#FellowshipSpotlight | Power Decals

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Now that our Fellows are in their incubating spaces we wanted to catch up with them and see how they are flourishing as they enter the second half of the BCAN Founder Fellowship. We will begin our #FellowshipSpotlight series with Power Decals co-founder Charlotte James. We chatted with her on a rainy afternoon at The Foundery, a makerspace in South Baltimore, while she pressed out a few stacks of decals from their upcoming collection.

How did you get started with [Power Decals]?

CHARLOTTE: I was an obsessive, habitual nail biter until the age of twenty five. Finally, I was like, “This is a disgusting habit that I have to stop!” so I started getting gel manicures. That is what pushed me into exploring the world of nail art initially.

The other side of it is my business partner Valentina, one of my closest friends and a graphic designer, based in Argentina. She’s incredible. We both share a love of nail art and had always wanted to work on a project together. It was around the 2016 election when we started thinking about “Wouldn’t it be cool to use nail art to express your political views?” And that’s where we started [with Power Decals]. But soon we were like, “This just keeps highlighting the negative as opposed to trying to uplift our community that we’re a part of.” So we were like, “Screw that. Let’s look at all these gorgeous, empowering designs like Kente cloth, Ankara, Mexican embroidery, Turkish tiles...” so that’s how the project morphed into this more global expression of blended cultural beauty.

What’s your vision? Where do you see this going?

We are definitely still very much in a testing phase, figuring out what works, what doesn’t, and building from there. We do have a vision for a wider array of products that inspire women. We have an idea that this [Power Decals] could be a launching pad for a much bigger project.

For now, we want to focus on making things that make Black and Brown women feel beautiful, celebrated, and uplifted.

So you see this, right now, as most importantly being a conduit for conversation and message-building?

Yeah! And you know, it’s giving women yet another platform to express themselves and branch out. Plus, sometimes it’s as simple as having a bad day and being able to look down and see something beautiful on your fingertips.

Why did you choose to start your company here in Baltimore?

I grew up in Philly and came here for undergrad at Johns Hopkins. I found my passion off-campus and in the city at large. I did a lot of social justice work and I just fell in love with Baltimore. I’ve left twice and lived abroad but the goal was always to come back and work here. Baltimore is a great place to build a business, especially a creative business.

And, for you, you see initiatives and opportunities here that you haven’t really seen elsewhere for innovation and risk-taking?

Yes. There’s a lot of opportunity for innovation in Baltimore and a lot of space to do it in. Not just physical space. People are very open to new ideas here and into supporting creatives and dreamers, seeing the value in that for the improvement of our city as a whole.

And there are some really great nail artists here! I would love to try and create a middle-ground space to highlight all the amazing work coming out of these hole-in-the-wall places in East and West Baltimore. The work is insanely detailed. Miniature works of art!

So another part of this all is exploring and elevating the different potential media for creating art and challenging what fine art means within the world of beauty?


What do you feel that the BCAN Fellowship is facilitating for you?

It’s been a really great way to think about the foundation of the business in a way that allows us to scale up, should we choose to. Also, understanding the in’s and out’s of looking for investment, pitching and packaging, and figuring out who our customer base is. It has created this nice little community and cohort of people who understand what you’re going through, support you, and are hustling too. Also, just being inspired and learning from people who are really killing it has been great.