At the age of 24, Keisha Greaves was diagnosed with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD), which is characterized by the progressive wasting and weakness of voluntary muscles, particularly in the hip and shoulder areas.
After being in denial, Keisha is now embracing her condition and empowering people with disabilities and chronic diseases through her t-shirt brand, Girls Chronically Rock. More than just a fashion statement, Keisha’s goal is to turn the business into a movement that will bring more awareness to the disability community.
We are proud to welcome Keisha to The After Six Club’s Ambitious Tribe. Read on to see how being ambitious helps Keisha keep on rocking!
I have Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy (LGMD). I was diagnosed at the age of 24. I was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts and went to high school in Cambridge. I received my bachelor’s degree in Fashion Design and Merchandising and then furthered my education in getting my Master’s Degree in Business.
I started to get the symptoms in 2009. It was crazy. While I was in graduate school, I began to repeatedly fall. My legs would just give out on me without notice. I would fall to the ground and not be able to pick myself back up. I would need assistance from someone to lift me up with all their might because it was something I just wasn’t capable of doing on my own.
I also began to notice that whenever I tried to reach for certain things in the kitchen cabinets or tried to exercise, I was unable to lift my right arm up all the way. I kind of just thought to myself that maybe I needed to go on a diet and lose weight. But at the back of my mind, I knew it was something else and after getting all the different tests done, I was officially diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy.
Fast forward a few years later, I knew that I’ve always wanted to be a business owner. I received my undergrad in fashion design and merchandising and master’s in business. I wanted to create something in fashion so I started with a t-shirt line because I like to wear graphic logo t-shirts with different logos and messages on them. I wanted to create something inspiring.
That’s when I came up with the business name Girls Chronically Rock because I wanted the name to have the word “chronic” in it to represent chronic illness. I wanted it to feel inspirational and motivational. I launched Girls Chronically Rock in June 2017 as a t-shirt business and I love it! My business operates from my home in Cambridge.
Girls Chronically Rock creates different logo designs for t-shirts. These logo designs have different meanings as well. I add different designs and new looks every month or so. This way, we see what customers like best. Each month, 10% percent of the proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Through my business, I want to help motivate, encourage, and let people know you rock and you can accomplish anything if you put your mind to.
In the future, I plan to start creating my own adaptive clothing designed for people with disabilities because, like myself, I find it very hard to get dressed in the morning in a certain material or clothing type. It may take us longer to get dressed compared to other people. This adaptive clothing line will still be under the same umbrella Girls Chronically Rock. I plan to continue to succeed in my business and work hard every day while learning new things about entrepreneurship.
My business is not about clothing. I want to build an empire and make Girls Chronically Rock into a movement to share my story with others and bring awareness to the disability community.
What do you believe makes your business stand out?
I believe my business stands out because I have a unique story. After being in denial for years, I’m now open with my condition. I embrace that I have muscular dystrophy. I speak about it more openly. I still have my days, but I’m in a better place now than I was a few years ago. My business has a unique name and my business has so much more about it than a clothing line.
Is it always necessary to be passionate about what your business is about in order for it to succeed?
I’m passionate about my business. Every day, I think of new ideas and inspirational things to add to my clothing line and what customers would like to see from Girls Chronically Rock.
How did you obtain capital? Were there investors?
I did not have investors. I put all of my money into this business by myself. I obtained the trademark and copyright by myself. Once I make more money, I plan to hire employees and bring add more people to my team. I hope to get a large business loan so I can start my adaptive clothing line, buy more inventory, and add more items to my website.
How did you build your customer base? What form of marketing has been most effective for you so far?
I advertise my business via social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I use social media to share my story with others. I also give talks in different speaking engagements. I go to various networking events to share my story and advertise my business. I look out for more fundraising events and pop-up shops. The most effective marketing strategy for me has been promoting on social media.
What kind of company culture are you implementing?
I would like to support and focus on people and families dealing with chronic illnesses, mental illnesses, and disability. My goal is to have that movement that people can turn to for support. I want to implement motivation, empowerment, and inspiration for others.
Was there ever a time you felt afraid that this might not work? How did you manage this fear?
I think about that every day, But whenever I get supportive messages from customers and outsiders via social media, people who came across my business telling me to keep doing what I’m doing and they love my business and they feel inspired by it, these messages motivate me to keep going.
What sacrifices have you had to make to get here?
I have sacrificed my savings, putting my own money into the business, inventory, designs, website, graphic designs, and more. But I know that in the end, it will be all worth it.
What can you consider is your greatest success?
Being featured in the Today show’s newsletter amongst other honorees. It was an amazing experience.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Being a business owner gives you a great feeling. I feel accomplished. I like being the boss of my own business. I make my own hours. I work on my own schedule. I continue to share my story with others and inspire people who may have a similar story to mine and continue to bring awareness to the disability community and muscular dystrophy. I love sharing my business and movement with others and making them feel good and confident.
What motivates you? Who has been your greatest inspiration?
My motivation comes from friends and family, even from strangers who tell me they love my business and they feel inspired by my story. These make me feel like, “Wow! People are paying attention to what I’m doing and they support my business and continue to spread the word about my movement.” Of course, having my mom by my side, thinking of all she has done for me while growing up and supporting me in whatever I do has been amazing. I’m so grateful to have a mom like her. She is my biggest inspiration and I want to be able to support her.
Where do you see yourself and your business in 10 years?
I see myself being a successful business owner. I see myself being featured in Forbes Magazine. I would like to have my Girls Chronically Rock line inside stores like Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, local boutiques, and more. I would love to be featured in major talk shows such as The Ellen Show, The Talk, The Dr. Oz Show, and more.
Do you consider yourself an ambitious person?
I’m a very ambitious person and I like to get things done in a timely manner. When I want to do something, I focus and put my mind to it. I’ve always been ambitious because I know what I want from the start. I knew what I wanted when I went to school and furthered my education with a master’s degree.
Do you think being ambitious helps you in business?
Yes, I believe being ambitious and having that motivation and inspiration defiantly helped me move along and focus on my dreams. I continue to stay motivated and ambitious to take Girls Chronically Rock where I want it to be and build it into a major movement or empire.
What piece of advice can you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to just do it! If you have an idea or something you would like to do or accomplish, just go for it, because before you know. Time will fly by and your business or idea would be up and running and you will be a successful business owner. Life is so short. You can start off small. Networking is key. Market your plan and you will be great!
Edits: Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla | Image Credit: Keisha Greaves, Girls Chronically Rock
Keisha Greaves is a motivational speaker and the founder of Girls Chronically Rock, a t-shirt company that offers inspired fashion celebrating muscular dystrophy and other chronic illnesses. Keisha’s ideal goal is to open her own clothing line and open her own boutique named after the late Grandmother that passed in 1992 from Ovarian Cancer. A percentage of Keisha’s designs will go towards the Ovarian Cancer Association.