Archel Bernard: CEO, The Bombchel Factory
Why She Inspires Us: Archel creates beautiful clothes and opportunities for women to gain economic independence through her fashion line—The Bombchel Factory.
When Archel Bernard returned to her family’s hometown of Monrovia, Liberia, to restart her fashion boutique, Mango Rags, she also returned to a community recovering from Ebola and a population of survivors left with limited opportunities. So, Archel decided to give the community a chance to start over with her and The Bombchel Factory was born. Pairing traditional West-African prints with modern designs, Bombchel now sells its bold pieces at Ponce City Market.
Who has inspired you along this journey?
All my life, I’ve been inspired by Oprah. A brown girl with a funny name who captivated so many audiences—I wanted to be the West African Oprah Winfrey. She inspired me to reach for bigger visions.
What do you feel most proud of when it comes to Bombchel?
The deeper meaning for me is when you go out and you wear your Bombchel clothes—and a lot of our clothes come with a sticker that says who made the garment—you are in rooms where these women will never be, but you get to tell their stories. You’ve never met them, but they’ve contributed to your life or your good attitude that day, and that’s what matters to me.
What are some ways you stay motivated when you are feeling discouraged or burnt out?
I remember that I’m the voice for the women in Liberia who would never have access to this audience, and it puts my life and mission into perspective. If I don’t do my job, then Beatrice goes back to selling fish in the market, Blessing’s little brothers can’t afford tuition for school, and Louise may have to go back to an abusive husband. There’s too much at stake for me to stay feeling low.
There are dozens of start-up clothing lines in Atlanta. What do you think made yours so successful?
I think my work reflects the changing community of Atlanta. This is the best city in America to be Black, and we are home to a large refugee and first-generation American population, so it only makes sense that we would thrive here!
Do you have any advice for aspiring designers?
Scale down to start. Focus on being known for one item and make money from that one product. For me, we started out with skirts and grew from there. Be money-focused because you can’t make the impact you want without money.