Award-winning entrepreneur Yolanda Perkins, founder and CEO of Undies by BlendiTone, a line of underwear for children of color is on a mission to empower black kids.
Her journey to success came with a lot of hurdles but she held on strongly and didn’t give up even while contemplating suicide. Applaudably today, she has been able to rise from it all, and transform her life around. She is dedicated to promoting representation for Black children as well as being an advocate for the restoration of former prison inmates.
The happily married mom of two in 2017 earned her Ph.D. from Nova Southeastern University.
“At 24, being faced with the realization that I was going to prison was devastating for me and my family,” a tearful Perkins told “Good Morning America.” “I felt so alone. I felt like I was the only one in the world who made a bad mistake. I didn’t feel like my life was worth living. I thought my life was over.”
In 2004, Perkins was caught stealing credit cards from a workplace mail room. At the time, she was a senior at University of Central Florida (UCF), preparing for graduation.
Perkins plead guilty to possession of stolen mail and was sentenced to three years in federal prison. She was expelled from UCF and her requests to be on probation, or enter a military boot camp, were denied.
On her 25th birthday, she was handcuffed and transferred via Con Air to the Federal Correctional Institution in Coleman, Florida, where she finished out the rest of her sentence. After the three year sentence, she tried to get a job but was unsuccessful.
She informed her case manager who told Perkins, “The closest that you will get to working in somebody’s office is if you are cleaning it.”
Perkins said she would never forget that comment, it ultimately pushed her to become the person she is today.
Yolanda, a recipient of the NAACP and BeyGood Impact Award has the Beyonce Effect to thank which amazingly catapulted her children’s underwear line to the spotlight.
“I see the reaction from my kids when they see faces that actually look like theirs on their underwear, not a Disney character that doesn’t look like them. It’s a sense of empowerment, and I want to give that to Black kids all over the world with this line,” she explained.
It all started early 2019 when she and her then 6-year old daughter were shopping for underwear at a major retail store. Unimpressed by the available options with unrelatable characters, Yolanda’s daughter made her feelings known and that sparked the business idea.
“She said ‘I want something with someone that looks like me on it. None of these characters look like me,’ and she was right,” Yolanda said. From there, Yolanda began to do market research and had samples made with children’s characters that looked more like her own children.
Yolanda had dabbled in entreprenuership before and in fact already started several businesses at that point. As a former federal prison inmate, she knew the only way to liberation was through self-employment. She decided to test run sales through social media and was surprised at how quickly she sold out.
Despite the success, Yolanda realized she didn’t have the funding to compete with big retail brands. “I would see their packaging and presentation and I knew I didn’t have enough savings to keep up. It paralyzed me for a while even though I had two boxes left to sell,” she admitted.
But luck shone months later in late 2020, when a mentor invited her to a grant writing for business workshop. By then she had heard about the BeyGood Impact Award for Black-owned businesses and knew she wanted to apply.
Just a year later, Yolande is no stranger in the entreprenuer world and has since gone viral. With startup funding and high visibility in tow, Yolanda says she’s ready to tap into the market and build her brand into an agent for representation and restoration.
She comments, “My vision is to bring all production and distribution in-house so I can give job opportunities to returning citizens like me. I understand how hard it can be fighting against that stigma when you’ve made some bad decisions in your life, and I want to be able to give people the second chance they need to move on in a positive direction.”