Brooke Carrington, 38, Creative Catalyst
It started with a moment of nocturnal inspiration. A fully-formed Christmas business concept came to Brooke Carrington while she was sleeping: Wrapper’s Delight, a holiday wrapping paper featuring a Black Santa Claus.
“I’d never seen it before. Mind you, it was June. It wasn’t even Christmas yet,” she says. “It just came to me out of nowhere. I woke up abruptly. I sat straight up in bed.”
It’s just one of the creative ideas Brooke has turned into a business – with help from God and her family.
Brooke grew up in eastern North Carolina with a passion for fashion. She was inspired by her mother, who was always beautifully dressed – especially for her job as Deputy Clerk. Pant suits and pencil skirts were in regular rotation.
“I definitely take my influence from her,” Brooke says.
She wanted to go to school for fashion, but her parents encouraged her to take a different route. She got a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Communication Systems at NC A&T. Afterward she went to grad school to study special effects and animation at Digital Media Arts College in Florida, where she worked for a local news station. She met her husband, Xavier, there. The pair decided to make Greensboro their home when he got a job at A&T.
A Greensboro neighbor introduced Brooke to a customer service job at Bank of America. After just a year she was promoted and started working her way through the management ranks.
She never gave up on her creative pursuits. She and husband Xavier, a graphic artist, muralist, and teacher, started a custom bow-tie business based on his love of the accessory. Kreative Knots started about a decade ago.
“When we had our son, we wanted him to wear bow ties, too. He and I both started making bowties. We would post cute pictures and people would love them. We said, ‘OK let’s make it a business,’” she says.
Brooke started blogging at Brookederon.com and shared her eye for fashion on Instagram. She Instragramed weekly #WorkforceWednesday posts with outfit inspiration and tips, in part to pep herself up about going to work. She posted every week for over a year.
“My mind wasn’t even on financial gain. It was just a place for me to share my love for fashion with others,” she says. “I really felt like it was God testing me to see if I would finally start looking for the vision He had for me…It wasn’t until I started showing that I was obedient that things really started to happen.”
The Carringtons made a splash with statement T-shirts. Xavier, who owned a screen printing business making sport team and family reunion T-shirts, brought the technical skills. Brooke brought the inspiration — designs that read “Human” and “Don’t Assume.” Both were inspired by police violence against people of color.
“Don’t treat us like animals. We are human just like you,” Brooke says.
The fashion line – Brooke Deron – took off from there with online sales, vending and pop-up shops.
They added other designs – like their most popular item, a “Good Trouble” hoodie inspired by the late U.S. Congressman and civil rights pioneer John Lewis, and a recent addition, “Dear God, Thank You!” She’s expanded into athleisure designs now, too.
Brooke also got a long sought after role with Bank of America, managing projects. She was flourishing.
The pandemic shutdown inspired Brooke to look inward. She was working from home. She thought, “How are you going to use this time wisely? What are you going to do? 2020 is the year of clear vision.”
“What is God trying to tell us? We need to sit back and count our blessings and realize we are lucky and blessed to still be here,” she says.
That’s when her 2 am inspiration for Wrapper’s Delight (a play on the original hiphop classic, Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”) hit. She bought the domain name wrappersdelight.shop before she went back to sleep. Xavier created the first design – a winking Santa – the next day. It felt like God’s plan.
“That is why I moved so fast. I don’t second guess anymore. When I get an idea, I execute immediately,” Brooke says.
There is a lack of Black representation in stationary, Brooke says, with only small greeting card sections devoted to Black culture and no wrapping paper or gift bags.
“When it came to Christmas, I really wanted to start there because we have two small kids. I really wanted them to feel represented when they go to the store,” she says.
They went all in, buying 1,000 rolls from an overseas supplier and filling their garage with the supplies. Even with the short time before Christmas and the pandemic challenges – like limited vending opportunities with special events cancelled – they only had 100 rolls left at the end of the season.
“It just goes to show if you just believe and you stop second guessing and you execute your vision, all of your dreams can become a reality. You will always be wondering, what if I did it? That is the advice I try to give everybody. Two years ago, I would never think I would be doing a clothing line and wrapping paper.”
This year’s line includes Santa and Mrs. Claus and nutcracker and ballerina designs, plus gift bags, gift tags and greeting cards. You can also purchase Santa pjs, tees, hoodies, onesies, masks, socks, ornaments, and stickers. Her children, 8-year-old Xavier II and 6-year-old Alani, came up with the Santa shoe charms – a must-have for lovers of both Christmas and Crocs.
The kids are a part of the business, too. Brooke gets joy from the pride they show in the products.
“My children see first-hand how hard my husband and I work. They are in here grinding as much as they possibly can,” she says. “It’s always a proud moment to me when I realize the impact we are having on them to be proud of their skin and who they are.”