Cara Johnson-Graves & Jenae Johnson-Carr EPIC Everyday
Cara Johnson-Graves, left, & Jenae Johnson-Carr, right, sisters and co-founders of EPIC Everyday. (Credit: Courtesy of EYEImagery)

Cara Johnson-Graves and Jenae Johnson-Carr founded EPIC Everyday with one goal in mind: increase representation for underserved children. The Johnson sisters, who are Black, both remember rarely seeing children who looked like them on toys or TV. Once they both became mothers and began raising children of their own, they were shocked to see that not much had changed – and decided to do something about it. In 2017, Johnson-Graves and Johnson-Carr launched EPIC Everyday, which sells clothing, accessories and home goods featuring kids and families of color printed on them, and they haven’t looked back. The Bowie, Maryland, entrepreneurs are proud to say they now have customers all over the U.S. who appreciate the much-needed diversity they see on every bag, hoodie, sheet set and more the duo sells. 

Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.

How is your business different from others in your industry?

So few consumer goods represent Black, Brown, and multicultural children. We were disheartened by the scarcity of products that feature children who look like our own. EPIC Everyday fills the void.

Tell us about your biggest success so far. 

We’ve donated nearly 1,500 products to corporate give-back and nonprofit community programs, from Washington state to Washington D.C. Since 2019, we’ve provided mentoring and experiential learning opportunities for more than 100 college students at both Baylor University and Bowie State University. We are pouring resources into the future, and discovering untapped talent in places that are often overlooked and underfunded.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?

Raising capital. Limited funding has restricted our ability to consistently create unique products, order bulk inventory and access marketing resources to grow and scale. We’ve earned ads and had our products shown on nationally syndicated shows, including “The Kelly Clarkson Show” on NBC. We’ve been featured in outlets such as USA Today, InStyle, and Good Housekeeping. In 2022, our Amazon storefront was highlighted to raise brand awareness during Women’s History Month, Black History Month and Thursday Night Football.

Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?

I have personally experienced hair discrimination and colorism growing up. It is important to feel visible and valued for being yourself. All of our products and partnerships are intentionally developed to ensure that children feel seen and celebrated for their unique differences. (Note: This answer was provided by Cara Johnson-Graves.)

What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs? 

Know your “Why.” It will become your motivation on those tough days when things don’t go according to plan, when you’re discouraged, or when you have self-doubt. I am proud that we had the audacity to dream, plan, execute, and evolve even though we didn’t have a blueprint. 

Our “why” started with our own children, and our childhood memories of wanting to see more faces in books, toys, or on TV that looked like our own. Amplifying self-love with representation is what truly inspires us. Everything that we do is for the kids – and for the culture!

How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?

This year, we have made a conscientious effort to add self-care and time to recharge into our monthly calendars. Whether that’s a midday dance break, a well-deserved spa day, a hot bath with relaxing music or a cup of tea in a quiet room, it is important to ground yourself. 

For mothers starting a business, I would say give yourself grace. Things won’t go perfectly all the time. It’s important to find joy in the journey and never let perfection impede progress. Set a goal and continuously chip away at it. 

What is your go-to song to get motivated on tough days? 

“Lovely Day” by Bill Withers.

Who is your most important role model?

Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder of workforce management company ActOne. She developed and grew her business into a multibillion-dollar global company. She embodies resilience, self-empowerment and entrepreneurial excellence. She leads with wisdom and wit.

Facebook: @epiceverydayofficial

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