Jamie Wolfe became a business owner years ago when she opened Carbon & Love Boutique, and just this week, she hired her first Black model after recent conversations surrounding race forced her to look inward at her own life and business.
Wolfe used to work as a scientist for a pharmaceutical company in Illinois, but she said that she has always loved boutiques. Her husband even proposed to her inside of one.
While Wolfe was still working as a scientist, she started selling clothes on the side, but the passion quickly started to grow. She opened an online boutique two years ago, and when she had her daughter and left the pharmaceutical company, the business became her full-time job.
“So my husband actually came up with the name,” Wolfe said. “Carbon because of my background and then Love just because of the love I have for people, so he came up with Carbon & Love.”
The boutique is fully online, but Wolfe keeps the inventory of clothing, which comes from the LA fashion district, at her home in Forsyth County — where she and her family moved about a year ago after leaving Illinois.
As the owner of an online boutique, Wolfe ends up spending much of her time on social media platform to promote her products and engage with customers. While scrolling through her Facebook feed the last few weeks, Wolfe saw more conversations surrounding race and posts about shared experiences from Black residents in the community.
One post she came across recently from a Black woman who goes to her church changed Wolfe’s perspective.
The woman described in the post a memory from when she was little of her and her parents standing in line at a McDonald’s. She heard a white mother in front of them tell the cashier that she wanted a new toy for her daughter after getting a Black Barbie doll in her kid’s meal. The small memory made a clear impact on the woman’s life, and her sharing the story made an impact on Wolfe.
“And so when I read that, my daughter is 16 months, and it was just like I’ve never thought of that,” Wolfe said. “Like, what am I doing to teach my daughter early on about diversity and inclusion? And I thought about it and I was like, I don’t have for her any Black toys, you know? And it was just an unconscious bias. Not that if she were to ever get one, I would want her to give it back. I just had never thought about, you know, let me get her one.”
Wolfe has since given her daughter a Black Barbie doll, and she loves playing with it. Wolfe did not stop there, though.
She started to question what other unconscious biases she may have and soon started looking at other areas of her life, including her business. After looking through her website, Wolfe realized that she has always hired white women in the past to model her clothes.
When thinking about how she can make her customers feel more included, Wolfe said she started to try to showcase women of color and women with different body shapes and sizes on her online store. She reached out to women in the community, asking if anyone would be interested in modeling and being part of the business, and since then, approximately 30 women have reached out to her.
Just this past week, Wolfe had her first photoshoot with her newest model, Raquel Croston.
“She’s got facial piercings and she’s got tattoos, and when she messaged me, she said like, ‘Just to let you know, I have these. Sometimes my appearance is too much for some people,’ but I loved it,” Wolfe said. “I loved her vibe, and so I asked her if she wanted to work with me.”
Wolfe said that her and Croston had a blast at their photoshoot, and she is excited to have her on as a new model.
“I will say one thing I was concerned about is I wanted to introduce her to my group of customers — I have about 5,000 group members— and I wanted to post a picture and just a little bit about Raquel,” Wolfe said. “And the response I got there was phenomenal, too. All of the love everyone gave her. I actually had more people join my group after posting about her than I did have people leave my group. It’s sad that that was a concern of mine, but it was. I was like, I wonder if I’m going to lose any people, any customers because of the direction I want to take it?”
Either way, Wolfe said that she is happy that she saw that post about the Barbie doll and the thoughts and decisions that the one post led her to.
“It’s making me more aware,” Wolfe said. “It’s making me get out of my comfort zone.”