Monday, January 19, 2015

Design Star: Malene B. of Malene B. Carpets

I met Malene Barnett approximately 2 yrs ago at a Tory Burch Foundation Networking event that mutual friend, handbag designer Nneka Saran, had invited me to. Nneka and Malene were both participants in the intensive entrepreneurship program that took place earlier in that year. As I was meeting women throughout the room and exchanging business cards, not one but ALL said to me, "You must meet Malene!" once I told them I was starting a line of home goods. So I marched over to woman with the tapered haircut, silky smooth brown skin and smile as bright as the sun; and introduced myself. Now, just so you know, that's not really my style. I prefer introductions because people can be cold and standoffish and downright rude when approached by a stranger but not Malene. She greeted me warmly. We quickly discovered that we were FIT alums and the conversation flowed smoothly. I asked her questions about approaching new stores with my line and she so graciously dispensed advice that still stays in the back on my mind to this day.

In the next few days I received my FIT magazine, HUE and guess who was featured? Malene B, of course! Her work has been featured in countless magazines and online publications and rightfully so. Malene B. Carpets are not just beautiful, they are soulful and come from a place of authenticity inspired by her travels. It has been an honor to have the opportunity to interview one of my favorite designers for The Lifestyles of the Authentic & Creative.

1. Please introduce yourself. 
My name is Malene Barnett and I’m the Design Director and Principal of Malene B Carpets. 

2. What do you create? 
We make handmade custom carpets and home furnishings for luxury residential and commercial environments.  Each product we create is inspired from my travels and passion for all things art and culture. 

3. How did you get started on your creative path?
My creative story starts in third grade when I was placed in an artistically talented program. The kids were encouraged to express themselves through drawing and painting.

4. What inspires you to create?
I love culture, rituals, celebrations and the stories behind these traditions. Combined with our planets landscape, these elements set the stage for creating the quintessential Malene B design.

5. How have you been able to make a living by being you authentic & creative self? 
I worked in the rug industry with major players for 10 years. And, before launching my business, I studied the design industry and the paths of its most renown entrepreneurs.  My personal savings were the foundation for opening Malene B Carpets. To date, I have not taken out a bank loans to support this venture. 
Prior to opening, I purchased a house.  Since my home was priority,  a grassroots approach to business building was its format.  I relied on word of mouth, heavily networked and developed great relationships with media. 

The first 4.5 years were really rocky. I had no credit cards -- maxed out on home renovations. I operated on a cash basis and only bought what was affordable.  If I couldn’t afford something, I created it or waited until I could afford it.  I trimmed spending to the basics: no cable, no landline phone and no vacations. My life had to be simplified to accommodate my entrepreneurial lifestyle.

6. What new projects are your working on
In the Spring of 2015,  I’m  launching a new collection of carpets, tile, wallpaper and decorative accessories all inspired by my mother’s homeland, the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.  Also, I recently forged
a partnership with Kravet, with whom I will launch a carpet collection in 2016.

7. How can people find and support your work?
You can visit my website:
instagram @malenebcarpets
Pinterest maleneb
Facebook Malene B

Retail Store:
Peace & Riot, Brooklyn, NY

Receive more frank business advice from Malene B. on this amazing panel of entrepreneurial women designers on February 15th in Montclair, NJ.I'll be there.

It's so inspiring to see how bootstrapping, dedication, building relationships, and creating a beautiful product line will pan out and bring our entrepreneurial dreams to fruition.
Many, many thanks to Malene B. for sharing her passion with us.

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