Chris Kellum and Tyler Yaw welcome Carmin Black, co-founder of Half United, to the Whiskey & Wisdom podcast. Carmin shares the unique backstory of her brand, which started with just $200 and the entrepreneurial spirit of her and her brother. They also explore different types of bourbon and discuss the development of the Cargo District, where Half United's flagship store resides.
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Welcome back everybody to the Whiskey Wisdom Podcast. As per usual, you have your co-host, Chris Kellum and Tyler y'all. This week we bring on special guest and co-founder of Half United, Carmen Black. I love that. Thank you for coming on today. Thank you both for having me. Absolutely. Such an honor. Yeah, thank you. She is oddly enough, she is resides in the cargo district with us. Mm-hmm. She's a better location than we do currently. It's a pretty cool location you guys have. Yeah. Yeah. And great for this. This is, yeah. This is amazing. No, but it is. We were actually, so Half United was the first business to ever be in the cargo district. Mm-hmm. So I like to say we brought everyone here. Fair enough. I like to think that. But yeah, no, we've seen the trans, I mean, we've been through the entire transformation. It's kind of wild to see how it continues to evolve. We actually have only been there since day one. Oh yeah. Okay. Yeah, we, we tested me, not meaning like moved in and worked from, but we saw a lot of locations before selecting this one, but that's the only one we've been in. Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah. For some reason I thought you were in another one too, but No, no, no. Yeah. But that happens a lot. Yeah. Like people either up, you know, downsize or get more room or whatever. But no, we stayed the same. Nice, nice. Yeah. Well, before we go too deep into your story. Mm-hmm. This week I literally just like a couple weeks ago, I walked into the liquor store and they were like, we have Benchmark. You wanna try this version? And they had like five. So I got top floor. And then this is the other bottle. I got a single barrel. Okay. You'll have to educate me. I'm not, yeah, no, no. He doesn't know either. No, I'm just messing. Okay. So single barrel is lit just like any other bourbon single barrel. They just picked the finest, smoothest taste and pulled it out. It is from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Mm-hmm. The story is 17 73, 73. The McAfee Brothers. Left VA and went west into uncharted territory. Mm. And ended up in Kentucky. They traveled by canoe at first, and then the McAfee company eventually followed a native trail over land that led to the Great Buffalo crossing where they surveyed the land. They found a bunch of bottles of benchmark. Yep. Pretty much. Well, they survey the land. That's now where Buffalo Trace is and the survey markers that they left behind, so they knew where they were going. So, Called benchmarks. Oh, okay. There you go. Honors that pioneering spirit. It's actually a really cool story. Yeah. What a great founder story. I don't think mine's gonna be quite, as my brother and I, we canoed through. I mean, see, but the question is like, Whether or not this is real story or if it's just brand marketing. Mm-hmm. Right. The old McAffee brothers. Yeah. And you're like, well, the McAffee brothers are actually technically three dogs. Yeah. That got lost and left their family. Right. But let's try it out. Okay. Let's try it. Can you try it? Okay. I did. And I cheers to you and I I do like it. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. It's nice. Good. Has a little bit more flavor. A little bit more spice. Yeah. You would like this one more? Yeah. This one does have a, A higher proof than what the other one was too. Yes. So it probably has a little bit more spiciness. Yeah. The other one's like 86. This one's what? 90? 95? Yeah. Yeah. No, it's got a nice flavor. Very inexpensive. Under 20 bucks. There you go. That's great. So it's a good, if you want to make a drink at home and Right. You really don't feel like breaking out the good stuff. This is a good, right. No. Or if you have people visiting and you're like, mm, you, you want a whiskey ginger? Yes. Here not breaking out the blue label. Definitely not. Yeah. I'm not a connoisseur. I hate to say, but I will say after tasting this, I do like it. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we could be funny and let you, like, you can pick another one and we can see if you like. Oh, okay. Yeah. What is High West? It's a double rye. That's spicy. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So if you like a good rye or like a little kick to it. That's a good one. Have you tried? No, I've never tried. I'll try. Might as well. Why not? So while I'm trying to find this bottle, tell us a little bit about yourself. Well, how convenient. Okay. So for the sa I mean, that's like such an open-ended question. Well, I was born August 25th. I'm a, you know, no. But yeah, for the sake of, I think what we're talking about today, I'm the founder of a social commerce brand called Half United. We actually started in 2009. Oh, wow. Gosh, isn't that crazy? Like for years and years it felt like. Oh yeah. We're two years old. We're three years old now. We're 14 years old. Oh, wow. It's amazing. I didn't realize you're open that long. Can you believe it's, isn't that wild, my bro? Gosh, we now, I'm the old McAffee brothers from Benchmark. We actually do have a rival story. It was crazy how my brother his name is Christian Black. I'm Carmen Black. I am married, but I kept my maiden name. Mm-hmm. But Cra the craziest way that we started our brand, he was 19 at the time. I was 24 and we had$200 literally, that our mom loaned us. I had gone to California and was living in LA and my Jo and was working for Tom's Shoes. And my job at Tom's was basically to travel the country and do speaking engagements at high schools and colleges because Tom's biggest customer base was high school students and college students. And it was, you know, I went, so in college, I, I ran track for the first two years at App State, which was really incredible. But then I ended up breaking up with a boyfriend who was on the baseball team. And I, I'll tell you why I'm telling you this in a second, but I moved to or I went to ECU where I didn't run track. I joined a sorority and I think when I was in a sorority, I had sort of, I don't know, taken on the, The stereotypical sorority attributes. So when I went to work for Tom Shoes and they were like, oh, you're traveling the country. You're gonna do speaking engagements at high school and college colleges, you know, I thought, okay, cool. They'll put us up in hotels, whatever. And they're like, yeah. Every time you go to a different city, you'll just be like couch surfing. Oh, at the campus club, whoever the campus club president is, wherever they live, that's where you're staying. And I'm like, excuse them. And so it was really interesting because I went to Tom's thinking, oh cool. I, I think I have a knack probably for public speaking. It's something I enjoy doing. Mm-hmm. But ended up, it was a really humbling experience. It really broadened my horizons. I ended up loving couch surfing and I would do that now. And I went in pretty snobbish about it. But while I was there, I just really realized, man, This is so cool. They've taken fashion, they've combined, combined it with philanthropy and they've created this shoe brand. You buy a pair of shoes, you give a pair away. And I'm like, that is cool. So I called my brother when I was on the road with Tom's and I'm like, Christian, you are starting a t-shirt company. He, he was here in Wilmington, starting a t-shirt company, and I was like, Let's turn this into a give back brand. I know everything now about how to do this from my time at Tom's. And he's like, okay, come home and we'll do this. And so I get home and I'm like, wait, we have no money to start a company. What are we gonna do? So my mom was like, yeah, you guys don't know what you're doing. Here's$200, which. You can't start a business with 200 bucks. No, but we did. So what we would do is we would go to like Rugged Warehouse and anywhere that we could find like multiples of like smalls, medium larges, but not secondhand, but like on mega sale. Yeah. Right. And so we would buy, let's say three or$4 T-shirts, and then we would go and. Spray paint on them and splatter paint and do all this stuff. Take them to like farmer's markets or to Azalea Festival. Mm-hmm. And we would tell people, listen, every time you buy this t-shirt, we are going to give seven meals to a kid in need here in Wilmington. And they started selling. Oh wow. Like hotcakes, like left and right guys. These were the ugliest, the most poorly made t-shirts. And so what ended up happening is we were like, cool, we're starting to make money. Let's just take a hundred percent of what we make after our charitable giving. Right. Let's just put it back into our bank account and, and like, keep multiplying this thing. Well, we did that for four years. We didn't take a paycheck for four years. Oh, wow. And after four years, we had designed this long, you know, it's like a, another long story for this other thing, but we had designed this necklace made of recycled bullet casings because we were like, oh. Let's turn something that is meant to harm into something that can heal when you drill a hole through a spent shell. Mm-hmm. You rob it of its ability to be refilled into live ammunition. Yep. So that bullet is dead and done. And so we're like, if we put this on a chain now this will represent your fight against hunger. This is your fighting hunger, necklace, bullets, fight. But this now only fights hunger, cuz it can never be turned into ammunition again. Yeah, we sold so many of those and ended up our big break after like four years of business was Nordstrom put us nationwide. Oh, wow. And sold our bullet casings. And that's sort of like, yeah. How the company, you know how we came to be, because I remember I worked at Buccal in 2014. Yeah. Did you and I meet there because you seem very, you seem familiar to me. Okay. That's what I, you came in. Like we just for a pop shop. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was like, I'm really surprised. And then they were like, oh yeah, it's from Wilmington. So then it gave us more reason to try and sell these pieces. Yeah. And then I left buccal. But Well, and I think Buckle even put us in like 55 stores. Oh, wow. Uhhuh. Yeah. So that bullet necklace took us a long way, but it was when the Sandy Hook shooting happened. Mm. That we were at, my brother and I were actually standing in a Nordstrom probably. 30 miles outside of where the shooting happened. And a lady came to our table, cause we were doing a pop-up shop, and she's like, what is this? And I was like, oh, this is a bullet casing. It's been repurposed to represent a fight against hunger. And she threw it at me. She was like, clearly you haven't seen the news. And she walks off and I was like, Christian. I'm like, Google, what's going on? What's going, because we're in the, in a mall. You're right. I'm working. I'm not looking at the news right now. No, no. I was just, you know, I was hawking my, my bullet necklaces. Right. And we saw the shooting and it was either my brother or I, I don't know. But one of us was like, take all these necklaces off. And we knew in that moment this product is gonna have trouble. Like this is, this is bad. Yeah. Of course we also, just like the rest of the nation, we were grieving and we didn't want any connection to people's gr We didn't want our to be selling a product that would make a connection to people's grief. Yeah, yeah. Because of gun violence. And of course now gun violence is rampant and so the bullet necklace we still sell and we're proud of the symbolism of it, but we certainly need to be very sensitive to the fact that, I mean, these things are robbing. People of their loved ones left and right in the United States right now. Yeah. Yeah. Which is, I know, sad. That's interesting. Yeah. Yeah. Isn't that interesting? How Right. You know, and this, I think is a, is something that I think all business owners should like think about and I never did before this happened to us. You know, there's always external things that are happening in the world that can. You know, really impact your company and you ne we never would've thought of this in a million years. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I mean, gun violence has always been there, but not to the degree that I think it is now. And certainly Sandy, what's sad is we're desensitized to it now, right? Because Sandy Hook type things are happening over and over. And now we've become, we're sad still, but I mean, when Sandy Hook happened, The whole country was in mourning Yes. As it should be now every time. Mm-hmm. Yeah. You know, so anyways, but that's, that's half United you know, and then probably, I think it was in 2016, Tom Shoes then invited us on a different So sort of come full circle. I left them, started this business. Years later, they actually invited my brother and I to go to Haiti with them. Mm-hmm. So we went, we got to see their shoemaking facility, and we of course got to witness firsthand the extreme poverty in Haiti. And when we were leaving on a flight out, Christian looks at me and he goes, We can't just leave this country and do nothing, especially as a company and owners of a company that you know, stands for fighting hunger and fighting poverty. He's like, what are we gonna do? We designed a handbag with a group of Haitian artisans that really took off that did great, and it taught us that gainful employment more than just giving meals is actually the number one way to fight hunger and poverty. Okay. And so we've gone back to Haiti for years and now we actually work in. Mexico, Bangladesh, India, Haiti. We've worked in Djibouti in Africa, sort of taking that model that we developed in Haiti of gainfully employing artisans to make products that we design. And we've sort of replicated that and now we're helping in eight different co countries essentially fight hunger and poverty, but through job creation. Yeah. Which is really the most powerful way to help others. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I have a weird operations question. Yeah. Cause that's my background. Okay. Is so when you got into Nordstrom's and then the buckle and those larger things Yeah. How were you able to scale production so fast? So at the time, remember they were only buying our fighting hunger necklaces. Mm-hmm. So, well, okay, hold on. I'm gonna tell you what we ended up doing, and then I'm gonna tell you what. Okay. So here's the thing. When we first got into Nordstrom, we were only manufacturing in the United States. Gotcha. The truth of the first Nordstrom order, the one that was nationwide, is guys win. When this happened, we were still hand making the bullet necklace. We handmade. Wow. Thousands and thousands of them with like ourself and a team of like interns. Wow. Like if Nordstrom knew that over here on fourth Street we had like bullet case and we would go to shooter's choice, like mm-hmm. Get buckets and buckets of bullet casings. Take them back, clean them, sand them, and then take a hand drill press. Oh my gosh. And one by one we would drill these holes. Geez. So that I've never told anyone that that entire order was made by hand. I don't think Nordstrom would've bought it if they knew. Wow. You know, some fancy manufacturing facility was not making this. But then after that we actually sourced a and I would fly there and meet with them a metal manufacturer mm-hmm. In Los Angeles that custom or specialized in jewelry making. And so we outsourced it and worked in LA and they, one time turned around like a, 40,000 unit order for us in like six weeks. So they could, geez, we did, we couldn't do that. But there, you know, there's manufacturing even stateside that, you know, they're equipped for that kind of thing. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Yeah. I like that. I had a feeling cuz usually people don't know how to scale just that fast, like, Like that. So it makes sense hearing that like story, like we did a hand done did it by hand. I figured there was something like that. You know, I think one of my like special knacks is that I'm really good. Like push me in a corner. Put me in a really sticky situation. I'll find a way. Right. And I think every entrepreneur probably has this thing, whatever this thing is. Like, it's almost like if it's too easy, I'm a little bored. Mm-hmm. If it's challenging and complex. We are going to find a way and I'll make sure that it's, you know, within decent margins and hopefully can be profitable and all these things. But I'm pretty good at finding the solution cuz there's always a solution. Right, right. There always is to any problem in life, there's always a solution. Yes. So yeah, we ne that was never something we really struggled with. We always kind of navigated that kind, those kind of operational things pretty well. That's awesome. Yeah. I love that. I was, yeah, so that is the high West. Oh, it is so spicy. Yeah. But it is nice. Yes. Not in a bad way. It's like nice, like almost like vanilla finish. Mm-hmm. Yes. Yeah. Wow. See? So that sounds nice. Making people try new stuff. Yeah. You'd, it's a good thing we don't have the full gambit, cuz it gets really confusing when you have to pick between like 60 different whiskeys. Yeah. True. Yeah, I wouldn't know. Yeah. Yeah. We'll just get you a fancy one. But currently you're reverse words. You have an online store and a physical store. Yeah. Correct. Yeah. Because I was in there the other week just wandering through talking to Megan and I didn't realize like how many different products you guys have, cuz like I said, I know the name, but. I'm just like, oh, hey, you know, I remember them with bullet necklaces and then like, I remember just repurposed, just metal working. Yeah. Was a style for a while. Right. How did you guys re like, transition? Like, cuz you said, you're like, no, we, we gotta pivot from this. What was your first. Pivot too, actually. Well, it was a really crazy story. So after Sandy Hook happened, I actually got a call from our buyer. Now this is when we're still really small, where you know, well, hey, even today, if we go nationwide in Nordstrom, that's a massive deal. Yeah. Like that meaning that's a big to-do, right? Not massive as in financially, but that's a big to-do. That's a, a compliment and mm-hmm. You know, all these other things, but so I'm not undermining, I'm not saying like, no, we're too big for that. No, we're not. I would love for them to call me today and, and keep us nationwide. Right. But. After that happened, we were in our office and I get a call from our buyer and I just had a sinking feeling. Honestly, that's another thing I kind of have is like a, and I think women have this like a weird premonition kind of thing. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Even before we, or when we got the deal, I was very excited and our whole team was excited. It was the big biggest order we had ever had to date. But if I'm gonna be honest, I had this sinking feeling that something was gonna go wrong. Mm-hmm. And I'm like, don't, don't. Say that to yourself. Yeah, don't jinx this, you know? Well, what ended up happening was the buyer called and said, listen, we cannot sell this product anymore. And not only are we taking it off of the shelves nationwide, we actually want you to pay us for the product that we're sending back. Okay? So here's a time where I'm, like I said, I'm pretty good at getting out of sticky situations, so I. I said, give me some time to think about this and, and can we talk later? And so I think I called her back a couple of days later and I'm like, look, here's the deal. We're not buying these back from you. It's not happening because we can't. And what I will do though is I'll design a new collection of jewelry, which by to that point now I'm, yeah, I could. I, I really consider myself a jewelry designer. Now, back then, the only thing I had ever designed was a bullet casing with a hole in it, right? I mean, you know, this is not, this is not a complex thing. But I said, I'll design a new line of jewelry and we'll swap. So, you know, basically we will lose a little bit, but we're not gonna lose a hundred. We, we cannot pay for this. And she agreed and said, okay, yes, we'll do that. So in a moment's notice, you know, like two weeks time we designed a whole new line of jewelry and, and we, we did indeed swap. She bought it and, you know, one for one they took back what, or they took. Product in replacement for what they were giving back that those products did not sell nearly as well. No, naturally, because it wasn't like our iconic thing. But all to say that was really what opened us up into getting into other, we, we really realized at that moment, okay, we have to diversify. Yeah. Because if we don't, we're dead in the water. So we started diversifying into more jewelry, more t-shirts that sort of carried us until 2015. Mm-hmm. And then it was again in 2015 that we went to Haiti. We started producing leather goods, and that's a crazy story. I took these leather products to a trade show in Atlanta, and I'm gonna be really honest with you guys. You know, as you can hear now, we've had so many challenges, you know, so many ups and downs. Even until that point, so it was probably 20 16, 20 17, I took these leather bags to a trade show and I prayed. I'm, I am a religious person and I. Was like, God, here's the deal. Make a deal with you. Like he needs that. But I'm like, look if you don't give me a sign that we're supposed to stay in business, the minute that this trade show ends on the last day, I'm closing this business and we're done. Wow. Like, I promise you, I'm done. I was like, send me a sign if I get a sign. And it's very clear to me. That's fine. So I had displayed these leather goods and honestly, they weren't very good design either because we did it in haste and we hadn't, we honestly hadn't product tested them and all this stuff. So it's like the last day of the trade show, I'm feeling very down. I'm like, man, golly, we've had some challenges. I'm like, okay, that's it. We're, we're closing shop. A buyer comes in and she goes, oh my God, I love these leather bags. And I'm like, Great. I'm thinking, okay, she'll buy like 10. She's like, okay, cool. I work for this store. I'm, I probably shouldn't even say the name, but she goes, I work for this big retailer, I'd like to buy 500. Oh wow. And I was like, there's my side. And but then what happened was I was like, okay, God, there, I get it. I get it. Now. We can't not stay in business. Cuz now there's people in Haiti that need, they need this work. Yeah. Yeah. One bag takes two days to make. That's like, oh my goodness. Yeah. So that's a lot of people we can employ. And so then I go to, I'm like, all right, we'll keep going. So I go to a trade show in Las Vegas right after that, I kid you not a buy, another buyer comes in this. At this point I'm feeling a little better, right? Yeah. She goes, oh, I love these leather bags. I'm thinking, what the heck? She goes, I want to buy 500 and gosh, so a thousand. And I was like, there it is. There's that sign I asked for. And so we're gonna stay in business. And we did. And now we sell all kinds of products. Yes, because we learned that through going to Haiti probably seven times over the course of two years. I just really learned, man, This, these jobs, I'm starting to see people going to school and homes, bill and cars are all of a sudden showing up cuz people can now afford transportation and wow. People are reading and writing and I'm like, whoa, this really does end or make a dent, at least in, in poverty. And so, You know, now if we can help an artisan by designing a new product, we'll we will do it. Nice. Yeah. How does that work hand in hand with designing a product and knowing what the population in Haiti can do or accomplish? Yeah, so you, so the way I do it is I always start with artisans first. Mm-hmm. So it's not like a normal, let's say, design structure where a designer is, let's say a designer's just really talented at making dresses right. And so he or she wants to make dresses and. They design their stuff and then they go to a factory and just vet people and figure out who can do it. You know, lowest cost, highest quality and best, right? Instead, we start with the artisans, we meet them, spend time with them and say, what are you good at? Then I come back and design only against their skillset, so I'm not like in Haiti, they already had a small leather making facility mm-hmm. That they had established. So I'm not going in saying, well, can you make straw goods? It's not like that. Right. I only, I. Design against what they know how to do. And in any country we work in, that is how we do it. So it's always them first. Then I have to get creative and design against whatever they can do. Okay. Let's Neat. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we now do we do straw, we do leather, we do a hand blown glass in Mexico jewelry in India. It's like on and on. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, because, so we're transitioning. Our studio slowly. Oh yeah, I do. I have some of your coasters from your leather goods. Yeah. Which are perfect for here because Oh my gosh, we have to use those. Yeah. Oh, I literally have'em at my house and I ran out. You guys forgot to bring them in. Yeah. I was like, Ooh, these are fancy. And, but it's perfect cuz it, it, it'll muffle some of, I'm sure people have heard like the clink. Right, right, right. Randomly. Cuz our coasters currently kind of like, they'll stick and fall. Stick and fall off. Oh yeah. And I'm so excited to bring those back in here. And then I was talking to Megan about your glass blowing. Yeah. Are your glasses glass? Yeah. Mm-hmm. From Mexico? Yeah. Yeah. And I was like, these are shoes. Oh, you should use our shop. Of course. Oh my guys, these have got to go. We have to bring in they're beautiful glasses, but I can tell they're not hand blown. And they did not create jobs for people living in PO. Poverty. Yeah. I can promise you that. I'm in this industry. They didn't, no. I don't know where they came from, but they have our logo, so Right. Did they have logo? Did you have them engraved? They're not in gray screenprint. Oh. Oh, how interesting. Okay. Well these can stay, but you should also have ours. Yeah. I mean, well we're, we're handing these out to people, our guests anyway, so we'll eventually run out soon anyway, so we'll send your glasses so those go home with you today. Oh my gosh, thank you. That, oh, nice. Just so you can remember your time here, which I will, yeah. And then we'll transition, we'll trade you if you want to gimme some glasses. I love that. Yeah. Our highball glasses are so beautiful. The amber ones would be, Beautiful in here. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. That's what we'll, we'll borrow, we'll set something up so like people can see what we're drinking and then they can buy something. Oh, that would be awesome. Yeah. Oh my gosh. It's like we're your mains. Your main glass partner? Yeah. Did we just that I like, wait, hold on. Do we need to like spit in our hands and shake? Chris will do it too. That's what I'm here for. Okay. That's good enough for me. You're making deals on the podcast? Yes. Oh my God's. Where you come from. That is great. Yes. See, this is me. Yeah. I'm unlike Chris Jenner, like the, like the Kardashian daughters like joke about their mom, like she'll make a deal anywhere. I'm like, oh my God, that's me. That's me. Literally. Let's go. Let's deal with it. Yeah. I, so I just think it's hilarious. But words, I, I think about a lot of things at one time and then I have to Yeah. Settle them into, into position Sign of genius. Yes. Yeah. He has big enough time. Like it is really big, but I don't know if I'm a genius on that one. So, transitioning in life. Yeah. With Half United. Yeah. How has that worked? Like just being from a single 24 year old working for Tom's and dealing with breakups to like being a married woman? Yeah. Like has it affected your, like, external life outside of business? Oh, of course. Yeah. Duh. I'm an entrepreneur, right? Yeah. No, I work, I work, I work around the clock for sure. You know, I married someone that he Well, he's willing to work with me like, like physically come to work with me. Oh nice. That's good. But I mean, he doesn't work for me or for Half United, but he's willing, like he travels with me to all of our trade shows. So that's helpful cuz sometimes I can be gone for two weeks at a time. Oh. In a couple of, we, well, it's not even a couple weeks in, like a week and a half, I have to go to India for 12 days, he's gonna go with me. Yeah. So cuz he has the, the ability to do that. Mm-hmm. Which is great. But no, I mean, I'll, I keep using this phrase, I'll be honest. Of course. I'm honest. Of course. I'm gonna be honest. You know, I do think that there's times where he's like, put the work down or does it ever end? Yeah. I, I think that it probably is kind of hard for him. So Sure, yeah, it affects everything. I mean, I've missed friends' birthdays and baby showers and a lot of holidays and, you know, I think I'm getting better and better about work-life balance. But in the earliest days when we were really building this brand, I think I was honestly a little maniacal about work and. Probably a little obsessive about just like growing, growing, growing. Yeah. Whereas now, I don't think that's the right way to live or be for anybody. I think just kind of do good work and let it let life take you where it's supposed to. Yeah. Yeah. And it will, and it always works out. You don't have to be frantic about what you do. Everything. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. I like to ask that because I'm at work. I'm always like, all right, so this needs to get done and this has to get done. I'm not at work. Let me text this person and make sure. And like Chris, you're, you don't need to worry about that today. Yeah, for sure. That's me. But I less and less now. Yes. Yeah. But I used to be really bad about that. Yeah. So question. Mm-hmm. Out of these two whiskeys, which was your, Do you drink whiskey regularly? I mean, not, I don't really drink that much. Oh. I mean, yeah, neither does Tyler. Yeah, he came up with a podcast idea, so. Exactly. Okay, so are you asking me which one's my favorite? Yeah. Okay. And what is this one called again? The High West Double Rye. Okay. So I think I would choose the High West just because it is so different. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Like when you taste it, you're like, wait. Is that jalapeno or is that pepper or is that sweet? Like what is that? So I think because of the interest level, I would go with that, but this benchmark I think is easier to drink. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. But that's like, I, I think more interesting. It's like, whoa. I'd agree. Wow. Yeah. That's one of my favorite ones too. Yeah, it's pretty cool. That one and the one behind it. Yeah. Yeah. Pretty cool. Yeah, the boo. The boo, right. I really don't want to give that one away. I just wanna keep drinking at ourselves. Okay. About the actual transition from the kind of what you're doing now to having a nonprofit and a for-profit side. Right. Right. Wow. So you guys are the first people we've talked to about this, which is breaking the news, right? Yeah. I mean, technically, I'm sure someone else will have said it before this episode comes out. Yeah. But. I like breaking news on stuff. No. Yeah. Yeah. So we'll break it on Instagram for sure. Right. But no, you know, after 14 years, I think it is time for a change. Mm-hmm. So Half United, we are hoping, and we are working really hard right now to make sure that it actually focus a hundred. Focuses a hundred percent of its time and energy on nonprofit efforts, specifically fighting hunger and poverty here in Wilmington. Mm-hmm. So we hope to do this in conjunction with a nonprofit here in town called C E I I. Mm-hmm. And they run. They have an urban farm, 10 community gardens, a farm to school program at Williston. Oh, wow. And they will be managing the new community kitchen at the MLK Center. Oh, that's neat. Yes. That's something I think Emmy talked about. Yeah. Yeah. When she was on. Yeah. Okay. So we had hoped to actually rename C e I I Half United. Mm-hmm. So that half United becomes a nonprofit for legal reasons. We are not sure if that is actually going to be able to take shape, and if so, it probably won't for a while. So that's actually. Pretty disheartening. But the brand, the for-profit brand, half United in and of itself is going to be ceasing to exist as a for-profit company. I am working on starting another for-profit venture that will be charitable in nature, but not give seven meals per product sold. More so focus on gainful employment. Mm-hmm. Right, because. You know, I love the idea that nonprofits even though they can focus on gainful employment too, but I think it's easier to connect, you know, giving meals or planting a community garden with a nonprofit effort than it would be to like handmake a leather bag as a nonprofit. That, that's a little bit harder to, I think, for customers or for. People to understand. So I love that. Our nonprofit efforts are focused on what I would call short-term hunger alleviation, which is gardens and meals, and then the for-profit, the new for-profit endeavor will be focused on long-term solutions to hunger, which is sustainability through gainful employment. And so that's what's happening and that is, you know, about to take shape like literally this week. Oh wow. Yeah. That is, yeah. That's exciting. Yeah, it's exciting, it's sad, and. Yeah. And really, really exciting. Yeah. Yeah. At the same time. Yeah, it is. So is it gonna have a whole brand new name as well too? Or business logo and all of that? All of that, yeah. So we're thinking about calling it Carmen Black. Oh, okay. Yeah. And the idea there is it'll will open us up to doing. You know, higher, like I love high fashion, not, doesn't have to be expensive. So this isn't about like couture, you know, you think couture and of course it's the most expensive fashion. But I just, I think half united again, because of its bullet necklace roots, I think it got really pigeonholed in into needing to be sort of like, Like a, like a brand that could sell in Buckle. Yes. Which is really cool. And hey, that's a great business. But like my dream would be to sell at like Neiman Marcus or you know, when Barney's was around. That would be my personal dream. And so I think personally, I always felt a little bit stifled. Like if Half United comes out with some. Wacky handbag design or some crazy something will our cu, our current customer base, buy into it. And we would try to do that and it, and the stuff wouldn't sell. Yeah. So I'm excited in this way to now it's like, man, You know, the sort of the, the lines around you know, what we could and couldn't do are now gone and I can make and create anything I would want. And hopefully either speak to a customer base we already have that will come with me, or if they don't wanna come a whole new, you know, variety of people that, like, things that I, I mean, you can see what I wear. It's a little, you know, I wanna design stuff like that. Yeah. Something eclectic, something different. That's that's not just fashion forward. Yes. Yeah. I miss that. I think that's the great thing about, like right now, 2023 is so many trends are either coming back from like the nineties, right? And they're transitioning or they're just like totally changing and it's a good period to like be like, oh, hey, let's mix it up a little bit. It is a good period in fashion where, Any, and I guess in, in society in America right now, it feels like we're in this moment where anything goes. Mm-hmm. And so that has, you know, I think there's good to that and bad. Mm-hmm. I think, you know, there can, there can be things that are so confusing that come with that for so many people that maybe are not comfortable with anything goes. But from a fashion perspective it's cool because it's like your people are somewhere out there like, trust me, you know? So, yeah. So do you love the Met Gala then? Like watching everything comes across. Love it. Love it. And I love it. And I'm like so bad. I like critique. I'm like, oh, why did they wear that? Or what were they thinking? Or, oh my God, that's perfect. So yeah, I love it. It's great. That's awesome. Yeah. Yeah. I see some of those outfits and I'm like, what are you doing? And it's so hard. Like I just like watching events cause I just like seeing really cool outfits. Yeah. And different designers and stuff. Yeah. But the Met Gala kills me every year cuz I'm like, what was the, what was the theme? Like Yeah, what was, what was your theme like? You showed up in a cat costume. Yeah. What you doing? Yeah. Coming out of that egg. There's so many random things over there. I know, I know. Oh can you talk about why you're going to India? Oh yeah, of course. Oh, actually, I, no, well, okay. I can't say specifically, but we have it. We have a really cool partner that I have designed a line of handbags for. Oh, nice. Okay. And so, we're like coming down to the wire where we need our final samples to move this into production. Okay. And I, the deadline is so short that I am afraid if I'm not in person with our production team saying, I. No, that stitch guys, it has to be tighter or I want the handle wider. That's the wrong hue of blue if I'm not there. To, to sort of navigate that in person. What'll happen is they'll send me something back to America by mail. I'll critique it, I'll send it back. Get it. They edit it, then they have to send it back. Yeah. And so doing it, you know, in a different time zone we just don't have the time for it. Yeah. So I like, that's four days right there if you get overnight. Hello. Right. And it's expend shipping is so expensive. So I'll be going to Ur new Delhi and then Mumbai. Okay. Okay. And then I'll be headed home. Yeah. But no, this partner that we have are, the new brand is gonna launch with this partnership. Oh, oh, oh, wow. It's a big deal, guys. It's a big deal. I'm excited. Yeah. I'll tell you when we're not recording, but yeah, I, their team was like, yeah, you can't mention this. Oh, no, no. I fig, I'm in like, Styling wise, I was hoping it was like, well, maybe it's something for the half United side, or if it was for the new set, it's for the The new brand. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So this is what's gonna launch the new brand is this partnership. Yeah, I know. Sweet. Hey like just thinking about transitions in life and how horrible I am at making transitions. Yeah. Will you be leaving the Cargo district? No, we'll be staying. Okay. And in fact, we will continue selling the Half United Brand until the inventory is sold through. Mm-hmm. So my mom, because my mom actually shares the cargo district. Base we're in. Okay. Yeah. Yeah. She had for a plug, Sherry Black Interior Designs is in the cargo district. She actually purchased the remaining inventory cuz you know, it's kind of her baby too. So she technically owns it and shes gonna keep our shop stocked with it. And then when we sell through, we'll stock it with the new brand. Gotcha. Yeah. Yeah. So setting up where you're at currently And because like we mentioned earlier, some days it's like busy. Some days it's quiet. Yeah. What do you guys do on like, Quiet days. Yeah. So thank God we are not just a retail store, so we are a wholesale brand. So typically the retail store, if I had to like, I don't know, rank it, it was like last priority. Mm-hmm. Doesn't mean it doesn't matter to us or it's not important. Right. It certainly does. But really the thing that keeps the lights on and keeps people employed and keeps, you know, us providing the ability to provide meals for people in need. That all comes from our wholesale partnerships. And we're in a few hundred retail stores around the world. Oh yeah. So, not, not of our own in other people's boutiques or department stores or, or whatever it may be. So really that's what we're working on. Or product design. Okay. Or finance, or, you know, employee relations. I mean, there's a million things that happen all day long in a business, but yeah, we would not. Be able to stay in business if we relied completely on our retail sales in the cargo district. Okay. Yeah, I'm always curious about that. Cuz in general, as a business owner and entrepreneur, everyone is always worried like, ah, like. It's been a slow day. I'm not making any money, but it's, but you're right. You have to diversify. Like if you hit a bump, you gotta figure out how you can transition out of this. Otherwise, every slow day you're gonna be stressing. When we first started, For the first four years I held other jobs. I taught at a School of the Arts. I was a nanny and I worked for both of my parents' businesses. My dad owns a construction company and I would like haul off trash or bust out walls or lay tile or whatever he, I can, I can do. Listen, if you need a home Reno, done, I can help you. So yeah, I had to do odd jobs for four years before, you know, we built up our wholesale presence and then, you know, we were able to hire staff and that sort of thing. Like we mentioned before, it's Cargo District is an amazing spot to start. Yeah. And you know, you got a small presence, figure out like what works, what doesn't work, and then if you start making a little bit of money, you take that money and invest and then you can move to a bigger presence For sure. Which is why I feel like the cargo district is always changing, like the landscape and the is. Ever evolving over here For sure. Because I think businesses, like you're saying, they're either scaling up or down based on wherever they're at. But yeah, no I hope everyone is staying really diverse. Yeah. Which I think, at least for me, I used to see that when I was younger as per, and this is for no one else. This was just me. I saw that as a personal failure where I'm like, I shouldn't have to have these other jobs. But that is so not true, and there's so many great things that I learned from that time. Yeah. That's sort of for me, having to make ends meet that now are invaluable to, to, you know, where we've gotten and how I'm even, how we manage finances. I mean, we can be so lean if we need to because of how we learned on a shoestring budget. Yeah. Yeah. I like that. So, yeah. Yeah, that's always the thing that I've talked about too, especially with. Ending covid O and where we are now is you were able to find out like who are the true entrepreneurs that are able to get down and dirty when the times get tough and you who can pivot when they need to. Pivot and get lean. When they need to get lean. And now a lot of these companies are running more profitable just because they learned what, what was necessary and what had to come from him. For sure. I mean, if you're like faint of heart or you don't like working hard, Right. Entrepreneurship is not your lane, right? Yeah. I mean, you always have to be so creative now, unless somebody has a lot of money going into a business or they're really well funded, but even then, like money can be. A business is Achilles heel. Mm-hmm. I mean, it really can be the thing that actually puts you out of business, cuz you do tend to, the more you have, it is easier to say. Mm. I'll hire someone for that. And like, you kind of can get lazy. Yeah. It'll happen every day. I mean, you always have to be ready to just like. Take whatever comes and, and figure out a solution. Right. Yeah. It sounds like for you though one of my favorite quotes is The obstacle is the Way. Yeah. And it seems like a lot of your business was, that is anytime that there was a new obstacle finding the way around it is what made you more successful and what kind of. For brought you to the next level. For sure. I mean, I'll say, and gosh, if any of our former employees are listening to this, I think the thing, and this I think was naivety because of my age and my inexperience in business ownership. I think what Yeah, the obstacle is certainly the way, but I think where I would often make mistakes is I think I would just put too much pressure on our team to, to get in the trenches with me and do the entrepreneurship thing with me and help problem solve with me. And I think there's a time and a place for that. But I think what I have learned is that employees, and maybe I'm being too general, but. In my experience, they want safety and security and they sort of wanna know what's my job and what can I be expected to do on a day-to-day basis, and how can I achieve it that right. But when your business is constantly going through trials and tribulations, you're asking them to leave what they were originally hired for to help you problem solve. I think it just constantly put too much. And I was, like I said, fanatic about. You know, us growing in the midst of problems and blah, blah, blah. I mean, I look back and I'm like, Ooh, it's so cringe-worthy. I'm like, so embarrassed how I behaved. But I think that was often our Achilles heel is just kind of like leaning too much on employees for, oh, Help support decision making, all this stuff. Whereas now I know like shield the employees from that. Yeah. It's lonely at the top. Mm-hmm. That's why, I mean, it really, actually really is let them keep doing their thing and then like keep the problems away from them for as long as humanly possible and just let them kind of like do their thing. Right. So, yeah. So the obstacle can also be the obstacle, right? All to say, yeah. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. So, Sorry. Thinking about like talking about obstacles and going back in life and thinking about forward, what would you like for you and for new business? Current business personally, what would be success for you? Hmm. That's a great question. What is a success now? You know, I think for, okay. No, I know the answer to that. Here's the answer. Success for me now is consistency. Okay. Period. I was so, Inconsistent with so many things. Like I would run so hard against and, and land one deal, but let like 50 things fall by the wayside. Not 50, but maybe like five big things. And I was so inconsistent with so many things. Now it's like I, I'm literally about to put together a handbook. For how to run my next business based on my last business. That will lay out like it because the fashion industry is so interesting. You've got spring, summer, fall, and holiday. That's all you've ever got. And so it's like every July 4th there's a sale. Every Black Friday there's a sale. A sale sale. It never changes in this industry, which is unique cuz not many industries are like this. Mm-hmm. They change with. We don't spring, summer, fall, holiday. So it's like, I know down to the day, March 15th, what should be happening to get us ready for holiday. Like I literally know it that well now. So I'm gonna create a playbook that is like, Hey guys, if we start blank in. January, we'll be ready by July for this trade show. If we start blank in February, we'll be ready for our holiday campaign, you know, in, I don't know, launching in August or September if we're launching early. And so I just want to create such an air of consistency that employees feel really clear, really taken care of, and that it's like we're always just sort of like ahead of mm-hmm. Of the game and never putting out products again before they're fully developed and tested. And I mean, I did that all the time cuz I'd get so excited about a product. Yeah. And it wasn't fully developed, but I'd just start selling it. And then, because I'm decent at sales, like that trade show, we'd sell 500 of something. Yeah. Which for a small business is a lot. Yes. You know, then go sell 500 more at the next trade show three weeks later. So now you've got a thousand somethings that are made, made in a developing country with people that don't speak your language, who don't really know how to make the product well. Like this is a recipe for inconsistency and disaster. Yeah. I will not be doing that ever again. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So is your brother gonna be co-owner of this new brand with you or are you taking that one? I'm taking it on, yeah. By my, this is a solo gig. Yeah. Uhhuh. Yeah. I don't know if we'll ever work together again. I think if we ever did again, we'd do a great job of working together cuz of all the challenges we faced. Right. But for now, I think he is, he's done with the old fashioned gig for now. Fair enough. Yeah. Yeah, he's, I think he's had enough. Yeah. Yeah. Sounds good. We are starting to come up on our hour now, so I do have a last question for you. If you were to tell your younger self one thing, what would it be? Oh I wish I could have told her. Let's see. What would I tell her? I'm, I wanna say either relax, like, just relax. Yeah. Or I would probably tell her. Like slow down. Mm. I would just be like, slow down. Yeah. Like, just take the time. It's gonna be okay. Yeah. And it'll be be, it seems like you're not gonna get there, but if you'll slow down, not only will, you'll will you get there, but you'll stay, you won't kind of get there and fizzle. Yeah. So yeah. Relax girl. And slow it down. That's what I'll be doing next. Yeah. Love that. Yeah, I love that. Because he asked his fancy question. Mine is okay. Way less serious. Where can people find your stuff on social media? Okay, so right now it's at Half United, okay? Mm-hmm. And in the future it'll be at Carmen Black. And you spell my name? C a r m I n B L A C K? No, not like Carmen San Diego. Not in the world. It sounds like recently that will be the song for you, right? Yes. I would love, I could only be so honored. I would love it. Yeah, that would be. Yeah. If only that wasn't trademark. I know, right? I know, I know, I know. She was so great. I mean, that's a whole nother, that's whole question in series. I'm like, well, could you No, don't, don't even deny it. Don't even, right. But you will be still here shooting out of the cargo district. Hanging out. Still here. Still here, yeah. Walking over to Starling, having drinks with us doing it. Yeah, for sure. I would love that. I'm there way too much. Talking about the cargo district. We had to shout out our to people that we need to shout out for as well, so we have. Sway creations. She's doing all of our social media now because we need a lot of help with that. Yes. And it takes some time off of our hands and puts in people that are doing it better. So I talked about employees and trusting the people that are around you. Actually, the woman who started Sway Creations actually started her marketing career in Coworks, number one in the Cargo district. Ooh, cool. Yep. And then shout out number two is for Clear auto Glass, which is right across the street from us as well. Because they did a great job fixing my windshield in my car when I got a nice big crack in it. Nice. They are really nice people. Yeah, they're great people. They, I literally have never met'em. I think I've seen them at the bar like once probably, and I was like, oh, hey. Yeah, but I don't look like I work here so. Well, when you get your hair cut next time you can walk over. What do you mean you don't look like you work here? Like I don't have a t-shirt or anything. It says like Cargo district studios on. Yeah, we just look like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I just look like a normal person. Right, right, right. I know, I bet there's like a lot of cargo district people around us at all times and we don't, I don't know anybody. Yeah. Mm-hmm. I like I know you guys. I know nobody. Yeah. Do you guys like get out and like mingle and mix? Cuz I do not. A little bit. I should. Tyler does it way better than I do. We should, let's do that. Yeah. We'll have to make it clear. We should go door to door. Yeah. And eventually we will have a podcast, you know, interviewing people from the cargo district. So you can come back on here, talk about your Yeah, that'd be great. Transitions. Yeah. And we'll try and interview people so people can like put faces to names a little bit better. Yeah. That would be, and that makes a ton of sense. You have a, what feels like an endless supply of interviewees. Yeah. Oh yeah. Especially as it grows. Yes. Yeah. So everyone, thank you for following. Checking us out. Definitely check the new, the newness. The newness. Mm-hmm. Carmen Black. Yeah. That's wild. We will, we'll figure something out. Put in the show notes. Yeah. Okay. Make it easy to find. Okay. Yeah. If you guys would love to check out the new glasses we'll have on our next episode or any of the awesome coasters because support local. Yep. Yeah. And. Supply jobs for people. Yes. Love all. We'll also find a link and put that in the show notes too. Cool. That's great. Thank you guys for having me. So fun. Thank you for coming on. I appreciate it. Yes, it was a blast. Yeah, it was. Thank you. Yeah. Cheers. Cheers. Cheers. Thank.