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Meet Jamika Smith of Teena’s Legacy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamika Smith.

Jamika, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Teena’s Legacy was placed in my spirit in 2012 to honor of my grandmother Alberteen Stredrick (Teena) life. Alberteen transition back in 2011, but not without leaving a long-lasting impact on my life hence motivating me to keep her legacy alive.

Alberteen (Teena) was creative, vibrant and always about her business. She grew up in the town of Pastoria and Sherrill, Arkansas. Shortly after graduating, she went to New York City for vocational training and returned to Arkansas to work on the family farm. She left Arkansas for Chicago at the tender age of 19 in order to earn a better living for her family. She held a number of jobs including clerical, domestic, culinary, resale, and factory work. She retired from Leaf Brand Candy Co. where she held a number of position. Alberteen (Teena) was an accomplished seamstress and a self-taught interior decorator. She had a creative eye for fashion which resulted in unique and stylish clothes; she would model her designs in fashion shows she hosted and coordinated in the basement of her home and different local venues. She also had a gift in restoring and reviving old furniture back to its original glory.

Grandma believed strongly in self-sufficiency and having your own, her vision for her family was for them to tap into their natural gifts and use them to start their own business and leave a legacy for their children. And I am doing just that, keeping my grandmother’s legacy alive for my daughter, and the cycle will continue.

In 2011, I had my daughter and became a stay at home mother during that time I had the opportunity to reflect on my life my passion and what to do next. One day I saw a chaise lounge in the alley and my mother and I scooped it up and brought it to the house. We went to a hotel warehouse on 18th and Halsted and purchased a bundle of hotel draperies and re-upholstered the chaise lounge. I never upholstered a chair before, that was my first time it was interesting to me that the process felt so natural it was like I’ve done it before, but couldn’t figure out when or where, this lead to me upholstering a couple more chairs for my mother; one day something came over me, like a feeling of “I can do this,” I thought “maybe I can share this skill with other young women,” and that’s what I did. In 2013, I started Teena’s Legacy summer apprentice program where I taught the basic skills of upholstery to young ladies age ranging from 17-18 at my home. This is how Teena’s Legacy started with 4 girls; we spread out in my living room and dining room and we started re-upholstering used chairs.

I officially got my 501(c) 3 this year currently we focus on preserving life through legacy building. Our mission provides a soul changing experience, in which young women and women in general becomes architects of their future. We do this by increasing entrepreneurship, as well as cultural, social and economic development in a global society. Our vision is to have 5 chapter in 5 different cities and in South Africa by 2027.

Embolden 4,000 women to become architect of their own future through entrepreneurship. We provide a valuable trade of re-upholstering furniture; promoting economic transformation along with practical skills that encourage self-discovery.

We are a program that is in direct response to young women with children that are either falling through the cracks at school, homeless, or are already entangled with the court system. We will intentionally identify young women who are going to have a turbulent transition through their adulthood and offer positive support system to avoid the pitfalls that can derail their lives. We will focus primarily on young women with children age ranging from 18 -35; who’s seeking a better life for themselves and their family.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
My struggle was mostly self-afflicted, me not believing I had enough to share my skills. That negative chatter that says “You’re not a professional,” “Who are you to teach a trade you barely know about.” Or I would question my worth, “Am I worthy enough to run a successful program?” Every piece I upholstered my eye will go straight to the flawed area. So self-doubt was strong at the beginning of my process. 5 years later, I realized this process is really not about me, Teena’s Legacy foundation is built on Spiritual principles. I use upholstery as a tool to help young women redefine themselves and create themselves anew. I use it more as a metaphor for transformation.

Raising money was and still is a struggle, money is the only reason Teena’s Legacy is a summer program, the goal is to find funding to operate year-round.

Teena’s Legacy – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I make sure I create a safe space for women to come and explore their authentic self a space where they can re-visit their dreams, passion, and desires that may have lied dormant for years and as a result they leave refresh and renewed ready to walk in their truth. I do this by teaching the trade of re-upholstering furniture, I use it as a tool that encourage examining the multiple layers that make us who we are. At the end of the process, they leave Teena’s Legacy with a piece of furniture that represents the spirit of who they are, which we call “Statement Piece.”

We specialize in creative pieces or statement piece for me a statement piece is a simple expression of creativity that draws the attention from other’s immediately. I help you take that expression and display it through furniture.

I’m known for helping you tell your story through furniture. I’m most proud of the positive energy that the name Teena’s Legacy holds.

My story sets me apart from others, the concept and how I share my passion.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Being successful to me is when you can align yourself with your hearts desires.

My marker is when things flow effortlessly and with ease, if I have to force the process, I’m doing something wrong.

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