In the 2010 East Liberty Community Plan, East Liberty residents from all walks of life came together to outline their vision of a thriving, self-sustaining neighborhood. Our role at East Liberty Development is to be faithful stewards of that community vision, and as the neighborhood continues to evolve and develop, we are doing many things to ensure that the neighborhood is a place full of opportunity for all.
That’s why we partner with Catapult Greater Pittsburgh and their Startup to Storefront entrepreneurship program to foster minority entrepreneurship opportunities across East Liberty and beyond. The Startup to Storefront program offers participants monthly cohort learning, one-on-one mentoring, educational seminars, technical assistance, and more. In an ongoing series, we are highlighting the entrepreneurs who are using the program to jumpstart and grow their businesses.
Today, we’re talking to Ameela Boyd of The Covering. Ameela’s story is one of strength and resilience. She’s channeling her past experiences with homelessness and domestic violence into a business that helps women of color heal from their past trauma through what she calls “holistic fashion therapy”. Originally from Jamaica, Catapult helped Ameela focus her vision and understand the ins and outs of running a business in the US. Find out more about her powerful story and mission in our Q&A below.
Can you give us an introduction to your business and what you do?
I established The Covering LLC in January 2018 to empower and style women of color who are still dealing with remnants of trauma due to domestic violence. Our holistic fashion therapy program called Healing by Dezigns allows for healing, strengthening, and skill-building to create spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being.
I was inspired to start the program because of my own lived experiences. I was a domestic violence victim and homeless mother with two kids and no family or friends to turn to for support. Through my struggles, I realized how important narratives of strength, resilience, hope, and encouragement can be for women in the same situation. That’s why I shared my story in the hopes of empowering women to find their own voice. Then, while completing my bachelor’s degree in fashion design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2017, I decided to combine my expertise and personal testimony to create a program that could “adorn women from the inside out”. It took me over three years to fine-tune, research, and seek funding for the program in order to offer it for free to women who are eligible.
Not only does the eight-week program bring together women who have experienced domestic violence to learn from and support each other, but it also encourages creative expression through art, fashion, and design and nurtures a positive self-image. Participants study fashion psychology, color therapy, styling concepts, and learn how to use design software, among other activities. My mission is to make sure that the women I am assigned never have to take the arduous journey I took.
My mission is to make sure that the women I am assigned never have to take the arduous journey I took.
Is this your full-time job?
Yes, this is my full-time job, alongside completing my PhD, being a mother and a wife, and running a clothing boutique where I also style the participants from the program (laughs).
Ameela shares her story and what The Covering is all about.
How did you get involved with the Catapult program? Why did you think it was a good fit for you?
I got involved with Catapult after speaking with Tammy Thompson (executive director of the program). I was in the process of shooting my first documentary, Surviving Him, and I needed help. A friend of mine told me Tammy was the right person to speak with. So we met, and she gave me a tour of the Gallery on Penn and told me more about the Catapult program.
The program was a good fit for me, because it helped me better understand how to run a business in America. I was born and bred on the beautiful island of Jamaica where I was a teacher and an entrepreneur. So, while business was not new to me, the acclimation process of starting a business in the States was challenging. I had no affiliation with anyone or organization, and I was fully aware that doing business here was much different than doing it in Jamaica. I needed help and the right guidance to get my business on track, and Catapult provided that opportunity.
How has Catapult helped you develop your business?
My business is unlike many out there, so there wasn’t much I could compare to and use as a guide. It was two-fold: I had a clothing line plus a fashion therapy program, and I was not sure how to combine both or how they would connect. The program helped me focus my thoughts and ideas and narrow them down into what the program is today.
Can you talk about how you define success for yourself when you are pioneering in a new entrepreneurial space?
Success for me is seeing the results from working for and with the women in my program. Their success is my own. It empowers me to keep pushing and growing as an individual who was created to support, uplift, and empower the women that I am destined to reach in this life. It forces me to be accountable for my transparency and honesty and be deliberate in creating holistic wealth (physical, spiritual, and emotional) for all those who come into my context.
Success for me is seeing the results from working for and with the women in my program.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur? What keeps you going?
The most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur is being able to touch lives through my lived experiences. To love and encourage other women to be their greatest self no matter what they’re facing. To adorn women from the inside out by styling them from a holistic perspective—teaching them things that are easily overlooked but that create wonder when revealed. Bottom line: just being that sister, a listening ear, or friend to someone in need. That is what keeps me going.
What’s ahead for The Covering?
Eventually, I want to expand The Covering to include many other facets, one of those is to own a fully equipped transitional housing facility where we can offer counseling, skill-building, school programs, daycare, holistic healing, and more.
How can people support your business?
People can support The Covering by:
- Recommending it to women they know who will benefit from the program.
- Shopping our store, as this helps us fund the program.
- Supporting us financially and with business expertise or services to help us keep the program free to those who are in dire need of it.