When the time came for Roachele Negron to announce that her company, rayo & honey, was included on Oprah’s Favorite Things list, she carefully curated an eight-panel Instagram post to make the news social media official. Along with an opening video message, she wrote a touching caption that began:
You know that feeling that creeps up your back, through your heart and drops down into your stomach when you know something is shifting?
It’s a feeling the Brooklyn-based entrepreneur is very familiar with these days. After working in television development and running her own children’s store, the mom of two switched gears and launched rayo & honey, a line of handcrafted goods that includes tote bags and bookmarks, keychains, and pennants. That was nearly six years ago. “I've kept mental vision boards about the things I’d like to accomplish and how I see myself accomplishing them,” she says, “but when you’re experiencing it all, it doesn’t feel real.”
Each of rayo & honey’s offerings feature an affirming quote, a pop-culture reference or a few, poignant words from luminaries like Toni Morrison, John Lewis and Grace Jones, among others. And as noted on the company’s website, the core of Negron’s practice is rooted in cultural consciousness.
Here, she walks us through how she got inspired to create “goods with positive intent,” great gift suggestions, and who she’s celebrating this holiday season.
What inspired you to launch rayo & honey?
There were affirmations all over the house when I was growing up. My mother put them everywhere—on mirrors, on doors, even inside cabinets. It was incredible.
With rayo & honey, the goal was to explore the idea of connecting with my community, with affirmations that speak to me, in my language. Everything is meticulously made by hand, which can be a slow process, but I really enjoy using words that can inspire others.
And because I have twins, everything I do is in twos! The name combines Spanish and English and is an homage my kids, Mateo and Orquidea. It’s a representation of them. “Rayo,” which is lightning in Spanish, is for my son and “Honey” is for my daughter. The deeper meaning is about the balance of masculine and feminine, earth and air.
Can you talk about your choice to use black and natural-toned materials?
Rather than having to process color, all your brain has to do is accept the words. Depending on who you are and your walk of life, the words might hit you differently. For example, I have a pennant that says, “The World is Yours.” One person might connect that to Nas’ album, IIlmatic, while another will think, “That’s from Scarface.” Then there’s someone else who will say, “Oh, I’d love this for my nursery.”
The tote bags you created featuring Ms. Morrison’s words were particularly popular. You had a unique connection with the legendary author.
I grew up in Nyack, New York, which is about 20 minutes from her home in Piermont. As a teenager, I’d ride by her house on my bike, hoping to see her and strike up a conversation. My best friend’s step-father’s family lived across the street from her, so years later, I actually got to meet her in-person.
When Magnolia Pictures tapped me to come up with a few quotes to promote the documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, I was adamant about not pulling quotes from her work because I didn’t want to reduce the importance of her work to a snazzy saying on a bag. So, I spent two weeks watching some of her interviews, readings and teachings. The quotes I chose were “You Are Your Own Stories” and also, “You Have to Have the Love & You Have to Have the Magic,” which is my favorite. I pulled it from an interview she did with Charlie Rose.
While we’re on the subject of celebrating and preserving legacy, what are your thoughts on supporting Black-owned businesses this season?
There’s a spotlight on Black businesses right now, which is wonderful, but I hope people will continue to support the businesses they really love well after the holiday season, too.
No matter the industry you’re researching, I’d say familiarize yourself with creatives and businesses whose products you love…and bookmark them. There are far more than you might think!
Which items from rayo & honey would you suggest for gifting?
If you’re buying for someone else, I’d suggest a pennant that they can look at every day and feel inspired, connected and moved. “Joy is an Act of Resistance,” is a favorite and “Start Where You are,” which is from Arthur Ashe. Due to the political climate, “Much to Be Done & Undone” is pretty popular as well. There’s also “Mothers are Creators,” “Nourish Yourself” and “Begin with the Spirit.” We have funny phrases, too—like, “Thick Thighs Save Lives.”
As we enter the final weeks of this year, there’s so much to be grateful for. Who are your holiday heroes?
My partner, Mensah Demary, and my children. Since March, the four of us have been quarantined in this house together and I think we’ve become closer and appreciate one another.
I’m happy that we’re a family that really enjoys each other’s company.
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