NEIL ALVIN: Brains behind Black Girls Killing It
NEIL ALVIN HAS created a global fashion platform empire, but the 32-year-old Barbadian has more to offer the world than just Black Girls Killing It (or BGKI for short).
With nearly half a million followers worldwide, Alvin’s BGKI brainchild has transformed the online fashion landscape for black women worldwide. The young innovator sat down with EASY magazine to discuss his journey to becoming the guru of a social media company.
“[Black Girls Killing It] uses individualism, engagement and inspiration to grow a community of girls. It then funnels the girls towards tailored goods and services. It’s almost like a shopping Google for black girls.”
Ironically, when Alvin created BGKI, he was out of a job. “I was also surprisingly unemployed because I had just finished my degree at the University of the West Indies and I had a job before and during UWI,” he said. “It never occurred to me that after university I would be unemployed.” Alvin said that as a result of the recent global market crash, his company folded.
He started the BGKI project as a result of being home trying to find something to pass the time while he was looking for a job. This was a low point for the Christ Church Foundation School alumnus as he met with no luck for over a year, but Alvin, being an entrepreneur, soon got involved in event planning, selling clothes, doing graphic design and eventually website design.
“Funny enough, I always tell my friends everything I did in life prepared me for BGKI,” he explained. “I built the website by myself. The coding and the layout stemmed from other ventures that I had before and everything came together.”
The pictures on the website are submitted by the girls who also supply the information on what they are wearing.
Though his employment fortunes would change, landing him a job, that employment meant he had less time to work on BGKI, which was rapidly taking on a life on its own. Over time, the situation would become untenable. Realising the immense growth of BGKI, Alvin was left with no choice; he quit his job.
“In the last 12 months it has changed my life. I decided, if it has done so well with half the effort, I think if I put my full effort into it, it would be even better.” And the life-changing experience has taken him to Europe for several major fashion weeks.
For him, it is all about growing. He wants to develop as a stylist and help brands and businesses in digital marketing. “My plan for the next 12 months at least is to start doing workshops. I had one [recently] for social media, brands and businesses overview . . . . It was held by the Barbados Junior Chamber International.”
With a smile, Alvin explained that the next 12 months were even more crucial for BGKI. While in Europe, many girls approached him and told him how being featured on his website changed their life, he recalled.
He has other plans in view too. Long a buyer of well designed outfits, soon he could be the one designing clothes.
“I actually got invited to meet some persons on Savile Row in London. Savile Row is a well known street in the designing world, known for its bespoke tailoring. They invited me and asked me if I would be interested in learning the basics in tailoring, catering to the black female demographic niche.”
But Alvin won’t stop there. “I’m interested in doing internships and working with fashion houses so I can learn the trade in a professional way.”
He isn’t getting carried away with his successes, though. “Even before when people said they wanted to interview or feature me, I would say, ‘No, I don’t want the feature but if you want to feature BGKI I’d be glad for that’. The attention has to be the platform and what it can do for people. I, as Neil, can’t do anything for anyone, but BGKI can.”
BGKI could also be coming to Barbados’ biggest stage. “I want to have a carnival band. I think it’s something that’s universal. It gives an opportunity for girls that style swimsuits as well as carnival as well to be [featured],” he said.
Alvin revealed he would also be travelling to the Web Summit – a conference for start-ups and investors to find the next big thing. He described it as an opportunity of a lifetime; an opportunity made more noticeable when he realised he was the only person from the Caribbean scheduled to attend. Companies such as Facebook, Instagram, Forbes and Adidas will have people of noticeable interest attending the summit, and 30 000 people from all over the world are scheduled to attend.
“This allows me to get to the next level because it’s you not only need investment, you need help. Those people would know which doors to open or what doors to even knock on,” he added, pointing to the list of attendees. If all of what Neil Alvin has achieved is any measure to go by, he and Black Girls Killing It will definitely be killing it harder and stronger.