Alicia Boateng designs distinctive and memorable drinkware for coffee, tea and other beverages. The glam cups feature inspiring BIPOC women accentuated with gems and beads. You may have spotted the designer’s handiwork on the Today Show, MSN, Food Network, Reader’s Digest or Forbes. Alicia’s determination to empower women to feel confident, powerful and beautiful while enjoying their favorite beverages fuels her brand. We caught up with the creative entrepreneur to learn more about how she got started.
Artisan Joy: What prompted you to begin designing cups?
Alicia Boateng: It all started with my obsession with coffee. I love my coffee. It’s when I recite my affirmations, enjoy the delicious beverage and self-reflect. One morning, I said to my husband, ‘If I loved my cup as much as I love my coffee, it would take my experience to a whole new level.’ That is when the planning and the designing began for the Afro Glam Collection.
AJ: When did you realize that you could turn your work into a business?
AB: In 2019, we had a pop-up shop in our local mall. We were primarily selling holiday decor and trinkets. I had posted some of the cups on social media and within 2 weeks of hosting the shop, women were standing in line waiting to purchase my cups. The outpour of love and demand was there, and that is when I realized I had created something memorable, unique and personalized.
AJ: Where do you find inspiration for your creations?
AB: Reading about history—most of my cups are named after pioneer women that have faced adversity and paved the path for us. For example, Osceola is named after a founding member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. The Black Excellence Collection includes cups inspired by Madam CJ Walker and Dr. Maya Angelou. These women left being a legacy that should be remembered for many years to come.
AJ: What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
AB: I do not like tacos. That’s always a joke in our house because everyone here loves tacos and although I cook them for my family, I do not eat them. Also, I do not eat with my hands. I carry a plastic fork and knife with me in my purse!
AJ: As creatives, we can be continuously creating and refining our art. How do you handle perfectionism?
AB: I am very hard on myself, and handling perfectionism is definitely a challenge. I give it my all and remind myself that I am creating a piece of art. Whether it’s perfect or not, it’s a memorable and distinctive piece that can never be duplicated.
AJ: When it comes to running a creative business, what keeps you going through the ups and downs?
AB: Having the support from my family. We celebrate the wins and reflect on the fails.
AJ: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in putting their work out into the world but feels vulnerable about it?
AB: Go for it. I understand it is easier said than done, and if you don’t go for it, you will never know. When having conversations with women that are on the fence about starting their own business—the question that always comes up is, ‘what if it doesn’t work.’ OK—what if it does work? Then what? You should never ever quit after only one try. Walt Disney was turned down by 300 financiers. Imagine if he would have quit then? That is the motivation we all need to keep going and make our goals achievable.
AJ: Has someone ever criticized your artwork? How did you handle it?
AB: Yes. I make pieces that portray beautiful African American women. I am not African American, so this, at first, was a challenge. I worked on conveying the right message behind the cups. We are all beautiful, we are all worthy and I feel that my cups will help you build confidence and power no matter what color your skin is. Women have to stand strong together and uplift each other up.
AJ: What causes are you passionate about?
Yes. I am passionate about empowering young women and building their confidence. I am partnered up with Girl Pride Africa, an organization that teaches young, teenage African mothers financial independence and life skills such as cooking, sewing, and reading. You can learn more here.
AJ: And, of course, we have to ask: what brings you joy?
AB: My family and my coffee bring me joy. My family because we have shown our kids what it is like to be entrepreneurs. We have shown them the good, the bad and the ugly of being your own boss and sustaining multiple businesses. My coffee because it allows me at least 10 minutes to myself when I can enjoy my favorite beverage and recite my daily affirmations in preparation of the challenges that are to come that day.
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited slightly for length and clarity. The article title was updated on 8/10/22.