In honor of Black History Month, I’m shining a well-deserved light on an inspirational and influential Black businesswoman and mother in the Tampa Bay community that I am incredibly honored to call my friend. It only makes sense that to really appreciate how accomplished notable Black leaders in history truly are, we have to acknowledge the reality of Black experience today as well. When these elements combine, a striking portrait of Black entrepreneurship emerges. Savenah Libertiny’s own contributions highlight the Black community’s tremendous creativity, as well as an innate resilience that surfaces out of necessity. With family roots in Jamaica and a booming business that reaches across the United States, Libertiny is sure to make history in the fashion world as she is already a favorite among the industry’s most discerning critics: babies, toddlers and other moms.
TBPM: How did you get started in the fashion industry, and how does Savvy Jack represent you as a woman and mother?
SL: My first job was in high school at Abercrombie Kids, at 17. This was my introduction into the fashion industry. I stayed with them for five years after growing with them into a leadership role. I wanted more for myself after, so I got a job with a prominent women’s luxury brand and have been with them for over 10 years. During my maternity leave, I was spending so much money on clothing that everyone else had, so I decided to start making my daughter’s clothing. My girlfriends suggested I start selling them on Etsy, so I developed a name, and SavvyJack was born! One order turned into five, then 20, and the rest is history! SavvyJack is about having fun and standing out in the clothes you are wearing. The brand represents my personality as well. I love to have fun personally and professionally. Life is too short to be anything but fun!
TBPM: From the sweet and festive prints that the rompers and leggings are made from to the meticulously sewn ruffles on the shoulders of your holiday pinafores, Savvy Jack Wear captures the very essence of childhood and all of the joy that comes with it for kids and parents alike. Where do you draw inspiration from with each collection and which are your favorite/ most memorable pieces?
SL: What’s so special about being a designer is the constant inspiration around me. My daughter, first and most, is my true inspiration for the prints. She is full of life and color, so I try to find prints that emulate that. However, in our two most recent collections, I drew inspiration from our beautiful state and the décor around me—from the vibrant flowers to the art deco in South Tampa to the rustic and farmhouse prints that fill our households in the fall. One of my favorite designs was my ruffled romper which I introduced last fall. I made it in 3 different prints. It was a hit across the board. Everyone loved the tie back closure and the ruffled details.
TBPM: Despite the increased attention on Black entrepreneurship in recent years, Black businesses have always played a major role in our communities. Can you tell me about some of the Black leaders—dead or alive—who have influenced you and why?
SL: Every Black business owner influences me. I think to be able to step out into a world and industries that we are minorities in is an inspiration in itself. I knew getting into the fashion industry, my shot at it would be slim due to the fact that Black designers are rare. And if we are out there, we aren’t being talked about. To have such brilliant artists like Virgil Abloh (who created an incredible brand, OFF White) become the first black artistic director of a successful brand is truly inspiring in itself. Seeing success and Black designers breaking the mold motivates me.
TBPM: Can you share some of the biggest barriers the Black community must overcome when launching their own businesses? What advice do you have for them?
SL: Black entrepreneurs lack access to the networks and relationships that could help them make smart business decisions, as well as funding. With the lack of generational wealth within our Black communities, to find family/friends to invest in our business ventures is hard. Some advice would be to step out of your comfort zone, research as much as you can before diving in, take feedback, and be your own cheerleader. No one can stop you from becoming successful but yourself. Have ambition and drive, and know your business plan. Do something out of the norm to gain funding, and apply to reputable organizations within your community for grants. Join women entrepreneurs groups, and network!
TBPM: Mom to mom: have you ever felt like giving up as the visionary and founder of this brand? What keeps you focused and helps you overcome the hard days that are inevitable with entrepreneurship? For mothers that have felt called to use their creative talent to start something from home, how do you recommend they begin?
SL: I have felt like giving up probably 2 times a week! Ha! But what keeps me going is my passion for what I do. I cannot see myself doing anything else but this. I am always validated when I receive private messages from customers thanking me for my creation, and sending me photos of their little ones in the clothes I have made. It is a constant reminder that I am doing what God put me on this Earth to do. Starting a business from home is not easy, but having the support from your spouse is the most important. My husband has been there every step of the way—between making sure I am making smart financial decisions by creating a budget sheet, to helping me package orders or tagging garments for delivery at Armature Works. He is my support system 100%.
TBPM: What do you want your legacy to be?
SL: I want people to know about the barriers I have broken within the fashion industry and as an entrepreneur. I never gave up on my hopes and dreams, I did everything I could to ensure that I gave my daughter the path to do big things in her life. To become a female Black business owner is few and far between—but I never stopped pushing through to make a name for myself. I never let a stigma define me, but I let it be a fundamental piece at keeping me motivated and grounded.
TBPM: What is your favorite thing to do with your family in Tampa Bay?
SL: Well, everyone will tell you the Libertiny household is a “foodie” household. We love going to new restaurants and traveling to places that have great food! Our daughter definitely has a refined palate. I pray for her future husband!
Featured photo credit: Christina Jones Photography | Originally Published in February 2022