D'Cher Whitaker on building a brand for ambitious women
D’Cher Whitaker is the owner and curator of Love Peridot, a collection of statement jewelry and lifestyle accessories selected with the ambitious in mind. Love Peridot launched online in 2016 and has since expanded to include a brick and mortar presence at the Roosevelt Collection Shops in South Loop. We sat down with D’Cher to learn more about the collection and her expansion to brick and mortar.
When did you start Love Peridot and how did you do it?
When I first considered starting Love Peridot, I was dealing with some personal issues. It just was not the right time. One day my husband told me, “You’ll never be ready. Just go for it.” And I did. I saved some money, hired someone to create my logo and design the website. We officially launched March 2016.
At the end of the day, there will always be something else going on. So are you going to continue to put off your dream because of that?
How did your grandmother’s style inspire Love Peridot?
I grew up in a house with her and always loved to watch her get dressed, especially for church. She's 81 years old now and is still the showstopper at church. When she dresses, she dresses. She’s gonna put on that really nice statement necklace, or some beautiful earrings, or bangles, and hats that stand out. She just knows how to dress. Even to this day, if I need pearls or just a beautiful statement piece I can just go in her jewelry box and borrow it. Her style definitely inspired me to do this.
How do you choose the products in your collection?
It’s a process. We travel to different cities and states, attend the popular tradeshows and showrooms like NYNOW, LA Mart and Dallas Market. I also spend a lot of time researching trends and listening/watching our customers’ behavior to assess what would help them in their lifestyles. Mostly, if I love it, I add it. I only add things that I absolutely love and that I believe my customer will love as well. We also take a different approach by aiming to motivate our customers with the items. You’ll find a lot of inspirational phrases on the products.
Every day, we’re faced with adversity, whatever it may be. It’s hard. It’s hard as hell being a business owner, it’s hard just with our current president and the different things everyone is dealing with. Everything in here gives you some type of push in some way. And it didn’t begin like that, but I started noticing a need. Gift shops have a lot of fun things. I like fun things, but I want my customer to be motivated every day. So I started adding items to the store that would motivate and inspire. It became a part of Love Peridot's philosophy.
Starting a business is really hard. Why did you choose the entrepreneurial life?
I always tell people, the entrepreneurial life chose me. I have a full-time job. And although I have business degrees, starting an actual business was not on my radar. However, the dream of inspiring and empowering women never left my mind or heart.
I get to put my degrees to work in a way I never imagined – being a motivator and empowering force in the small business community. I do that daily. If I’m telling my story of how Love Peridot came about, people love that. They love knowing that this is a girl who looks like them. I love being that person who people can say, "if she did it, I can do it too." We may have similar backgrounds - I grew up in Roseland on the South Side of Chicago. I attended Chicago Vocational High School. I don’t think they expect to see me or hear that I’m the owner. When I tell them that...they love it. I’m a woman. I’m a black woman. So, I just think that’s motivating in itself, and it shows people that it can happen. It’s possible.
You recently went from selling online-only to selling at the Roosevelt Collection. Why did you decide to take Love Peridot offline and how have you evolved since this change?
I came into this space, and I just fell in love. I think the pop-ups and the collaborations are kind of crutches for me. This was an opportunity for me to just step out on faith and go for it on my own. The more I’m here, the more I meet these customers and they love it, the more I’m like am I gonna quit my job and just do this full-time? I really enjoy loving on my customers in person! I signed a lease, and who knows where it may go from here. It may just be long term.
One of the things that is really important to me is being locally known. I want Love Peridot to be the neighborhood go-to for gifts and accessories. I think it’s really important to pour back into your community. By being locally-grown, I can do that. There’s not a lot of businesses whose owners look like me. There’s not a lot of gift shops in this vicinity. I like being that go-to place for the neighborhood, for the community. We’re stimulating the community with Love Peridot.