Chan For the Culture

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Chantelle Rowe flashes a radiant smile

By Michael Nattoo

Millennials are increasingly finding things difficult, but you know what they say, “When the going gets tough, leave your stable job and go start your own company.” Well, that’s at least what they say in the case of Chantelle Rowe, who, in real terms, is the true definition of the modern-day hustler. The former Mt. Alvernia High School student has dramatically dared to do what many only dream of – risk it all on becoming her own boss. In case you haven’t quite caught what I’m getting at, Chantelle Rowe is an entrepreneur, and she’s the real deal.

Her latest venture, Chic By Chan, now located at 6 Westron Plaza, Montego Bay, St. James, in her own words is: “a fashion boutique specializing in dashiki, Afro-centric attire, but not limited to those as we offer a wide variety of unique dresses, tops, shirts, accessories etc.” That apt description of her already booming fashion boutique can be corroborated by her many customers across Western Jamaica, whom she has managed to capture through authentic service, and by a genuine desire to see all things Afro-centric regain some prominence, and remain in that position. It is no wonder then that in February of 2016, when Marvel’s historic Black Panther movie was released, Chic By Chan became the premiere source for those who wanted to properly and exquisitely rep their African heritage. Even though she didn’t yet have her own space, Chantelle was still able to, almost seamlessly, deliver to and for her customers, most of which are millennials.

But that success didn’t come overnight. Obviously. It was a slow grind, and though she continues to make strides as an entrepreneur, it’s still a risk in many ways. Regardless, it’s a risk she’d take over and over again if given the chance.

Just how did she start Chic By Chan, though? Where did the inspiration come from?

She told YOW: “I bought a dashiki dress once, and I wore it to a function at Rose Hall Great House. While there, I felt like my ancestors, who had been slaves, were proud that I was embracing my true identity. I felt like they were saying: ‘Galang gyal! You lookin’ like a Nubian queen!’ I felt it man,” she joked, “then I thought – ‘Every woman should own African apparel!’”

Two of Chic By Chan’s customers proudly don their dashikis around the Black Panther premiere last February

And just like that, the idea for Chic By Chan came into being. Rowe already had a unique fashion sense, so with her natural affinity for all things entrepreneurial, she went all in.

She continued: “When Black Panther came around, and more people started to feel a sense of belonging, more of them wanted dashikis and other African wears, and from that point forward, I went head on into the fashion world.”

BEFORE CHIC BY CHAN

For almost four years, Rowe worked at the prestigious Vista Print, and of that experience, she told YOW there were a number of valuable lessons she took away from that environment. “I garnered some great customer service skills and to be honest,” she explained, “anybody that works at Vista [Print] leaves with a hustler’s mentality.” Quizzed as to whether or not the world of fashion was something she had always wanted to go into, Rowe revealed that it wasn’t. In fact, like the rest of us, she had no idea what she wanted to do. “I was told to go to school, pick something, learn it, and start working after. That’s what I did. Like many millennials experience, the struggle starts once you leave college/university. In many ways, it’s like you enter the Quarter Life Crisis almost immediately after leaving those spaces,” Rowe relayed.

One of the many fashionable wears now in stock at Chic By Chan located at 6 Westron Plaza

It was still unclear though, how, despite her uncertainties, she ultimately decided that this was the risk she wanted to take. What really pushed her to the point of deciding ‘Alright, this is what I will do’? I believe this confession by Rowe sufficiently summed up her decision to just take the plunge into entrepreneurism: “I found myself going to work every day and to be honest, I found myself becoming highly demotivated. It started to feel almost like a mental struggle to make it through the required 8 hours, so I figured I had to do something about it. Vista was a great place, so to say it was easy to walk off the job would be a big lie, but I had to give it some serious thought.” She continued: “I thought of it, and I thought about it some more, and I remembered that we only get a single lifetime to do what we want, so I made the decision to leave and to pursue this path. This is simply a new phase of my life, and I welcome it with positivity.”

It’s been a long road to get to this point for the pioneering Rowe, but despite the fact that it could all crumble one day, she remains positive, and determined to keep forging ahead even as obstacles occur daily.

She reminded us: “It really depends on what you want to do ultimately. Risks are a part of life If you see yourself going for entrepreneurship, then you will have to be brave. Look at it this way, it’s better to try something now and fail at it, than to get to 50 and be wondering what if you had tried. They say do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life and for some, that’s true. For others, it’s not. Love it or not, it’s all still a risk, so I guess you just have to do what you love or do what you are good at. If what you are good at and what you love are the same things, then that’s perfect. That’s bliss.”

The daughter of a Maroon Chief, Rowe feels she has found her calling, well, at least one of them. We have a feeling that this isn’t the only thing Rowe will be doing on a big scale, and this is just the beginning. If you feel like you need your ancestors to root for you the next time you hit the streets across Western Jamaica, go visit Rowe’s Chic By Chan boutique store upstairs 6 Westron Plaza. While you’re there, grab a brotha a dashiki, will you? Thanks.

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