a unique, diverse, and expansive global experience has also shaped one of my perspectives in life and having traveled the world so young helped me to understand that there’s just more than one area and more than one way of thinking. There are all these types of beautiful ways that we all can kind of co-exist and just seeing different aspects of living and seeing is believing. If you see something it’s like, “okay, that’s possible.” I think having that opportunity to travel at a very young age and also throughout my high school and college experience has definitely added to who I am today.
I know you are an entrepreneur on your own, but you also occupy the business world. I wanted to know if you could speak more to how that experience has been, and if there’s words you would like to say to inspire the next generation of female business entrepreneurs?
I would say that everybody isn’t going to always understand your vision, you know, because it’s given to you. I think when you do have that entrepreneurial spirit of trying to start something up, have that confidence in yourself because it’s going to be a journey in itself and it may take a while for it to pick up. You may have to explain it to yourself a billion times, but it’s okay. One day everybody will know what it is. So be patient with yourself throughout the process. I would also say to be open to not always having to reinvent the wheel depending on what your business is. Sometimes it’s tightening it up or seeing an idea and wanting to enhance it, or adding something to it. I will also say to be creative and not feel like, “Oh my gosh, all this pressure. I’ve got to come up with the newest, most unique software.” Also, I would just say it’s going to be a lot of investment and I would like people to kind of alter their thinking about it being just money. It will be an investment of your time, it’ll be an investment of your mind, your resources, thinking outside of the box, starting from ground zero. Don’t be afraid to do the groundwork. My dad always told me, “Look, you want to be CEO, you’ve got to do basically janitor’s work, you gotta play all roles.” When I started doing my camps for my nonprofit, my business, “Fun, Fit, Fabulous.” I would go door to door and let people know who I was, what I was doing “hey I am from the community. I’m out here trying to help the girls”. So I would say, it’s really your baby so give yourself that time to work on it. So that’s what I’m really excited about. I would say don’t give up, believe in yourself and keep that vision of what you see in the long run at the forefront of your brain, because it’s not going to come right away, but each day, each month you’re getting closer to that vision. Having that patience to see that vision through is what being an entrepreneur is all about.
Thank you. That’s a really powerful message so thank you for sharing. I’ll hand it to Layla to ask you some questions now.
First off, I just want to say as a high school junior, it’s so cool hearing that you created this idea when you were in your junior year! I was just wondering when did you get this inspiration and how did you have the confidence to believe in this vision of yours and believe that it would work?
That’s a beautiful question. And it’s so crazy cool Layla. I actually did get a little push. Because I was like, I don’t know if this is ready, I’m young. And I think people in the community would be like, “Fajr, how do you do this? Or how are you confident?” Like I try to have fun with what I’m doing. I try to have a healthy, balanced life and naturally, you can glow. I didn’t believe it was a one-way look, it was just more of us putting in the good things in ourselves to shine outward. And this came through a lot of different aspects of my life. When I was younger I thought I was very into fashion. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I need to be in fashion school.” I was nine and they had this camp in New York and for some reason I was supposed to go, but I ended up not going. I was in California and I was like, my dreams are forever crushed. So, my sister would really make stuff, but I would not even touch a sewing machine. So my mom’s like, you’re trying to go to fashion school, but you won’t sew anything! And I realized I wasn’t necessarily trying to be a fashion designer, I just liked to look good, maybe style is a better word for it. I like to put things together. “This looks cute. That looks cute.” When I hit ninth grade, I went to this private school and this school had this project for like two weeks- a month where we had to eat healthy. I was just like what is this? I wanted my soda at lunch. I played sports so I didn’t want to be thinking about my health. I was trying to get good grades though, so I was like, okay, I’m going to do this project. In this timeframe, we had to write down everything. We were writing the calories. I got so tired of writing it down that I didn’t even want to eat. So that taught me a lot because I was like “what am I really eating?” And I saw myself kind of feel better and have more energy. I started to see that at first this was just for the project, but I started realizing what my body was doing and I was able to perform a little bit better. When I was wrapping up the project, I was in the coffee shop with my dad and I was like, “F to the 3rd power: fun, fit, fabulous.” And he’s like, oh yeah that’s great! So that’s where I birthed the name. This was in the ninth grade when I was 14. The idea came to me and I was like, “Oh my gosh, if everybody implements this, they can be their best version of themselves.”
I know that at Pavé The Way a big thing is wearing our values and the importance of making a statement through the jewelry. So I was just wondering what kind of message you want to convey through your clothing and also why you may think it’s important that all of your customers wear their values?
I think it’s important because I think the best thing we all can be is authentic to who we are and who we are created to be. And that may look a different way than somebody else. It’s all unique. I think wearing your values and how you present yourself is so vital and key, because that’s who you are. There were so many times where I was not always as confident. I mean, I was in a place where I tried to do what everybody was doing and look at how everybody else was doing it but I wasn’t necessarily happy inside because that’s not how I wanted to represent myself.
I’ll give you a quick example: I lived in Malaysia for seven and a half years and when I came back to the states I was in California for fourth grade. I used to wear my hair in two little puff balls and wear pink and that was my style. I remember going to school and I was trying to meet some people in high spirits. My teachers were really nice and loved me, but the girls in my class had such a stanky attitude and I didn’t even understand, like we were so young. How do you guys have an attitude? So, when we had recess, I remember going up to a girl and she was like, “pink is last year. We’re not wearing thinking anymore. We’re onto some new colors.” And I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know there’s an age limit when we stop wearing pink.” But I did it, I tried to do it, and I was miserable. I could never get into the colors they were talking about. It just wasn’t me.
So I saw myself try to be something I wasn’t, or really didn’t like, because other people wanted me to try it. And ultimately, I just wasn’t happy. So part of “Fun, Fit, Fabulous” is me reclaiming that pink and me reclaiming myself and what I really liked and what I really value and even how I dress, me being creative with my own styles. Nobody around me necessarily dressed like me. I was in California in a valley town, so it took a while for me to be confident in who I was, but the best thing was when I finally tapped into who I was and authentically myself and represented myself: I think that’s when I really shine through. When I tried to be other people and other things that’s when my inner light really didn’t translate because I wasn’t as confident and I really did not know what I was doing in that skin. When I align myself in how I want to be viewed and how I want to present myself, that’s when I think I really shine in am who I am. So it’s so important to wear what you value for sure.