When you can’t find a solution, sometimes you have to create your own. That’s exactly what Altrichia Cook of Lakeland Florida did after searching aimlessly for the perfect bathing suit that didn’t exist.—yet.
A. Lekay, as her friends call her, worked with her tailor to create the swimsuit of her dreams: a two-piece that was trendy and cute with a high waist to cover her scars from the birth of her now nine-year-old son.
After posting a photo of her new creation, she received lots of comment from friends asking her where she got her swimsuit. That’s when A. Lekay knew she was onto something.
That’s how Allusions by A. Lekay was born; a solution to a personal problem-turned into a business idea. Now A. Lekay is running a business and managing a popular social media site (including her 28,000+ Instagram followers!) helping other women struggling with the same swimsuit dilemmas through her company and swimsuit line.
(Photo via Allusions by A. Lekay)
Motherly: Why was it so important for you to create this line of bathing suits?
A. Lekay: I had been aimlessly searching for a high-waisted swimsuit that was able to mask my abdominal imperfections and I couldn’t find one, so like most women do when we can’t find the solution we’re looking for we find another route. At that point I took matters into my own hands and designed my very own high-waisted swimsuit.
Motherly: Were you surprised with all the positive feedback you got with your first suit?
A. Lekay: Truly I was surprised, because it was just an idea for me, something very personal so I wasn’t really expecting the feedback. But once I received the feedback (which was truly immense) I was able to turn an idea into a business. And within two years it has grown a lot. And again, it was just an idea that transformed into a business for me and so from just an idea to a global market; it has been truly overwhelming to see the fruits of my labor manifest.
Motherly: Congratulations on Nicki Minaj wearing one of your designs on the cover of Cosmopolitan! That must be really exciting. Tell us more about that.
A. Lekay: It is amazingly thrilling to see. It is a dream turned reality. I have always wanted to work with Cosmo since I started my business. To actually see it manifest has been a thrill for me.
Exploring synergies and being fearless, that’s what my brand is all about; to empower women to live life fiercely and fearlessly. So what that simply means whatever you want to do or become in life, JUST GO FOR IT. Connect with people and make it happen.
(Photo via Tampa Bay Business Journal)
Motherly: What does it mean to you to help other women feel confident and sexy in their beachwear?
A. Lekay: Here I am, a woman who is very confident in my own skin, I feel very beautiful—however, I do have stretch marks and abdominal imperfections (what I refer to them as) that I wouldn’t take back for anything, but they’re something that I don’t want to share with the world. So to be able to feel comfortable in a two-piece it just really empowers me to help other women feel confident. They have the same issue that I do.
Motherly: Right, we’re all sort of united in motherhood and adjusting to our post-partum bodies.
A. Lekay: Right, it brings a sense of unity, empowerment, and confidence all in one.
Motherly: Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?
A. Lekay: A lot of my inspirations—because I really do love fashion—my inspiration can come from a dress, a shape, a color scheme. I can be inspired by almost anything.
(Photos via Allusions by A. Lekay Instagram)
Motherly: What are your big dreams for Allusions by A. Lekay?
A. Lekay: Eventually I would like to distribute in department stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus.
Motherly: How do you balance being a mother and running a business?
A. Lekay: It can be very challenging. To balance means that everything is equal, and sometimes it’s not – being a mother is around the clock, being a business owner is around the clock so like anything else you make adjustments. I had my son when I was 18; I was in college and I was able to adjust to being a mother, a college student, I worked two jobs, I was involved in extracurricular activities on campus so I think those things prepared me for the here and now. At a young age I learned to multitask and now I am able to continue to do that. There are always busy moments in my life, but as I did when I was younger, I’m able to adjust. My son plays sports, has school, extracurricular activities, so having a very supportive family and friends to help with that is great, because truly it does take a village. When I was younger I thought that I could do it all by myself but clearly I could not. So I had to rely on people then, as I do now whenever I’m traveling because my son can’t miss school all the time. So I’m always working with family and friends to help me continue to live out my dream so that way I can create a solid future for my son.
(We love Allusions by A. Lekay’s inspirational #GirlPower quotes on her Instagram)
Motherly: Any advice for other entrepreneur moms out there?
A. Lekay: I would definitely say that anything is possible whenever you believe in yourself. And although it is challenging to balance being a mother as well as having aspirations to be an entrepreneur, you have to be fearless and you have to actually step out on faith (or whatever it is that you believe in) to pursue the idea. I always tell people in order to be consistent and in order to persevere you must first be fearless, because when you’re fearless that means that the idea is no longer something that’s in your head.
I would say, just go for it and explore those synergies and make those connections.
Motherly: Are there any entrepreneur role models that you’ve looked up to?
A. Lekay: Absolutely. My mother, Debora Cook, has always been an entrepreneur (while growing up she sold Mary Kay and reached many milestones within the business). My father, Al Cook, he was also an entrepreneur (he had his own trucking company for a long time). So for me, it’s almost genetic. I watched my parents thrive within their businesses. So to have the support from my parents, when I decided to start my business obviously just continued to catapult me to different levels as an entrepreneur. So I watched my parents do it, and innately it became me.
And I have a lot of mentors now that have helped me along the way. Sonia Jackson Myles is the founder of The Sister Accord, which is a movement that unites women from around the world. I have Teneshia Jackson Warner, she’s an amazing mentor that has a PR firm called Egami Consulting in New York. I have Raven Thomas, she’s the founder of The Painted Pretzel, she was on Shark Tank and has a very successful business. I have a lot of different mentors and sorority sisters that I can call upon for help or ideas, things of that nature. That allows me to continue to grow and expand. It’s not easy being a business owner; it is something that you have to continue to cultivate. Like a tree, if you don’t give it water and sunlight eventually it’ll die so I have to continue to educate myself and reach out to people and stay connected with like-minded, positive individuals.
This interview is part of our new new weekly series, MotherlyMakers, highlighting the inspiring women who are remaking our world.