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In early 2018 Monique Santos created Wake Up Rise, an apparel company designed to empower black people to display pride in their melanin, culture, and history. 

Wake Up Rise started with a black excellence collection, focusing on educators, professionals, entertainers, and more. The brand’s offerings continue to expand. Check out our Q & A with founder Monique, discussing her entrepreneurial journey.

What is one of your favorite things about running your company?

My ability to be creative—to speak my mind—and say what’s on my chest. *looks down and points to sweatshirt* This one is “Black Queen. Who Gon’ Check Me?” That’s the goal of the company. To say what’s on our mind that we can’t necessarily say in front of other audiences and be unapologetic about it.

To see so many people embrace what we’re trying to do and actually want to display it themselves. We’ve even had some great influencers like the daughter from the Bernie Mac Show (almost certain it was Nessa) wearing my shirts. It’s really been a great year.

What is a challenge that you face in running your company?

Even though I’m a one woman team, I have people who help me here and there. The biggest challenge I face is running my business by myself. On a day-to-day level it’s all me, so when it comes to creating the designs and getting them uploaded to my store—and even the social media and marketing— it’s a lot to say the least and I do run two other businesses. It’s very challenging, however, it’s worth it.

One of the things I’m learning now is that sometimes you really have to take a step back and see what it is that you envision and then realign to tackle those goals. We took a break from promotions but now we’re jumping back in with arrivals. We have a team now (but she said she was by herself…) so it’s been kind of challenging running it by myself (but…that confused muppet gif) and learning that I need help and getting help is where I am right now.

 

If you had to describe being an entrepreneur in three words, what words would you choose?

Exhilarating. Freedom. Opportunity.

Who has had the most influence on your growth as an entrepreneur and why?

I didn’t want to sound like that person, but honestly I’d say myself. I believe that we have the ability within us to do whatever we want or need to do in life. When I feel that I can’t push any further, I take a breath and push forward—somehow, someway. I have this go-getter spirit about me where I’m my own cheerleader. People’s lives are busy so you might not have someone on you everyday. You have to be your own cheerleader, your own go-getter and I honestly believe that I’ve been that person influencing me (she low or high-key arrogant lol).

However, I can say the people who genuinely support me, they have influenced me to push forward. There are times where I want to give up (this weird cuz now that I have to write it, I see where she was rambling and repeating). I know what the purpose is of what I’m doing and I’m like, “this is a lot of work.” But they’re like, no we want your black queen t-shirt or your melanin is poppin t-shirt or your melanin AF mug. That pushes me to continue this so I really appreciate the support I’ve been given.

Building a business is a serious undertaking. What keeps you motivated?

My people. My goal in life is to help my culture and my people. I see the disadvantages. I see so many disheartening things in my community. While I feel like Wake Up Rise is just a step in that direction I have so many plans for the future.