LYNN — Ludia Modi, an up-and-coming entrepreneur who lives right in the city, celebrates her African culture by crafting head wraps out of fabric from her native Sierra Leone, pieces she says are meant to empower women of color and help them feel like the queens they are.
Modi, 26, is the founder of the lifestyle brand, Rooted Wraps. She makes the head wraps, or African accessories, right in Lynn, using fabrics from Sierra Leone, where she was born and raised. In Sierra Leone, she said women are always wearing head wraps.
Her head wraps, which come in bold patterns and colors, are more of a fashion item, such an accent piece for an outfit. But the wraps can also be practical. Women can wear them on their heads to protect their natural hair when going to bed at night. The wraps can be tied in many different ways, including as a bow on the top of the head.
“My brand is a way to celebrate African culture and to embolden women of color,” said Modi. “We’re all queens and we should be able to celebrate that by wearing bold prints and colors that make us stand out and make us beautiful.
“I wear them every day purposefully because it’s a remembrance that I am royalty and I should be carrying myself as such. When you feel your head wraps, it’s a sense that you’re wearing a crown. All women are royalty. All men are royalty. It’s a bold statement that I am wearing my crown today (and) a remembrance that you are someone special and you should always carry yourself as such.”
She is one of eight finalists selected to participate in the Entrepreneurship for All (EforAll) Winter Business Accelerator Program in Lynn. The EforAll Lynn finalists include seven early-stage businesses and one nonprofit. The group is the second one to go through the program since the organization launched last year in the city. EforAll, whose mission is to strengthen mid-sized cities through inclusive entrepreneurship, is based in Lowell and its other locations include Lawrence and New Bedford.
“I think what I personally loved about working with Ludia is that she’s maintained her connections with her roots in Sierra Leone in Africa and she’s been able to bridge that culture through her business with the wraps that she sells,” said Derek Marin, program manager for EforAll Lynn. “It’s great to see she has a lot of pride in where she comes from.”
Modi said her family came to the United States 15 years ago after fleeing the civil war in Sierra Leone. The United States became a safe haven and Lynn has become a tight community for her family.
She said the economy today in Sierra Leone is a work in progress — things are thriving, but it’s a slow progression. She wants to bring her business back to Sierra Leone and have everything manufactured there, to support the economy there as well as here.
“I was born and raised there,” Modi said. “It’s really important for me to support the people back home who are working just as hard as we are and who can benefit from the success.”
Modi, who has a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Northeastern University, said entrepreneurship is in her blood — three of her aunts are entrepreneurs back in Sierra Leone, including one who does fashion and design and sells clothes, and another who owns a store.
Modi said she has no business background herself though, and EforAll really allowed her to fine tune her business. The organization opened some doors for her and has taught her ways to make Rooted Wraps successful in the future. Modi sells her head wraps online or at open markets.
“I’m truly grateful to have EforAll,” Modi said. “I would not be where I am right now without the organization being that rock to lean on and to teach me how to run a business.”
Marin said the eight finalists were selected from about 25 applicants. A lot of the applicants tend to be minorities, such as people of color and women. The expectation is that more Latinos will be participating in Lynn, so the decision was made to start a Spanish accelerator program in the city, which kicks off in June.
“Our mission is to drive economic opportunity within gateway cities, small to mid-size cities, and we feel the best way we can do that is by driving entrepreneurship,” Marin said.
A public graduation ceremony will be held on Tuesday at the LynnArts Gallery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., where approximately $8,000 will be awarded to the finalists. The entrepreneurs will present their businesses during the ceremony.
Marin said the graduation marks the end of the accelerator portion of the program. The annual program starts with 12 weeks of workshops led by area business experts, weekly meetings with a team of mentors and a chance to win from a $15,000 cash prize pool.
Following graduation, he said EforAll will continue to keep in touch with the finalists, which includes monthly meetings with the entrepreneurs. The mentors will also continue meeting with the entrepreneurs to make sure they’re moving forward with their businesses and offer support. More funds will also be distributed for the cohort.
“We want to turn Lynn into the entrepreneurial hub of the North Shore and through EforAll support the entire community in starting and growing their businesses,” said Kevin Moforte, executive director of the EforAll Lynn program, in statement.
Other finalists include Sheryl Perlow, of Marblehead, with Wicked Awesome Brownie; Anita Deeley, of Beverly with Beverly Bees; Carla Orr, of Beverly, with Ladies Entrance Art Studio; Vincent Prezioso and Patrick Linquist, of East Boston, with Pun Pantry; Blonde Beauchamp, of Milton, with thisHaiti, Aisha Townes and Fatimah Finney, of Maynard, with Where’s my Breakthrough; and Jesse Deveau, of East Boston, with Housecar.