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BANKI - I'm Genuine & Caring... And I Mean Business


How did you come up with the name Banki Designs?

So started at birth. My mom was pregnant. And I have two older brothers. One of them wanted a boy the other one wanted a girl. And the one who said I'm going to be a girl had the chance to name me, but he couldn't really talk properly at that time. So he said Banki.


Oh, nice. That's not the name on your certificate. Right. That's the nickname for you.

Yes, they didn't. My parents didn't put it on my birth certificate.


You built a brand off of that. I mean, nobody really knows your real name except for family, I'm guessing.

And corporate Canada.


Yeah, I guess so (laughter). Let's talk about your upbringing. What was it like?

It was good. Um, I was born in Trinidad in Chaguanas.


Chaguanas… Ah you Trini women.

I stayed there till I was about six years old. And then I moved to Grenada. It turns out that my mom, my dad, my brothers, my sisters, everyone is Grenadian except me.


You're the only born Trini in the family?

They were living in Trinidad at that time.


Okay. So basically, you have Grenadian heritage but born in Trinidad.

Exactly. And at age nine, I came here.





How was the transition like?

It was interesting. I would say within the first week or two, I got into a fight. It was something I really didn't understand. I was playing on the playground. And it's my first time going on the slides and all of that stuff because I didn't have that back home. And I must have went on it too fast. I went down and I hit this girl's brother on his back as we're going down the slide, but he wasn't hurt by it or anything like that. We were just laughing it off. But the sister who saw it, got upset by it, and wanted to fight me. She was in grade six. I was in grade three.


Whoa. And how did that end?

The whole school came out to watch this fight. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have any friends or anything.


Your brothers were not around?

My brother was in an older grade. One of them. The other one was in middle school. And he goes yo Banki, you got this, but this is what you do. Go around the corner, when she comes around, punch her then continue running. (laughter)


(whispering) Did you do that?

(laughter) I punched and continued running because it was too much of them. It was like her and her friends. It was just me. Right?


Oh, okay. Okay. I thought it was just her. It was her and her friends. Then, I'm not mad at you for that. You did what you had to do. And that was during the first week or two?

Yes.


And the next day, they forgot about it?

The next day, I had to write lines and my parents were called in.


Oh, the school got involved. They couldn't get involved when the fight was about to happen. They decided to get involved afterwards. After you defended yourself from a mob?

Yes.


That's different.

Um, my teacher was a black teacher at that time. He said I had to do lines and all this stuff. But what he told my parents was that he was proud of me for defending myself.


That's dope. Yeah, it's good to have positive adults in the school setting because you see what's going on nowadays. I mean, you see how that could affect the children.

That teacher, Mr. Cook. I don't know where he is right now. I don't know if he's dead or alive. But he's been in like... I've been seeing him throughout different schools. I seen through middle school, high school... Not high school, but high school for one of my cousins. So he's also been teachers for like my cousin.


He was present.That’s good. I like it. I want to know growing up, what did you want to be?

Growing up? I wanted to be an actress at one point.





That explains a lot (laughter)

(laughter) There's one point I wanted to be an actress. Growing up, I was always surrounded around business owners. In Trinidad, my aunt owned the convenience store. And after school, I'll always be there.I'm always seeing that interaction. Living in Grenada. My parents had came up to Canada before me. And I was living with my grandmother for a short time. And my grandmother had a rum shop. So I'm always seeing, you know, business owners and stuff like that, right? Um, in Canada, my dad has his own construction business and needed me to help him with his bookkeeping and all that stuff so I’ve always been in that environment, right. Um, at one point, there was a point where I wanted to go and do something in business, but I didn't know what. Towards high school, I went for human resources management because I figured, if I'm going to go into business, I'll need to know how to manage people. Right. But that's just like one part of it. A huge part of my growing up has more been in the arts. There was a part of me that like business but it wasn't evident to me.It was just Oh, that's interesting. I'll just go there to test it out. But the majority of the time, I was more focused around the arts. So I designed my yearbook cover at West Humber. I was on the yearbook team as well. Um, what else did I do? I did dancing and stuff in school.


Can you still do it?

(whisper) No (laughter)


(laughter)

I need practice. Now, I'm, like, done. I was in a Spanish dance team doing merengue dancing. That was nice. Um, I also did a lot of art. So as far as I can remember, I can always draw. I can still draw and look at you and draw you right. But I can only do it if I'm looking at you. Like, I can't do it off my memory.


So take a picture.

Yeah.


Nice. So you could draw?

I can draw. Yes.


We’re going to have to talk.

But it's not like sketching, drawing. It's more like drawing without the sketching.


That's what I'm saying. We’re going to have to talk. I have businesses that needs… We’re going to have to talk.

So I've always been able to draw. I have always been interested in anything art related, basically, right. Um, in terms of graphic design, how it came up… I really just walked into it. I was doing it in high school a little bit. In high school, I was volunteering as a journalist for Your Time Toronto, which was a magazine that was short lived, but it had so much potential. I was doing interviews and stuff like that there. There was a guy there, Sheldon, who's still my friend today, who was the graphic designer for that magazine. And he mentored me, basically. He also mentored my brother. And my brother's really good at it, too. So it became like a kind of like a family dynamic for my brother and me. He does graphic designing, I do graphic designing. When it came to me and my brother, I decided to go to business with it. Because when we started doing it, it was fun. And my brother's a DJ. So a lot of people within our environment was DJs and promoters. So when I started doing it, I was like, you know, my parents basement doing parties, like party flyers, you know. And that's pretty much how it started. I moved to New York for a bit. And again, in that role, when I was in New York, I was traveling all over to like a booking manager for artists, like Soca artists and Reggae artists, playwriters and stuff like that. So, again, I did like the flyers and stuff for some of the promotions. And it was again, entertainment. Right? And then when I came back to Canada, I said, You know what, I needed to do something different with my life, because what was happening wasn't... It wasn't really... I made a lot of wrong decisions, like, you know. And I felt like I didn't know where the rest of my life was going. I was just there.





Sorry for cutting you off. But you said you made a lot of wrong decisions.

Yes.


When you say a lot of wrong decisions, are you talking about in terms of business?

In terms of life choices.


So we’re talking about personal, or we’re talking about…?

Like, I didn't finish college, right? Um, I was at a position where the job I had in New York, I came back to Toronto, because the lady had stopped paying me and I didn’t have my papers. I was doing like call center jobs all my life. So now I'm in a position where I am back to Canada, and I'm like, now what am I going to do? I could go back and finish human resources. You know, I've been working since I was 15 years old. Started working, you know, because I wanted to wear nice things. (laughter)


(Laughter)

Yeah, so I started at the KFC call center. It was really cool. I started working from call centers. Gone into working for the government. Gone into working for the government union. And it came at a point in my life where I had a moment of self reflection. Self reflection of experiences I've had throughout all my experiences while working, right. And the one thing that occurred to me was that I always felt that as a black woman, I've always had to fight for the roles I've had in the positions that I've had in all of those work experiences. Right. So at that point, when I was having the moment of reflection, I wasn't working. I was at a point in my life where similar to when I came back from New York. I was like, where do I go from here? You know, and the only thing that made sense is to do the business I've always been doing on the side. So while I was working all my jobs, I've always done my graphic designing on the side, as my side hustle. And the only thing that made sense at that point was to make it my full time hustle, right. But there was also something else inside of me that was bothering me. It was my experiences. Throughout all my jobs that I've always had was that I felt that as a black person, you have to work twice as hard to satisfy the corporate life. Maybe satisfy is the wrong word. But you have to work twice as hard to prove yourself, when a person of another race don't have to go through that struggle.


So basically, you have to work twice as hard to actually be in a position that you deserve to be in.

Exactly right. And with that, now, I was thinking of my son, because a huge part of this reflection was that his life is on my shoulders. Right? Whatever I do, from here on has to be for him. I can't mess it up moving forward. Right, because his life is on my shoulder. And then I thought about the opportunities he would have if he finishes education, go into corporate world, how he may not stand a chance. And then I said, as black people, we need to be more educated in the way we do business. Because only chance we have as a community... If I don't see my son having this chance, if I look at my family members who have done the corporate world and didn't succeed at it... I'm looking at my friends going through the same thing. I'm always hearing the same type of feedback. You know, one of my brothers is a barber. So I'll go in there occasionally into the barber shop, and I'll hear the complaints that men have, you know, and I think of my son, you know what I'm saying? So, basically, now, I felt that we need as a community, know more about business, know how to go about business the right way. And if we're more educated about making the right decisions in business than our businesses will last longer. And my son will grow up in a world where he won't have to rely on corporate. And then it also makes sense. It's how I can leave back the legacy for him. So I started a Facebook group. It just started as a Facebook group. But the name Business Takeout, I had the domain name from before my son was even born. Um, I had it because when me and my child’s father were living together, I used to always be on that site, Media takeout. And I was like, Hey, there isn't a Business Takeout. You know? So I reserved a domain name. And I've had it for all these years. I tried to sell it on Go Daddy's but no one wanted to buy it. So I just had the domain name. Right, but I've never did anything with it. And when I said you know what, I'm going to do a Facebook group. Right? And yeah, I just called it Business Takeout and not thinking that I'm actually going to make it into a business. I started it with the intention of just everyone who are business owners sharing their experiences and learning from each other. Right? And today is a not for profit.





That's pretty good. I mean, you started small. And look at the platform that you created. So you have two businesses?

Yes.


What are the challenges you experienced as a single mother and managing 2 businesses?

Spending time with my son. Really, and truly, there are times when my customers are upset. But I have to stop and focus on my son.


Yeah and that's very important for you, right?

Yes. So he has a lot of things to tell me about the things that he's excited about. I want to take notes of what he's excited about, because I want to know how I can help him with that passion. I can't ignore him. So I have to, you know, no matter what's going on, he's saying something to me, I have to stop and listen. Because I want to know. If something that's interesting to him or something that amazes him, I want to know what it is.


Out of all the experiences you've had in business, which of these experiences do you wish for your children to experience? And which would you like for them to avoid?

So in business or in life?


Start with business then let's go life.

Okay. In business, what I don't want my child or children to experience?


What you want them to experience and what you don't want them to experience. Share experiences that you had that you would like for them to experience and experiences that you had that you don’t want them to experience.

Okay. So I want them to experience milestones, maybe just the ability of setting a goal and achieving it and working towards it and achieving it. Right? Because I think with business takeout what I started doing was setting goals that no one else knew about. But I had a timeline that I set for myself when I had to achieve it. And then I wanted to do a Business Takeout event, I did an event. I wanted to put up a website. I'm a web designer, so (laughter) you know, it needed articles, I wrote articles. So I'm setting the goals and I'm just accomplishing it. You know, I wanted to do the podcast, I wanted to have my own podcast show. Just different things and getting the motion in there. So I would say I wanted to experience the ability to feel accomplished. What I don't want him to experience... Stress, you know, that comes with business. But I know that's unavoidable. But, you know, there's a lot of stress when all eyes are on you, or at least you feel that way. When your phone's ringing off. Like my phone will start ringing off from like, 8-9 o'clock in the morning. And then it's not only ringing off. It’s WhatsApp on top of that, and (laughter)


(laughter)

And then it's like, oh, I have all these clients. So you know, the stress of it all, and trying to manage it all, because then, managing people as well, dealing with people. That might be challenging as well, right. I've had an admin assistant, where she just bailed on me last minute. Right. And it's like, now I gotta do like two jobs. And it wasn't planned. And I have workloads you know, yeah. So then I have a podcast show and all of that stuff. So it's like those type of things like


Those are circumstances that take place and it’s beyond your control. And you wish for your son, not to deal with it.

Yeah, um, you see, when it comes to business, though, I think it's all a learning experience. Because one thing I need to learn about that is, manage my time better. I have a bunch of clients, manage my time better. No one to get help, right. And notice, Why is it taking me longer to do this assignment then another assignment. You know if there's something in that assignment that I find more challenging, what is that? And how do I minimize that experience? In terms of business, I like business. So it's really hard for me to say what I don't want him to experience because I think it's all part of it. I would say, with that, is people that are not for you. That would engage in business for their own benefit, but to also like, shut you down. And it's just watching for who those types of people are and knowing who they are, basically. So that, I would say maybe that I would say, you know, to stay away, knowing who your haters are, and just keep them close, but don't mingle with them too much (laughter).


All right. Same question but about life now.

Life... For my son not to experience systematic racism, right. Just racism in general.


Right, you know, as black folks, we know that's still gonna happen.

And here's the thing...


Living in a white supremacist world or should I say controlled by white supremacy, it’s still gonna happen.

Exactly. I grew up in rexdale. Right, right. So I grew up in a time where there was gunshots every week, back and forth. I don't even know what was going on. Gunshots at a funeral. Pure foolishness, right? And then one of the things I told myself was that I don't want my son to live in that environment. Right. So I'm out in Newmarket now. And now I bring my son into an environment that's majority white. Now, he moved from one problem to another. The first problem if he stayed in Toronto, most likely, I'm not saying that depends on the area in Toronto. There's a possibility that he might be a statistic of gun violence or whatever, right? And then you've come to Newmarket. And okay, there's no gun violence. You know, people don't get shot up here. But then you've got to worry about, you know, racist people. So you know, him not understanding why they don't like us. Right? However, I experienced racism within my first two weeks. Okay. So see that fight. I got into with that girl, and she was like...


Yeah, she was white.

Yeah. But like, two weeks after that fight, in the washroom, I came out and she was washing her hands. She called me a nigger. And she wiped her hands and left. And I didn't know what that meant. I had just came...


You were 9.

I was 9 years old and I just came to Canada. And back home, in Grenada...


You didn't know what it meant.

I didn’t know what it meant. So I didn't get it until I was older. But, you know...


But it stays with you.

It stays. It stays. And for him, he knows what racism is because nowadays, technology and everything you know.


Exactly.

So he knows what it is. But he hasn't experienced it himself. Like it didn't hit him.


Yes. It didn’t come knocking.

Exactly. So I wish for him to stay away from that. I think it's harder for men. When I was like, I would say about like 12-13 I was walking home from school and I saw this one kid I went to school with who was in one of my classes. And he was getting beat up by two cops, but they weren't in uniform. They were undercover. He was getting beat up and like we went to him. It's like two grown ass men. We went towards them like, Hey, what are you guys doing? Like why you guys beating him up? And they're like they're the police or whatever. And I'm like, yo, show me your badge and they just ignored me and went on their way. And when his dad called the police, they said they thought he was someone else. You know, it just didn't make no sense and that was at Eglinton and Keele area growing up. You know, when you see stuff like that. I don't want my son to experience it because that was probably Jermaine's first real experience with racism and it was from authorities that he was built to respect, you know, like he was brought up to say, you know, respect the police and we're here to serve you. And his first experience was the police is not here to serve me. They're here to kick my ass. You know?


Shit. What about a good experience you want for your son?

(laughter)


I just need something. I need something to uplift me. I need something nice. I need to hear something good. What's a good thing that you've expressed you would like for him to experience?

I want him to experience love. I want him to experience family and have family life. I want him to experience success.


I’m going to get in your business a little bit.

You’ve been up in my business (laughter)


Yeah but I’m going to get a little deeper in your business now. How’s dating for you?

Sucks. Especially since COVID


So, um, explain. What has it been like? You haven't been meeting anybody? or the consistency has not been...

Yeah, so I had a bad breakup with my child father. But I was like 10 years with him. And since then, relationships really sucked. I moved in with this one guy. It was good at first. And then when I moved in with him, he was like a different person. And I was like, okay, that didn't work out. And then after that, I was like, You know what, I just need a break.


So you took a break for yourself?

Yes.


How long has it been?

I would say about four years now.


So you still on that break?

Yeah, well, I can go into relationship anytime I want. Right?


Are you dating since that break?

Dating off and on. You know, I'll start talking to someone and say, this is not going anywhere. I'm wasting my time and I'll just exit. I haven't been in a serious relationship in about 4 years.


Alright, question for you on that. I'm pretty sure looking out, you can tell basically what was wrong about these other people that made the relationship not work.

I know that growing up... Okay... My child father... Childhood love... That's him right? Um, but after him I didn't properly heal from that. Then I went into a relationship that end up being the same type of problems, just different face, different person, but the same type of problem. So then after I said I needed to take time out and really spend time to really see you know, what type of man I want and all of that stuff. But I end up not focusing on that. I end up just focusing on business and work and all of that stuff.


So that's what it was. So it's basically the whole business side of everything. What kind of man are you looking for?

Someone who’s loyal. Yeah, loyalty, trust, all of that stuff. Someone who's kind and considerate. Someone who is financially stable, family oriented. Who is ambitious, right. I like the Cookie and what's his name? The Lucius? The power couple.


You want someone established or on his way to becoming established.

Yeah. I want someone that I have commonalities with, you know, um, so, you know, that type of thing. Right. The power couple. I think a lot of people don't really think about what they actually want. A lot of people will start with what they don't want, but not knowing what they actually want. And I think that's the key is really looking at yourself. I looked at past relationships, and I looked at the role I played in it.



That's very true. And we went on a tangent here. There are a lot of cautionary tales that are given when you have to start a business. Like people are basically telling you, Oh, this can happen. This can happen. Sort of a way of scaring people to show that they might lose a lot of money. I want to do something different here with you. Can you give your account of your best and most memorable moments or experiences while starting your business?

Just starting it. When I'm designing, I'm in my own zone. So every time I design a website, or a flyer or whatnot, I'm always in my own zone. Right? Um, it's more of I don't know if it's therapeutical, but I enjoy it. So like my best time... For Business Takeout... I like when I just started the podcast. Right? I thought that was good. because it was always been a challenge for me to get in front of a camera. Right? So getting in front of a camera was a big accomplishment for me. Let me just see what else. What's the question again?


Basically, what were some of the best and most memorable experiences you had when starting your business?

When starting my business, I would say designing my own website. It's harder for me to do my own designs for myself. Easier for me to do for others. But doing it for myself is more challenging.


Because you’re highly critical, right?

Yeah. So just doing that part. But um, that was my second sight, though. So the very first one. Back in 2007... Banki Designs have been around for quite a while. It's been around since 2003 (laughter). Designing the second site was memorable, but the name, the logo design, just deciding on the logo. I think that was a good part as well. See, when I started it, I was like, in my early 20s. And I was at my brother's house, and I was bored. And I went in front of the computer. I wasn't doing graphics at that point. I mean, I did it in high school and stuff like that. And I was in front of the computer at his house and he was doing it. And I played around with it. And I was on it for hours like literally like... It was like half the day, I'm on the computer. And I'm like Oh this is so cool. And yeah, it started from there. So I guess it was at that point I'm like okay, this is what I want to do. Right? Um, so yeah, I guess just doing it. I can't really picture like all the most best moment. That's like a hard question for me I don't know why. (laughter)


I ask the hard questions. That's what I do. (laughter)

Just coming up with the name Banki Designs, it was just like that. There was no thought against it. It wasn't like I had any other name options. This is what it’s going to be and that’s it. See. Banki, growing up, I hated the name. Right. I liked Sheares. If you google my name you'll see like there's museums and bridges. There is the 42nd president of Singapore, something like that. His name is my name but backwards. I knew from 2003 that when I was going to start my business, that I cannot use my real name.


So you didn't want to build on another legacy. You wanted to build on your own.

Exactly. Yeah. And that was the name I hated from high school, but in my 20s, I learned to embrace it.


That's actually very interesting. You're very smart.

Thank you. (laughter)


(laughter) How has COVID impacted your personal and professional life?

Personal life has been more challenging, right? Because everyone's concerned about COVID. I can go in my car and go anywhere. But where am I going? So you know, like, yesterday, I went to the park, like, you know, my son's dad has my son for the weekend. And I'm like, Oh, yeah, I've got a weekend. And I'm like, I'm taking a break from work. You know, let me just spend some time to myself, where am I gonna go? You know, so I went to the park, I went to my high school, I went to the bleachers. I was driving around. It was more of a self reflection. Because it's, you know, before COVID, what I would have done? I would have hung out with friends. Do things, you know. But now everyone's like yeah, it’s covid. We’ll WhatsApp. (laughter) But yeah, so, um, so pretty much. Um, yeah. So it affects my personal life. Because even family, right? Even family, can’t really go over to their house. Like, who wants to stay home day in, day out? You need a break from all of that stuff. When I get that break, I'm able to be more creative. Right? So because there's just so much that I do in my own creative space. So in my own personal life, I like to write. I like to, you know, do all of those things. And I, you know, I tell them,when my creativity’s stuck. And that's the last place I need to be. So professionally, COVID really increased everything. I would say in terms of graphics, more web designing jobs are coming my way. I find that it has grown the spirit of entrepreneurship. So the vision I had in 2018, of wanting to build a community specifically for Canadian or black entrepreneurs in general. That vision when I started a Facebook group for Business Takeout, I’m seeing the need for a community space even more evident today. Because it was kind of like my experience back when I was having a moment of reflection, right. My experience from that point, I guess everyone's coming to terms with their own experience on that journey. Right? So in terms of Business Takeout, putting it as not for profit, I see there's more ways I can help. So there's the blog articles, right that I have on there. And I have more to put up on there soon. And then there's the podcasting. And the podcasting has grown substantially, right. And now I'm going into another direction where I'm going to be offering packages to all podcasters. So that's because now I have... I told you before. The Roku TV and all of those stuff. Amazon fire, so now I'm creating packages to bring on other podcasters on that journey.


Nice. I have two more questions. What is it about you that you would wish people knew more?

I know stories that I tell myself. It may not actually be true, how people perceive me.


How do you think people perceive you?

I think some people get misunderstood by me. Right?


What do they think?

They probably think I'm cutthroat. They probably think that I have ulterior motives when I do things. You know. And a lot of the times I think I'm coming from a genuine space.


Of course, I'm pretty sure the misconception comes down from first, the name Business Takeout. Then the name Banki Like there’s the word bank in there. (laughter)

(laughter) Actually, I like that space that you have. A lot of the things that I wouldn't post on my personal page, I would post there.


I see that. I've seen that a lot.

(laughter)


I even asked myself why. (laughter) But just to get back to the question, what do you want them to know about you?

That I'm genuine. I'm a caring person. Um, I mean business. (laughter)


They know that you mean business. I can guarantee you they know that. (laughter)

I would say just like everyone else, I go through, you know, trials and tribulations. And I'm a fighter.


What would be your advice for someone who might be following in your footsteps?

Be disciplined and don't procrastinate. And really look at everything that you do and analyze why you do it a certain way. I would say from the beginning of my journey, it was discipline. And procrastination was part of the start of it. Right. And I had to really look at myself and say, every year, before I go into a new year, I look at why I didn't please all my customers. The ones that I didn't please, why did I not please them? What could I have done better? And how can I change that for the new year?So having something in place to really look at what you're doing. I find that with me, it's really hard to get people to give me honest feedback. Sometimes I feel like people would tell me what I want to hear and not what I need to hear. So having someone around you, that will tell you as it is, they will tell you the sky is blue, not purple. Right. So have a good support system. And go for what you want. Set goals. And don't sleep on it. That's what I would say.




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