Cinnamon Annie with Step Stitches

Lisa Woolfork is the convener and founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black Lives Matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers on Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she became a founding member of Black Lives Matter Charlottesville. Actually, she is active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the College Fellows Program to reshape the undergraduate general education curriculum.

Stephanie Dean is a vintage-style handmade doll with a modern twist, she wears beautifully colored dresses that are fashioned to appeal to today’s modern child. She has always loved dolls, and her mother, an elementary school teacher, went to great lengths to find African American dolls for her because her mother felt it was important for Stephanie’s self-image to have a positive reflection of herself during playtime. Actually, she is the founder of Cinnamon Annie Dolls where she always seeks to make her dolls representative of her and the black race taking into account the nostalgia of the classic dolls her customers remember from their childhood as well as the modern styling that a contemporary little girl would like. Stephanie has lived in Georgia all her life, she is a keepsake doll and believes that dolls can be everything that you want them to be, the dolls can be played with, used for decoration or collected. Stephanie is married to Tony and is the mother of two young adults, Joseph and Danielle.

Insights from this Episode

  • Stephanie’s childhood and her relationship with dolls
  • Why Stephanie’s mother wanted her to have black dolls
  • Why dolls are important for a child’s imagination
  • How times have changed for black representation in media
  • How Stephanie got involved in AfroBlack Women
  • How Stephanie got the opportunity to expose her dolls in the Time Square
  • How her company started to grow
  • How the last quarter of 2021 was life-changing for Stephanie
  • What would Stephanie say to a person that is looking to “get their stitch together”

Quotes from the Show: 

  • “A doll can become a friend, you know they’re always there, the doll can become anything that the child wants it to become…it can become a playmate, it can become a tool for learning” – Stephanie Dean in “Stitch Please”
  • “I think we have better success, a  more sustainable success when we work in a community than when we are individually scrabbling against each other…there is abundance, there is enough” – Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “Get back to basics and do some things and improve productivity” – Stephanie Dean in “Stitch Please”
  • “Follow your enthusiasm…learn about it, love on it, do the best as you can because if you decide to turn this into a business you are going to have to be enthusiastic about it because it’s a lot of work” – Stephanie Dean in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Stephanie Dean

Website: https://www.stepstitches.com/

Instagram: Stephanie Dean

Facebook: StepStitches 

Pinterest: Stephanie Dean

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Lisa Woolfork: Hello Stitchers. Lisa Woolfork: Hello stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together. [00:34]

[00:38 Interview Starts] 

Lisa Woolfork: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. And I am joined today by someone who makes my heart smile, Miss Stephanie Dean, who is the creator, designer, inventor behind Cinnamon Annie. Now this is a cloth doll, in the kind of ragdoll tradition that Stephanie has brought forward and kind of made alive in the modern era. And I just think that's so powerful and important, and necessary. So, I am so happy to welcome Stephanie Dean to the program. Welcome, Step Stitches. [01:12]

Stephanie Dean: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I'm very, very glad to be here, and it’s how I get to talk about dolls and sewing. And my family is not rollin their eyes like, "Really, we don’t wanna hear any more about it." Somebody wants to listen. I’m happy to be here. [01:25]

Lisa: That’s why I started the podcast too, so that I could talk about as much as I wanted to, because nobody else in my house was interested.

Stephanie: Right.

Lisa: There you go, let everybody see it. Pursue your dreams.

Stephanie: Exactly. [01:36]

Lisa: I want to get started by sharing a personal story with you. I was reading about your work and how you were explaining how your mother, in the early 70s, was having trouble finding you dolls that look like you.

And, I too, am a child of the early 70s. And I have to share with you this: I still have mine. I'm the oldest of three girls, and my mother bought this ragdoll top. But the bottom was for us to put our pajamas in. And it was kind of like a bed decoration. So each of us either put your pajamas under the pillow—cause y'know with three girls, three little ones. It's like, "Where's your pajamas? I don't know."; "I don't know, what are pajamas?"; "Do I own a pair of pajamas? I don't know where they are." Y’know?[02:15]

Stephanie: [chuckles]

Lisa: [continues] And so, she was determined that we would keep up with these. And so here's mine, from when I was little. [displays a doll on the screen]

Stephanie: Oh my goodness!

Lisa: And on the back, this is where you put your pajamas.

Stephanie: I got a lot of ideas goin through my head right now, anyway. [laughs]

Lisa: And, you stood it on your bed. And that, and so, like--

Stephanie: That’s amazing.

Lisa: This reminds me a bit. It’s like with the -- 

Stephanie: Hands-

Lisa: Stitched.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Lisa: [continues] covered-button nose, clearly meant to be a little sweet Black ragdoll type.[02:41]

Stephanie: That is amazing. [clap] That [clap] is [clap] a [clap] maze[clap] zing!

Lisa: I’m amazed that I still have it. And I flex on my sisters all the time.

Stephanie: And you should.

Lisa: Not my fault that I keep up with my things. [02:55]

But welcome. And so let's talk a little bit about your childhood and your relationship to dolls. Now you were saying that finding a Black doll in the early 1970s in the United States was an adventure.

Stephanie: Yes.

Lisa: Can you talk about that experience and what you recall as a child? [03:10]

Stephanie: Okay, yeah. I grew up in the Deep South in Albany, Georgia, way down south. But my mother, she was an educator; she was an elementary school teacher. And so, she was very cognizant of me having Black dolls. And so, she would go—you know what the big Sears catalog, right?

Lisa: Yes!

Stephanie: [continues] And so she would order me a doll. That's how I'm figuring that it happened now I look back on it. That she would order dolls and put them up for me during the year because she was determined that I would have the Black dolls. I don't really have that doll. But I do remember the first one that she gave me was one of those [03:46 plastic] dolls that didn't bend at all. Y'know, with the [03:50 inaudible]? Exactly.

Lisa: You wanna hug the doll and the doll is like, "They havin’ fun; [03:55 inaudible] with the one!"

Stephanie: You know, with the molded hair?

Lisa: Yes. [03:58]

Stephanie: But, I had that one when I was very little. And then she bought me one that kind of became the doll that I really just carried through my childhood. And I actually lost it as an adult. I had it all the way through, 'til I moved.

Lisa: Oh, my word.

Stephanie: So I recently went back and found one on eBay that I think it was very [04:15 inaudible] [chuckles] because I just wanted to have it. She was very cognizant because I was one that I really played with my dolls. I love dolls growing up. I mean, dolls are my early memories of toys - of growing up.

Stephanie: I love dolls growing up. I mean, dolls are my early memories of toys- of growing up. It's really playing with my dolls, playing house. I was just into that. [04:32]

And I do have one quick story. This is how crazed I was about it. Out in my yard, y’know? We lived in, like, this suburb in Albany. We had this big tree that me and a friend would sit under and play with our dolls. I was about sixish. And I told my little friend to watch the dolls when I get in the house to do somethin. So I went in the house, and I came back out. And my, this was my brother, who was [04:58 like] younger than I am, and one of his friends went down the street. Had my doll in the street. Layed, my precious doll, was in the street!

Lisa: In the street!?

Stephanie: Laying down in the street, in the middle of the street. [05:12]

Lisa: That cars drive on?

Stephanie: Luckily, we live in a neighborhood with mostly houses, so there weren’t cars goin up and down the street. But they wanted to conduct an experiment to see what would happen if a car ran over my doll. Now, nothin had happened. I got out there before all this happened. Cause luckily, not too many cars were up and down the streets. I was incensed. I still remember to this day, that fight was the only fight I ever got in. I would have [05:39 messed] him up.

Lisa: She was swingin! Here are the results of your experiment, young brother. My brother, I am glad that you like science [sarcastic].

Stephanie: I remember their faces to this day being astonished like, "Why is she trippin?" Cause, y’know, in their minds, it's like the GI Joe's and stuff like that. You know, they do. And my mother said, she was looking and somehow, someone saw all this commotion going on out in the yard. She looked out in the yard, and she sees me out there [06:04 inaudible].

Lisa: Wingin, she's like, "Y'all can catch these hands. How about that? " Catch hands, how dare you?

Stephanie: Exactly, so that is my earliest memory. [06:14]

One of my earliest memories, that definitely one of them, has dolls. I actually did have a Raggedy Ann doll, one of them white ones with the red hair.

Lisa: Yeah.

Stephanie: And I had that because my mother didn't really wanna buy the Raggedy Ann. She wasn't into Raggedy Anns and whatnot. But I just carried on, cause y’know, it was popular at that time. So I just carried on, and carried on, and carried on. So she finally bought me a Raggedy Ann. And I actually do still have that Raggedy Ann. So, anyway– [chuckles]

Lisa: Wow.

Stephanie: [continues] That is my childhood. [laughs] [06:47]

Lisa: That is incredible. 

I know you talked about how you played house. You might play school. Why do you think dolls are important for a child's imagination? What do dolls give a child?

Lisa: [continues] Like, why was it important for your mother to give you a Black doll? What do dolls give a child that maybe puzzles, or blocks, or some other type of toy doesn't give? [07:03]

Stephanie: I think several things; I think on just a level of they teach imagination and all of that. But I think a doll can become a friend that's always there. The doll can become anything that the child wants it to become. It can become a playmate. It can become a tool for learning. That’s how we, children, learn. One way children learn is that they can use that doll to imitate their parents and family. That’s how you learn how to take care of something.

Lisa: Yeah.

Stephanie: [continues] or whatever. A doll also can be a conduit for a child's emotions. They can talk to the doll in a way that they maybe can’t talk to their parents. They can tell things to the doll that they can’t tell to somebody else. That kind of thing. And it's just something to love on, in a way. [07:50]

Lisa: Yeah.

Stephanie: That is going to give you that love back, unconditionally, in a way. Even when we have relationships with parents and all this growing up. But, the doll sometimes can be there. And can, in a child's mind– can understand things that maybe parents can’t tell. They can't tell everything that's happening. Then the doll doesn't have to—I don't know if it just becomes like a mini-me in a lot of ways.[08:16 inaudible] When you have that special doll. So, that's, I think, some of the ways that why dolls would become important. And why dolls when you look back– I mean, all the way back through prehistoric times, all the way back through time itself. Dolls have been around for people, for children; children have made dolls all the way through, no matter what was goin’ on. No matter what's happening in a society, children found ways to make dolls. [08:43]

Lisa: That's right.

Stephanie: And it’s just so amazin’ to me.

Lisa: And, like, you had the different; the cornhusk dolls; you have dolls that are made of different scraps; they make dolls outta sticks.

Stephanie: Exactly.

Lisa: There's a phrase you used in your previous comments. You said, "It's like a little mini-me." And the idea of the child pouring some messages about themselves into the creation and the style of play, I think it's really important. And that's why I'm excited to hear about your commitment in Cinnamon Annie to supporting the needs of Black children in that. The idea that when we were comin' up, so we've mentioned that we both, kind of, comin' up through the early 1970s There was not a lot of Black people on the commercials. There may be a Black version of a doll, maybe? But it took a lot of deliberate effort. And my mother was also an elementary school teacher. I think that that was part of her decision to make sure that we had, at every possible opportunity, positive messages about ourselves. [09:42]

Stephanie: And it’s so important. Yeah, and my mom was like that, so it was the same way. Not just dolls; she did the same thing with books and that kind of thing. Went out of her way to find books featuring Black characters. And I still remember that one story that just stayed with me about a little girl who looked like me. What, Mary Jo? I went back and found that book too [chuckles] on eBay.

Lisa: Wow!

Stephanie: And I found because it had so much impact on me—and the little girl's family looked like mine and everything. So, I know the impact now. So, my daughter is 20—they keep getting older, and I just can’t keep up now. [laughs]

Lisa: [10:19 inaudible] We've, I felt like we stay, like, the same age. But they keep getting older, and bigger, and taller.

Stephanie: [laughs]

[10:26 crosstalk]

Lisa: [10: 27 They keep growing; it's ridiculous]

Stephanie: She’ll be 23, and I was telling her that we, growin up, we didn't grow up with a lot of what they have, even today. And even from when she was little-

Lisa: Yes. [10:38]

Stephanie: [continues] It's different [10:39 than] today.

Lisa: Very.

Stephanie: There was no Black Girl Magic back then. I mean, there was, but we didn't have anything.

Lisa: There was, but we didn't call it that.

Stephanie: We didn't call it that.

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: It wasn't that kind of thing. Even what's available today was not available back then. So–

Lisa: That’s right.

Stephanie: Which I’m thinking of– I'm really glad about what's available today. And I really feel proud and good to be a part of it. Really be happy to be a part of it– 

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: Because that is just the most amazing thing when I see children, not just Black, either. I've had parents with children of all races, and a lot of them have ordered Black dolls. And you know, it's just amazing to see a child interact with a Cinnamon Annie doll. That is just amazin’ to me, it really is. [11:21]

[11:22 Ad Read Starts]

Lisa: Hey, friends. Hey! Thank you so much for listening to the Stitch Please podcast. And did you know that there are three ways that I can listen to you?

Lisa: [continues] The first one is SpeakPipe on the Black Women Stitch website dot org. Go to Talk To Us, and you can find the SpeakPipe there, and you can leave a message. This works on mobile devices as well as on your laptop. [11:46]

The second way is during 30-minute Thursdays. And that's 30 minutes on Instagram from 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. And then again on Clubhouse, which is a two-way audio program for mobile devices that allows you to talk back and forth with a group of friends around a singular issue, such as sewing. So, check those ways out. [12:10]

And then the third way that I'm really excited about is video chat using Marco Polo and StreamCast. You can send me a video message, and I can send you a video message back. This is a feature only available to Patreon supporters. And it's a lot of fun. [12:27]

So now that you know the three ways that you can speak to Black Women Stitch, please check em out. Two of them are free 99, and one is just for Patreon supporters. But any way you cut it, I am really lookin’ forward to helping you get your stitch together. So hit me up. [12:44]

[12:46 Ad Read Ends]

[12:47 Interview Resumes]

Lisa: Let's talk about some of your involvement with the Buy From A Black Woman movement. Now, Buy From A Black Woman is an organization, I believe, based in Georgia.

Stephanie: Right.

Lisa: And it's designed to promote Black women-owned businesses; they offer a grant program. Can you talk a bit about how you got involved with them?[13:05]

Stephanie: Yeah, right. Yeah, the founder of Buy From A Black Woman is Nikki Porcher. And it is founded out of Atlanta, but it's a nationwide organization.

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: It came up as more of a grassroots kind of organization. And Nikki's desire to see Black women businesses be able to grow and prosper; just have the same opportunities as others have. I can't remember how I came—I think I don't know how I came. Somewhere on the internet, I saw it, probably. I don't even know how, and I started following the organization. They offer, like, educational resources and things like that. So just doin' that and then became a [13:46 prize]for a grant. [13:49]

I applied from a grant from Buy From A Black Woman back in [chuckles] Well, the years are rollin' together here; to 2019. 20-2019, I think, and the grant came—what year is this? 2019. And they offering some grants. And one of the grants—the grant that I applied for—was called the Project Grant. Because, then, I had wanted to use that money to write a children's book that corresponded with the Cinnamon Annie doll.

Lisa: Yes. [14:07]

Stephanie: [continues] And so, I've written the manuscript, and so I was at the point of lookin’ for illustrators and all this kind of stuff, cause this was goin to be self-published. And so I applied for the grant to facilitate writing the illustration.

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: So, I'd won the $1,500. Then, that allowed me to find an illustrator.

Lisa: [14:24 inaudible]

Stephanie: Yeah, it was wonderful,  I found an illustrator. And, she actually was a Black British woman, so that was really neat. And so I found her and we illustrated the book. And went on, and I was able to publish it. Later on, during the year, Buy From A Black Woman had the Inspire Tour, this past summer, right?

Lisa: Yeah, I think so.

[14:42 crosstalk]

Lisa: The 2021.

Stephanie: 2020? What year, Yeah, 2021. So I was able to participate in this—yes, stops in Atlanta and Chicago. So I was-

Lisa: Wow.

Stephanie: [continues] able to have, participate with that. And then, also, they came back around in December, and through their partnership with H&M—I have to mention that the Inspire Tour, the market, everything was presented with H&M.

Lisa: Yeah.

Stephanie: I was able to have [15:09 someone in] send some dolls to New York. They had a holiday market, four consecutive Saturdays in the H&M store in Times Square, which is their flagship store. And I have to say, I didn't have the opportunity to go up there like I really wanted to. But I have to say it, they really put the Buy From A Black Woman marketplace to the forefront. [15:29]

Lisa: Like, in the back, next to the dressing room.

Stephanie: Yeah. The fact that it showed up, and they actually had billboards outside that said—

Lisa: Wow.

Stephanie: [continues] Buy From A Black Woman, in Times Square. 

Lisa: Wow!

Stephanie: So, at the end, it was amazing what they did. So, I would encourage any Black woman business owner to look at Buy From A Black Woman. Like I said, y'know—

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: [continues] And see how you can become involved with it or take advantage of their resources. Because, it is one organization that's out there, to specifically help Black women business owners. [16:05]

Lisa: I love that. And what I really love is that transformation; from our momma’s, huntin' up and down the Sears catalog and the JC Penney's. And trying to figure out if the Lionel playworld, happens to have a Black –

Stephanie: Yeah.

Lisa: Right? To go into Times Square and have people say, "you can buy Black women owned products,"

Stephanie: Right.

Lisa: [continues] "For and by, Black women." Right here, at this huge, billboarded store, that's incredible.[16:33]

Stephanie: It really is. It really is incredible. And so, like I said, I would encourage anybody—so, I also had the opportunity to win some grants from WomensNet, the Amber grant.

Lisa: Okay, tell me more about Amber grant. Yes, I saw that. I don't know the program. [16:40]

Stephanie: It’s through an organization called WomensNet. [16:50]

Lisa: Okay.

Stephanie: And that's what they do. They provide grants to women-owned businesses.

Lisa: Wonderful, okay.

Stephanie: As time has gone on, the amounts that they have been able to give have really increased. So at the time that I applied, I think I won that grant—Lord have mercy, the years again. Gosh, I won that grant. It was January.

Lisa: Don't worry, it's not a quiz! We can look it up and put it in the show notes later. Don't worry about it!

Stephanie: Very good. The January 2020 winner for Step Stitchesand I won $10,000.

Lisa: Wonderful!

Stephanie: They’d given $10,000 [17:26 inaudible] plus other prizes to businesses. And I love that. I really love what they do. They're very focused on the financial end of helping women-owned businesses get the funding. And there aren't a lot of strings attached to it; you don't have to jump through a thousand hoops to get it. You don't have to do all that and say, "Didn't know they had." You know, they have costs and stipulations and things that they require for you to do it.However, they trust you to use the money in the way that you feel is best. So I was able to win it. That was so, so helpful. I got a sewing machine, y’know. I won a [18:04 inaudible] machine.

Lisa: Oh, my word.

Stephanie: Yeah, I bought other equipment for my business.

Lisa: Equipment, supplies, infrastructure development, capacity building. These are the things that we need funding for because we don't —

Stephanie: Right.

Lisa: [continues] Inherit those types of structures.

Stephanie: Exactly. There was some things that might come along, opportunities that might come along. I was able to take advantage of them, without them being a strain. And then, WomensNet, oh my goodness, came back around to me.

Lisa: Oh!

Stephanie: Yes. And so they came back around to me and said, "We know that the holiday season is your biggest season," and all this, "We wanted to give you $25,000." They gave me -–

Lisa: Every holiday is to [18:49 Stephanie Dean] and Cinnamon Annie!

Stephanie: [continues] They awarded me a year-end grant just to help for the holidays because it's [18:55 inaudible]. And so, that was just[sighs] unbelievable. And so with that one, it has just been amazing. I was telling you, before I think we came on. I moved my sewing room down into our basement, which we-

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: [continued] had a few years ago, but, you know. So, I was able to move, get furniture, got a big die-cut machine. Just the things that will

Lisa:[sighs]

Stephanie: be able to help with productivity.

Lisa:[19:19 inaudible]

Stephanie: The biggest thing is that money, right there, allowed me to, for the holidays. Because when Miss Oprah called, they said-

[19:29 crosstalk]

Lisa: Oh, Yes! You are one of Oprah's favorite things. And that was right on time.

Stephanie: It was right on time.

Lisa: You need not be putting out your dolls by hand when Oprah calls you. [19:38]

Stephanie: Right! And so I was able to hire a seamstress. And it was wonderful because I was able to hire a contract-- a seamstress. Another Black woman business; a seamstress that I didn’t even know who lived five minutes away from me. She was able to just come in and help, and it was really a help for both of us. So, I was able to help her too, in her business. She’s a seamstress; she does mostly alterations and clothes, and all this kind of stuff. Well, what had happen with her business during the pandemic –

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: [continued] People weren't getting their clothes altered; people weren't going anywhere. So, she had to decide, "Should I get a part-time job or not?" So I was able to step in and say, "No, you're gonna help me."

Lisa: You can do what you love and be compensated for it.

Stephanie: Yes, that was probably one of the things that I liked the most about how all of this happened. So we're gonna, of course, keep working together through, y’know.

Lisa: 2022.

[20:31 crosstalk]

Stephanie: It helped me, so.

Lisa: So, that last quarter of 2021 was just explosive for you? [20:37]

Stephanie: It was crazy, everything that happened. None of the stuff that I had on my little vision thing, but that I had on my–

Lisa: Did it blow your vision board out of the water?

Stephanie: [laughs] That's why I haven't even made the vision. I'm like, "Why make anything?" But it was unbelievable. It's amazing that even Oprah's Favorite Things would see my little dolls.

Lisa: Well, here's something. There's a saying, and my friends share the same with me. And I'm not sure if it's from Wordsworth or something; I know I'm getting this wrong. But it's something like: the things that we love, others will love too, and we will show them how. [21:14]

And there's something about your love of dolls. That same little girl that was swinging on her brother for his audacity. And to [21:23 inaudible] to lay a doll baby–

Lisa and Stephanie: [concurrently] in the street!

Lisa: [continues] For it to be hit by a car for kicks and giggles. That same little girl, who was out there fightin' for her doll, is the same grown woman now, who’s been able to build around and within a community of Black women and women entrepreneurship that still keeps that love at the center of it. Y'know what I'm saying? That's what I find so beautiful about your story.[21:51]

Stephanie: This has been crazy, because, of course this is not what I went to school for

Lisa: That's right, you're a social worker, right? Former elementary school teacher and a social worker? [22:00]

Stephanie: I was an elementary school teacher for years. I was off from working while- I did have my kids, I was at home a lot, and I went back to the classroom. So in total it was [22:08 'bout] 16 years and I was like, "Okay, that's enough of this." [laughs] [22:12]

Lisa: 16 years of elementary-ed, I’m done.

Stephanie: I’m done. My time was done, y’know, it really was. It was not, y'know, I had that nudging, I had to move on, I guess. And so I did the social work for a while. That’s enough of that. And then, most of the time, especially during the social work—and even when I was, as a teacher, particularly the last half of my teaching, I was sewing and doing crafts and things on the side. Mostly just for fun. [22:26]

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: [continued] I have to say, the teachers at [22:39 inaudible] taught predominantly Black school, predominately Black teachers. And I have to say that the teachers at my school were some of the first people that encouraged me in that. And I made these little tote bags with little brown-faced doll pictures cut-outs on them. And they were like, "Oh My God! I want one! I want one! " So, they kind of encouraged me to pursue this. I have to give credit to Browns Mill elementary school teachers, because they really provide that first boost of encouragement. [23:04]

Lisa: Yes, and that's what I love. I love your story of encouragement. I love how these opportunities cross-pollinate with each other. And I love the open-heartedness of it as well. And I think that people say this a lot, Stephanie, but they don't do it very well. This idea of community over competition—people say that, but at the end of the day, they're also incredibly competitive. But, I think that we'd have better success, and more sustainable success, when we work in community than when we're, like, individually scrabbling against each other. Like, what’s the point? There is abundance; there is enough out there. [28:42]

Stephanie: There is enough.

Lisa: There is enough, there is enough, there is enough, you know?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Lisa: And so, I love how your story really proves that.

Stephanie: It’s pretty amazing. [23:50]

Lisa: As we head to wrap up, tell me about what is next on the horizon for you. What kinds of things are you looking forward to in the next iteration of your oeuvre?

Stephanie: At this point, I am--y’know, how you pick a word of the year? A word-- What’s, I’m thinking of the word?—So I picked the word of the year. My word of the year is "wellness". So that is what I'm focused on, my wellness: physically, mentally, spiritually, and all that. The wellness of my business also. So again, [24:16 inaudible] doin the deep work, I guess, kind of thing. To make sure that everything is goin the way that it should be goin. But this year has taught me to just do already good at; make the dolls, work on the dolls. I don't want no-- don't get caught up in, "Oh, this didn't happen," and "That didn't happen." Because, y'know, before all this happened, I would get in it, "Oh my God, this didn't happen and how can I do this?", y’know? But once I just focused on making the dolls and makin' them the best that I could do, puttin' them out there. Makin' my business the best that I can do. Learnin' about as much as I can; things just flowed the way they're supposed to. [24:52]

So there are some things that I can't talk about [inaudible 25:54]. I've been told.

Lisa: That's okay, we will keep our eyes and ears peeled. [24:58]

Stephanie: Yeah, Buy From A Black Woman and all that, so some things with them will be coming around this year, hopefully. And I'm just using this time to improve my business. There's some little things with the dolls; I'm always tweaking them and improving them, and that kind of thing. So, work on that. After such a-- Last year being so much.

Lisa: Yes.

Stephanie: [continues] So, so much. And so this year I’m just floatin' a little.[chuckles] It’s time to float a lil' bit.

Lisa: Part of your wellness is gonna be some ease!

Stephanie: Exactly, opportunities will come. And that's wonderful.

Lisa: They will. [25:31]

Stephanie: But just kinda, get back to basics and do some things, and improve productivity. Getting the dolls out quicker and better-

Lisa: Yeah.

Stephanie: And all that---all that kind of behind-the-scenes stuff. [25:41]

Lisa: That's fantastic. Thank you so much. I'm gonna ask you one last question. The theme of the Stitch Please podcast is: we will help you get your stitch together. I want you to give someone advice. If someone said, "Hey, Stephanie, what do I need to do to get my stitch together?"

Stephanie: [laughs]

Lisa: What would you say? [25:57]

Stephanie: I would say, and I got this from a lady named Tara Swiger. And she says, "Follow your enthusiasm." And so, that is what I've done, and that's what I even try to tell my kids too. What you're enthusiastic about, follow that, dig into it, learn about it, love on it, do the best that you can. Because if you decide to turn this into a business, you're gonna have to be enthusiastic about it cause it's a lot of work. [26:25]

Lisa: Yes, it is.

Stephanie: And it’s hard to work really hard on something that you don't really care about. Kinda that meshing of your enthusiasm and what you're good at. Try to find that lil' thing right there. That venn diagram, What are you really good at? And what are you enthusiastic? And how can you bring those two together? When you do that, you’ll be in a really good place.[25:45]

Lisa: I love it. And with that, thank you so much, Stephanie Dean of Step Stitches and Cinnamon Annie. We are grateful to have you with us today. Thank you so much. [26:55]

Stephanie: Thank you for the invitation. This has been fun.[26:57]

[26:58 Interview Ends]

Lisa: You've been listening to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you supporting us by listening to the podcast. If you'd like to reach out to us with questions, you can contact us at blackwomenstitch@gmail.com. [27:16]

If you'd like to support us financially, you can do that by supporting us on Patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N. And you can find Black Women Stitch there in the Patreon directory. And for as little as $2 a month, you can help support the project with things like editing, transcripts, and other things to strengthen the podcast. [27:34]

Lisa: [continues] And finally, if financial support is not something you can do right now, you can really, really help the podcast by rating it and reviewing it anywhere you listen to podcasts that allows you to review them. So, I know that not all podcast directories or services allow for reviews. But for those who do—for those that have, like, a star rating or just ask for a few comments. If you could share those comments and say nice things about us and the Stitch Please podcast, that is incredibly helpful. [28:03]

Thank you so much. Come back next week, and we'll help you get your stitch together. [28:07]

[Audio Ends 28:16]

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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