Lifestyle designer, creative entrepreneur, blogger, and influencer Andrea Fenise has a mantra – but it’s not what you might expect. “I live my work, and I work to live,” she says. “Not with a hustle-bustle mentality, but by being creative every day.” Andrea has found a way to embrace her creative passions and make a living at them. Her website is a testament to her deepest interests as she blogs about personal development, motherhood, style, and travel. Her businesses are an extension of her desire to live a harmonious and balanced life. Meet this charming and stylish FACE of Memphis, Andrea Fenise!
Where did you grow up, and what was your upbringing like?
I was born and raised in Memphis; in particular North Memphis in an all-black, urban, underserved neighborhood. I was born to two teenage parents, but in spite of their struggles and challenges, I had a happy childhood. My parents had a beautiful marriage until death did them part. They were together from age 15 until my dad died at age 52.
What does it mean to be a lifestyle designer?
I believe that humans have the power to design our lives and make it whatever we want it to be. What I saw every day growing up is not the life that I live today. Early on, I escaped through fashion and through personal development. I was always teaching myself new skills. My mom used to say, “If you’re bored, you’re not creative.” I’ve lived with that my entire life. Find a way to learn something new. That’s the idea behind a lifestyle designer.
Eventually, I’d like to get into personal coaching to teach other women how to use personal development to curate every detail of their lives. For example, you may want to be a mother who works remotely in Puerto Rico. I would help you unpack all the aspects of that plan and help you come up with the steps to achieve it.
In addition to being a lifestyle designer, you are an entrepreneur. Can you tell us about that?
All of my entrepreneurial endeavors are centered on creativity. AFLD Creative is a studio that focuses on web design and branding. I use my fashion background and appreciation of aesthetics to make brands look professional and cohesive.
In Search of Our Garden is an apothecary and lifestyle resource for women of color. The idea is based on Alice Walker’s book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, in which she talks about how black women were never given the space to be creative. Historically, we’ve always worked for other people and not [been] honored for what we’ve contributed. Black women have been brilliant poets, artists, singers, and seamstresses, but they never had the space to bask in creativity. I was so inspired by that! I wanted to find a way to make that concept modern and show black women that we have the space now to do what our grandmothers never could.
You have a non-profit in the works. Can you tell us about it?
I recently bought my great-grandmother’s home in Hyde Park. I am rebuilding it and starting a non-profit to invest in the neighborhood. It’s very much a passion project for me — I want to invest in redeveloping this amazing community and make homeownership obtainable for black people in Memphis. I’m trying to attract young black professionals back into our historic black neighborhoods. The communities have so much rich history but face so many challenges.
Why is your great-grandmother such an inspiration to you?
Big Mama was strong, courageous, and a great example to me of how to live a good life. She made all her own wine, grew all her own food, kept a beautiful home, raised a family, but more importantly taught kindergarten in a segregated yet thriving neighborhood – many of the older residents still remember her as their teacher. She owned several properties, which was very unusual for the time.
Eunice Alma Harris Jones Malone was a pillar in the Hyde Park Community. She was proud to live in Hyde Park where her family roots of community service and entrepreneurship ran deep. Rebuilding her home has also inspired me to hold memories of the past and look forward to the promises of the future. I have learned so much about community and the stories of the people in Hyde Park through Big Mama’s legacy.
My great-grandmother was half-Jewish and half-black. During this time, she proudly chose to live and identify as a black woman. It says a lot about the woman she was when life could have been easier given her racially ambiguous appearance. As I learn more about her life, I have been inspired to search for more about my Jewish lineage and her family’s contributions to the city.
How did your career trajectory lead you to this point?
At age 15, I started working at a pharmacy. I went to college at MTSU and moved back to Memphis to attend pharmacy school. At the time, I thought that was what I wanted. My parents didn’t pressure me, but I was the first generation of my family to go to college – they really wanted me to be a doctor to break the cycle. But I always wanted to do something creative, and I found pharmacy school to be so stressful – and boring! I only looked forward to clinical consultations when I got to talk to people. I dropped out of pharmacy school with one year left. My dad was so mad! My mom didn’t talk to me for six months.
I started working in fashion by opening up a shoe boutique called Style Junkie. It was a pop-up concept in an art gallery in the Edge District, Marshall Arts. After that, I started designing and sewing clothes. I did that for about five years. When I had my son, I slowed down a little and transitioned into the two brands I have now.
What appeals to you most about being an entrepreneur in general?
Freedom. Freedom to wake up every morning and choose to be my best self, whether I am working for myself or for a client. Being a mother influences every part of my life, so having the freedom to be home with my son and present in my daughter’s life is so important to me. There’s nothing that I’ve missed in her life because entrepreneurship has given me the ability to schedule a lunch break to attend a school program or leave early to take her to ballet.
I work hard – but I’d rather work hard for myself than to give someone else my time and not feel valued or honored.
What has been your biggest challenge so far, and how have you met it?
Capital! I have all the dreams, but I don’t have the money. I currently have a crowd-funding campaign to rebuild Big Mama’s house because I don’t have the capital or the resources. The community has been so supportive, though. I’ve partnered with several small businesses, including The Eclectic Eye. The owner, Robbie Weinberg, made a great donation – it made me so happy that she was willing to invest.
What do you do each morning to get the day started on the right foot?
Running is one of the first things I do every morning. It is important to do something for myself after I spend time with my kids. Running is great for my mental health; it allows me to be present and calms my mind.
What’s your best piece of advice?
To be selfish – not in a negative way, but to take care of yourself. Do what you love to do, and be intentional about becoming your best self. We are able to give so much more to the world when we take care of ourselves.
Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Chocolate-covered raisins, my contact lenses, and travel.
Thank you, Andrea!
To meet more inspiring Memphis women, visit our FACES archives.