As an entrepreneur myself, Assetou's story deeply resonates with me. The ability to create something out of nothing - take and idea and bring it to life - it's so incredibly inspiring. Read on to learn about Assetou's creative process, and the company she is building.
Melodie Reynolds: Good morning my friend! Please, introduce yourself.
Assetou Coulibaly: My name is Assetou Coulibaly, and I am originally from Mali, West Africa. I am an intercultural unicorn that prides myself in redesign and reframing workplaces to be more inclusive and just in general spaces, to be more welcoming and to bring an inclusive vibe.
MR: Thank you so much, it's such a pleasure to chat with you today!
Tell me what your definition of creativity is.
AC: I would define creativity as fun, mission, and community put together. I also define it as rebelling against the status quo because it's essentially having fun in a world where having fun is so like yeah. And I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like creativity is literally just being in the face of that and saying, you know what? No, I'm going to do it my way and I'm going to have fun with it.
MR: I love that so much. That's my favorite question, because everyone has a different definition for creativity, but it's all the same idea. It's this idea of going against the norm.
Can you tell me about your creative process?
AC: My creative process is so interesting because it depends on which pillar I'm working on. I think when I'm working on an interior design collection or a self care collection or even a clothing collection, I tend to gravitate more towards my culture. And how I designed my first collection was literally by sitting in a sandstorm. When I was back home, in Mali I was in a sandstorm and I was just looking at all the colors and how they were interacting. But when it comes to framework redesign, my creative process is inspired by what my community tells me and how my community's base level is at. Meaning that trying to find the little gaps in spaces and trying to find those spots where I can really encourage them to show up as their fullest selves or hold a space where they feel like they can come into and be themselves. That's what drives my creative process. So it's so interesting because it can be so different depending on what I'm reactivating my creativity for.
I am such a creative person. Honestly, it's so funny because I was younger in my culture, actually being creative is not encouraged because it shows way too much individuality. And Malian culture is actually focused on community. Even though we're a very colorful community, your creativity is encouraged through how you express yourself in your clothing, not how you are. So for me, I had to really push my creativity because that was also me rebelling against what was normally associated with African women.
MR: That is incredible. I love that it's less about individual creativity and more about assimilation to be like the group.
AC: Yes, And ultimately, even though the group is creative, it's still limiting.
MR: Assi, tell me about your relationship with color.
AC: I have the best relationship with color. I am a melanated goddess, so color and my skin tone go really well together. In my culture, color is a big thing. You express yourself through color. It's truly the best way of artistic expression. And so I've always loved to play with bold colors. And even when I moved here, I was like, people really like nude. I don't like nude. It's not my thing. That's good for you. But we are so bold, and I want, like, a splash of color, but in a way that accentuates your beauty, your energy, your vibe, and then do.
MR: That is so beautiful. Last question: Do you believe that taking risks is part of creativity or part of entrepreneurship?
AC: As a recovering perfectionist and a control freak? LOL: let's say that louder! As a recovering perfectionist and a recovering afraid of risk taker, risk is I think it's just mandatory. I always say beauty comes through trauma, unfortunately for us, and beauty comes through unexpected and uncertainty and discomfort. Often we find that you're actually the most nervous before you have a breakthrough. And that's also where risk comes in, because if I don't take this risk, at the end of the day, I've noticed that no one is taking it. And one of us has to in order to make the ripples, in order to have the impact, in order to have the representation, in order to even have the voices that I would like to see be heard from my community. So, unfortunately for me, it is a mandatory I don't like it. I don't enjoy it. I don't like the anxiety that comes with it. But ultimately, I always tell myself that so far, my gut hasn't led me wrong. And even though I'm nervous about it, my gut is not dreading it, which means that it tells me that it will lead it to something much more amazing than I would ever expect.
MR: You are amazing, and I am so excited to see where you take Chiwara! Tell us where we can find you.