Vixen Chat: Dominique Penn Talks Philanthropy and Activism
NFL wife Dominique Penn creates a new status quo for the First Ladies of the NBA. The mother of two is a diligent diva who has created a brand of her own by incorporating motherhood, activism and fashion.
Everything Mrs. Penn Loves is more than just a blog and a mommy shop, it’s a lifestyle portal aiming to help moms find amazing and affordable items for themselves and their babies. The femme philanthropist has made a name for herself on the web and is becoming a role model for women of all ages. She has become a pillar for black entrepreneurs in America, building her brand and growing as a mother, wife and community activist. Her own non-profit organization, Mrs. Penn’s Open Heart Foundation, is dedicated to helping underprivileged families in need of assistance. Looks like Dominique may be gunning for Mommy of the Year.
Vixen: What is Everything Mrs. Penn Loves all about?
Dominique Penn: My brand is basically to channel moms by finding out their likes and their dislikes, while also finding comfortable clothes and better solutions for their children. I started Everything Mrs. Penn Loves on the premise of me not being able to find cute things for my sons. It’s so hard to find nice, cool, comfortable clothes for kids, especially boys.
When you go into boutiques per say, they are usually predominantly little girl. You never really go into boutiques and see little fly stuff for boys too and I kind of wanted to bring that to the Encino area because we always have to drive out. The nearest boutique from us is in West Hollywood, which is like a 25-30 mile drive. I really wanted to bring that to the area we live in because I wanted people to be comfortable with purchasing items from my store.
Vixen: What would you say is the next step in regards to expanding your brand?
Dominique Penn: Within the next five to seven years I plan for the brand to become EMPL, which is the acronym for “Everything Mrs. Penn Loves.” In addition to that, I am working on my children’s line, so I can start filtering some of my own items through my store. Of course I still have vendors like Young Versace and Cavalli that are in my store, but I actually want to bring a nice, cool, comfortable line to the area. I’m working on a tween line because there’s always that gap when children are about 10 or 11 years old where they’re wearing size two and three—that’s adult sizes, so they’re wearing ripped jeans and a 10 or 11 year old doesn’t need to be wearing ripped jeans. You have to keep them a child and I feel like when they’re getting older and their bodies are maturing they have to fit into these adult-like clothes. I want to also make something that’s comfortable for the parents and for tweens.
Vixen: Including clothes, what other products do you sell?
Dominique Penn: We carry a variety of toys, hair products, accessories and dresses for moms. We carry the line "Lush," for women to purchase things for themselves and we have things you can purchase for a baby shower. I kind of wanted to make the store like a one stop shop. We also offer a delivery services for customers who aren’t able to pick up their purchased items. We really are catering our business to customer service and we exude that to our customers. We are making sure that we are going above and beyond, so we can make sure we keep our clientele.
Vixen: What is the Mrs. Penn Open Heart Foundation?
Dominique Penn: When I talk about my organization a lot of people want me to narrow it down and it’s really hard because I developed Open Heart so I can be an open heart to all realms. I’m not just helping the homeless; I’m helping the sick, the people that need aid. We are just a stepping stone that’s going in to help everyone in the community. I grew up in South Central Englewood area, so I do a lot of work back home. We just did a hashtag “lunch bag” where you buy paper bags and provide lunches for the homeless and you hashtag “lunch bag.”
Vixen: What other charitable events have you partaken in?
Dominique Penn: Last year, for my birthday I didn’t really want to do the club thing, so we went to downtown Tampa and there were so many homeless people out there. We came across a home for women that were homeless and abused and things like that, so we passed out lunches to them. We stopped by a salvation army and gave lunches to them. Last year, we also did our first turkey drive. I gave 200 people turkeys. I got a Uhaul all by myself and I gave our turkeys—there was a line all the way around the corner. Another truck had ran out of food..so we went there too and as soon as we pulled up people were clapping and cheering.
I collected 5,000 canned goods amongst three high schools and I raffled off $500 just to do that. We gave away over 5,000 canned goods plus turkeys straight out of my pocket without funding, without my husband. I feel like people can do it instead of talking about it if they really want to. I’m really passionate about it. When you go into your pockets it is hard when you want to touch somebody because we still have to stay afloat. I’m talking to people so I can hopefully get some sponsors this year, so that I can help out more in the community.
Starting April 13 I will be collecting prom dresses or gowns so that on May 3 I can go into the inner-city and distribute prom dresses to girls that may not be able to afford their own dress. The girls will write an essay and the person that sends the best essay in will receive a rented car service, make-up, shoes and a dress. It will be like their Cinderella moment.
Vixen: What inspires you to do all that you do?
Dominique Penn: What inspires me is my mom and my kids. My mom was such a hard-worker. She’s just so driven and well educated that she’s always been my backbone and support system. She’s always told me to never give up on anything and to finish it no matter what. Just to see her—being a single parent, raising a young black woman in South Central—to see her make it, I know that I can too. My children are my drive. I want my children to be able to look back and say, “my mom was independent.”
Vixen: Amongst all the community work that you do, do you also do lecturing at schools or community centers?
Dominique Penn: My mom is a teacher, so last year I went to Narbonne High and we played a game called Shark Tank. They had to come up with business plans and I was the shark tank. They had to pitch their stories to me to see if I would invest in their companies. Sometimes when you give lectures kids don’t listen, especially high school students, so I wanted to take a different approach and teach them about owning their own businesses. We live in a society today that you don’t have to work for anyone. You can own your own business if you have the right tools. I liked the interaction with the high school kids because now maybe they’ll know what to do when they graduate. Hopefully they will choose to go to college and graduate. I chose the working route, I didn’t think college was for me, but it gets harder to go back when you get older. I use my life experiences to educate these kids and let them know that if they have all the opportunity and there’s no bills to be paid, then you take those opportunities because it’s had to look back and try again.
Vixen: What advise would give to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Dominique Penn: First off, I would tell them to make sure they have a plan. You can’t execute anything without a plan. You need a business plan. You need to find your niche and run with that first. People have so many ideas and sometimes they get scattered and you lose focus because you’re trying to do everything at once and sometimes you get unmotivated. You have to start off small first. Don’t be in such a rush to get to the top, start at the bottom and then work your way up. Also thoroughly do your research and make sure you can execute your plan on all levels possible before you jump out into the world. The world is harsh. You have to make sure that you cover every aspect of anything that you’re working on. And definitely believe in yourself. We all get unmotivated; I know I’ve had my downs, but if you always stay determined and stay motivated, you can achieve anything. People who’ve given up don’t make it.
Vixen: Who was Dominique before she became Mrs. Penn?
Dominique Penn: Dominique was a 21-year-old girl in nursing school. I’m from LA, so I was living my life enjoying myself and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. I met my husband at 21 and I had to mature very fast because I became pregnant. I made sacrifices for my family. My life started with my kids. They’re my motivation and that’s how everything started.
I just want people to really know that I am a really cool, down to earth person. I keep it real at all times. I think that if more people can unite and stick together, the opportunities are endless. A lot of people are very selfish and I just want to incorporate my love into everything that I do.
Vixen: Explain the process of getting your organization and company started. What were some struggles you had?
Dominique Penn: I didn’t have a plan. After I had my second child, I was like “what is the next step? What am I going to do?” I started off by talking to different people and seeing the different products that were out. It was hard to get people engaged in what I had to offer. You see somebody on social media talking about a thousand dollar shoe and they get a million likes and here I am talking about female empowerment and I get one like, so it is hard. I did face some obstacles, but I didn’t give up either and now I’m here today working with Anne and talking to VIBE.