On an unseasonably warm Spring day in New York’s famed Central Park, a young woman paces, cell phone at her ear. She is adorned with two nose rings, hoop and septum, plus an ornate necklace evocative of an artifact out of Nefertiti’s tomb glittering in the sun. If anyone cared to eavesdrop, they’d hear plans being made. The photographer is in a cab, the models are scattered throughout the park, and the makeup artist just hopped on the train. They are all on their way to Eboni Merriman.

At just 23 years-old, Eboni is the founder and creative director of Lost Queens. Less than two years after launching the online accessories boutique on a borrowed laptop, the brand boasts an international following. “I got a message from a young girl in France. She said I can’t afford your jewelry right now but I’m so inspired by you. Stuff like that amazes me.” Eboni admits an online boutique isn’t exactly a novel idea, “There’s a million accessory boutiques. But if I can add something else, put some thought into it, that’s how we can stand apart.”

For Lost Queens, something else means embodying Eboni’s passion for empowering women. A scroll through the brand’s Instagram account makes it clear: Black women are loved here. Each piece is named for a history-making sister (everyone from Eartha Kitt to Neithhotep gets name-checked) and the models – tall, short, thick, slim, pierced, tattooed – mix seamlessly with customer-submitted selfies of diverse women in regal poses. The products are positioned as a complement to, not the source of, their queendom.

Potent branding tells a story that incites an emotional connection to a product. The story of Lost Queens is not a superficial one. Ten percent of proceeds benefit a social justice cause or help a woman achieve her goal (this season’s beneficiary is an aspiring doula). Eboni shies away from aggrandizing her work as world-changing activism, but doesn’t deny that this is about more than jewelry. “It’s my form of protest to celebrate Black women. It’s my form of protest to name products after Black women and have their story out there and donate to causes that support the movement.”

What about potential customers that feel isolated by all that Black girl power? “All queens should feel welcome, but I can only speak about what i know and my experience. The only way this can work is if I am true to myself.”

When the models arrive, they greet Eboni like sisters, all smiles and laughter. It’s a testament to the intimate community that’s grown out of Lost Queen’s sermon of self-love. The brand’s network consists of 150 brand ambassadors, plus a team of advisors and creatives eager to contribute to the company’s mission. It’s the kind of brand loyalty any entrepreneur would covet. Eboni credits the law of attraction. Lost Queens unapologetically reflects who she is and who she loves. In turn, that energy comes back to her. “If you do everything that you do with love behind it, you can’t go wrong.”

Cortney Cleveland uses design, tech and storytelling strategy to help creatives and entrepreneurs take on the world. See how she puts in work at redwork.co. Follow her @CleveOutLoud.



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