For Emmalyn Love Fully, our NJMOMpreneur of the week, fashion has always been a source of happiness and fun, but it went on the back burner when she pursued a more “practical” job as a pediatric nurse. But her first love of fashion continued on her blog, where she would write about styling tips, and later on Instagram, by posting photos of her outfits. As she built her followers and began creating styling content on YouTube, Emmalyn knew that her dream of owning a boutique could become a reality. In 2017, she launched Emmalyn Love, an online store with women’s clothing, accessories, and unique, handmade pieces from her home country of Liberia to highlight young, fun, and sophisticated finds that only look expensive. We sat down to chat with Emmalyn about how she juggles two jobs, how she changed up her looks to reflect the current WFH climate and the scheduling secret to making stay-at-home days with a five-year-old work.
You wear a lot of different hats as a nurse, mom, fashion blogger, and online boutique owner. Tell us about your family and how you juggle it all.
I was born in Liberia in Africa, and I came to the United States when I was 11 years old, and now I live in Burlington, NJ, with my 5-year-old son Ethan. I’m divorced, so I’ve had to adjust to life as a single mom juggling my nursing job and starting a new business for the last three years. During that time, I learned two things—don’t let anyone take anything away from you and make sure you love your job with your whole heart because when things get tough, it can be a positive outlet. Since I enjoy working on my fashion brand and online shop, it has helped me heal.
What inspired you to start Emmalyn Love?
Fashion is something I’ve always loved—it makes me happy. Growing up, everyone came to me for fashion advice, and I would pull different outfits together for my friends. I worked in retail at Forever 21 and Bloomingdale’s, but coming from an immigrant family, they believed that I should go to school and get a “real job.” Because of that, I became a pediatric nurse, and I have been one for five years now. But I still really wanted to do something with fashion, so I started a blog and posted on Instagram, and it took off. After that success, I began to make YouTube videos with styling tips and pulling together looks that became very popular. I wanted people to realize that style is not what you buy, but how you wear it. I always knew I wanted to open an online boutique and formed relationships in the industry with people who could help me. In 2017, I was able to make my dream come true with Emmalyn Love offering a selection of clothing and accessories that I love, plus my own Made in Liberia Collection.
What makes your style and shop unique?
I strive for a more affordable style, but I still want it to look expensive—”bougie on a budget,” as I like to say. My go-to look is monochromatic. I prefer a beautiful white dress instead of a yellow one and with the right shoes and bag—the whole look works even better. If I am using colors, I focus on choosing pieces with fabrics like cotton instead of spandex because the material is breathable and looks better on. On my site, all my items are reasonably priced, and to style them, I mix and match them with Walmart or Target accessories or other pieces. It’s really about the mix—I like to show my followers that I can stretch a look and get my money’s worth from a blouse, dress, or set.
Tell us about your Made in Liberia Collection.
I would describe it as an African, younger generation look that can go anywhere and looks unique. All the pieces are handmade in Liberia, with fabrics from there. I always go to to make the collection personally, but unfortunately, I couldn’t go this year due to Covid-19. Besides offering something different, they serve a purpose—the money made from these items goes to a good cause, it empowers women and sends girls to school to educate them in my home country.
How are you balancing parenting, nursing, your business, and the pandemic?
It’s been tough, but I learned to prioritize at the earlier stages of the pandemic. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed and confused and almost broke down. The saying, “You never know what you are capable of until you are in a situation,” is so true—it either breaks you or makes you stronger, and the pandemic made me stronger. Being a mom is always my top priority, so I had to make sure my son was okay first and come up with a plan for homeschooling. After my son, my nursing job came next, since these are challenging times for families, and they depend on nurses. I wanted to help as much I could, even if it was only once a week. My business had to come last, and surprisingly, I ended up doing more work since I knew I couldn’t put as much time in it as needed. I started doing block scheduling—I plan my day to the last second, and it makes a huge difference. So, in the end, it was homeschooling first, work if I had to go in and to create content for my business in between.
How did you pivot your business once the pandemic started?
I wasn’t online too much at the beginning of this because I wanted to be sensitive to everything going on. I took a backseat to even selling on my shop, and then one of my girlfriends told me that people are still shopping online. So, I went back on, and I made more sales at this time than I have in the past. I am focusing more on work from home, cozy at home, loungewear looks and creating content around that. I’m also taking photos at home and marketing things differently.
What local businesses are you supporting now?
Before and during the pandemic, I’ve been supporting Pateso Restaurant—it’s Liberian owned, and it’s in Willingboro, NJ. I also am a fan of Lisa Nicole Rosado from the website We Are Women Owned, which is a site that brings together women business owners.
What advice do you have for starting a business?
Just go for it and do your research—I bought a lot of online books, and I watched YouTube videos and connected with people in the business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help because you can’t do everything. I realized I needed more help with taxes, finances, and marketing, and I now have an accountant, virtual assistant, photographer, and model. But I think the most important lesson I learned was that I realized that it’s better to try and fail than not to try at all.