KNOXVILLE, TN (Sept. 2019) – Dr. Enkeshi Thom El-Amin, Sociologist Ph.D is also a professional seamstress who launched a sewing camp to teach children how to sew and the basics of operating a business. The support of her Knoxville community enabled her to put together the Sew It, Sell It program for youths between the ages of 8-18.
Enkeshi was working on a Doctorate in Sociology towards becoming a professor when her side job as a designer and seamstress was featured in a news article. Her “Klutch Queen Collection” also offered “Sip N Sewcialize” gatherings where she taught participants how to make signature handbags and clothing.
During the interview, Enkeshi casually mentioned her desire to someday open a summer sewing camp for children. Immediately after the story was published, support from the community came pouring in. The story implied that the program was already in place. It was a Divinely ordered slip of the pen that directed her to launch the “Sew It Sell It” program for youths.
The ink on her Doctorate in Sociology from the University of Tennessee Knoxville had barely dried when ready or not, it was an idea whose time had come. “It was really an idea that came to fruition through support from the community,” said El-Amin.
The community, parents, and business owners showed up with donations that included sewing machines, furniture, and lunches for the students. Marcus Hall, owner of Marc Nelson Denim at 700 E. Depot Street in Knoxville, provided workspace for the project, which was an added bonus to be supported by a Knoxvillian who has a successful men’s tailored jeans and clothing business.
An overflow of donations enabled Enkeshi to offer the initial summer camp of Sew It, Sell It for free.
Enkeshi was amazed at how the children learned to sew in the first two days. In addition to sewing, the camp included a business component that included planning, management, marketing and the basics of how to run a business.
The participants were provided with the tools and assistance to not only create a product, but business to sell it. Parents and friends volunteered to assist with the classes. Local established business professionals that included Chris Blue visited the class.
Enkeshi was still in need of a space large enough for Market Day, the finale of her vision where all of the students would showcase their wares.
“We had working space at Marc Nelson Demin, but we needed a larger venue for the Market,” said Enkeski. That’s when Tyvie Small, Interim Vice-Chancellor of Diversity & Engagement at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, stepped-in to offer support and a Market Day venue.
Enkeshi’s efforts with the support of the community of Knox culminated in a Market Day that at the Haslem Business Center on the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus. On that Saturday morning, the 8-16- year olds marched into an institution of higher as business owners. They were equipped with their creations to sell under a business name, complete with business cards and a sales pitch.
“I was beyond impressed by how well they presented, how well they knew their products, how well they were able to talk about it. The judges were so impressed, they said, ‘we can’t just have three winners.’ So, they went out and got gift cards for everyone,” El-Amin said. In addition, each participant was rewarded with a brand-new Brother’s sewing machine.
Tiara Hill’s “Bonnets by T” are designed to prolong the wear of braids and locs for African-Americans and those with long hair. “I got this idea because I wear braids, and we spend a lot of money on hair care. It’s a big investment, so I created something that will protect that investment,” said Hill.
Tiara already has a plan for her profits. She said, “I’m going to take most of the money and reinvest it back into the business, and I’m going to open a bank account.”
Ja’Shonna Bryant’s business of designer dog vests “Bow Wow Doggie Boutique.” She plans to make pet vests in unique prints as and custom school, college Greek, sports teams and other personalized colors.
Bryant has already taken her business to the next level. She has partnered with Young Williams Animal Shelter. Patrons can purchase a vest to be donated to a shelter pet at Young Williams Animal Shelter.
Enkeshi was so pleased and humbled with how her idea turned out that she is offering an after-school program and a program for refugees.
The After-School Sew It Sell It camp starts soon. The schedule follows the Knox County school’s calendar and is semester-based. Classes are scheduled for one day a week; Tuesdays or Thursdays, for a small fee. Classes for the Fall semester start soon and space is limited. To register, go to sewitsellit.squarespace.com.
“It’s important for our children, especially children of color, to learn financial literacy and learn what it means to be an entrepreneur and how to manage your money and make your money work for you. It’s important to teach them these skills and to teach them that you have something to offer the world, even at eight or nine years old.”
CAPTION (L) The inaugural students of Sew It Sell It, were each awarded a brand new Brothers sewing machine.
SEW IT SELL IT PHOTO GALLERY