We had the good fortune of connecting with Sandra Hamilton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sandra, every day, we about how much execution matters, but we think ideas matter as well. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
2018 started off as a challenging year for me. I was injured in my second car accident. These unfortunate events gave me time to think and reflect on life as I spiraled downward–but somehow, I was able to reflect back on the focus I had in my professional basketball playing days. I gave myself a pep talk about what I would have been doing on the court, through adversity, to help pull out a win. It was then when I slowly came out from the dark. The first thing I did was pick up my iPad and start drawing. This is where I got my focus and calm. I created images that reflected who I was. I pictured these images on clothes that I would wear proudly. I thought about this idea for a long time, then I figured– if I could not get easy access to buying these socially conscious clothes, why not create them myself?
As we all know, racial inequalities didn’t just happen in 2020. I watched and heard about many injustices that were happening to Black people. The messages I kept getting were, Black people are sometimes…a lot of times– looked at as a statistic and not as the intelligent people we are. I felt there needed to be something that would empower the Black community—something simple, yet strong. This is how “Black Intelligence” was born. When our customers wear “Black Intelligence,” they feel inspired and empowered. It’s also a conversation starter because “Black Intelligence” is spelled with a mixture of letters and numbers which reflects our different intelligences and our many beautiful hues. Lastly, it reminds the person reading those two words that we are not only Black, but we are also intelligent.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
We keep ourselves busy by engaging with our customers and reflecting our designs around how our customers feel. The world is constantly changing and we feel it is important for our designs to keep evolving with the change. We are excited about the prospects of the Black community and our Allies engaging in conversations that will help create the change. We all witnessed that the protesters for the murder of George Floyd came in many colors. We all feel that this time—it’s different. It was so inspiring to see the many faces of anti-racism. It was next level right? At SDHtoronto, we believe that a huge and very important part of life and love is creativity and passion. It inspires and revives the soul! At SDHtoronto, we create passion. Our goal— our mission, is to evoke awareness and inspiration through our designs. When our customers see our designs, they feel empowered and understand wholeheartedly our sincere commitment to the movement of supporting Black lives. Our designs speak TO our customers. Our designs speak FOR our customers. SDHtoronto will continue to keep busy producing empowering designs to help foster much needed change. Our “Black Intelligence” design collaboration with Keedron Bryant’s, “I Just Wanna Live,” was initially posted on social media by: LeBron James, Barack Obama, Jennifer Aniston, Janet Jackson, Oprah and many more celebs. We are most proud of playing a role in the Black empowerment movement that is happening right now. People are understanding how important it is to support Black owned businesses in order to make the community economically stronger–When our community is economically stronger, our voice gets heard. The ultimate goal is to have the power to create changes in policy. This is very necessary. We need to make a significant, positive shift to maintain our dignity– to create equality, in our everyday lives. People are also understanding that the Black community and our Allies need to take a stand and speak up to help make actionable changes. Our customers are truly passionate about our products and we take that seriously. We believe our empowering designs and mission sets us apart from others. We believe in Black Intelligence. “It’s Who We Are.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would recommend visiting the Eaton’s Centre shopping mall and Dundas square. Dundas Square is right across the street from Eaton’s Centre. It’s where you’ll also find, “Jurassic Park”. If you saw the NBA playoffs last year, this is where you saw thousands of people cheering on the Champion, Toronto Raptors outside!
It’s also a place where you will catch concerts and buy from a variety of vendors. Eaton’s Centre is a massive mall that has almost everything in it at a variety of price ranges–-from bougie to broke! After shopping, grab lunch and head back to home base for a much needed breather, or not–but you will definitely need somewhere to put your shopping bags! In the evening, go out to eat! Just so you know, we have the luxury in Toronto to eat whatever type of food we want because we have such a variety of multicultural restaurants to choose from– so this is your chance to try out something you have never tasted before! After eating, I would recommend going out to a jazz/R&B club and grabbing drinks and a dessert on King Street West.
If not, you can go to a Raptors game first, then eat and drink somewhere around the arena or— anywhere on Yonge Street really. Let me tell ya, this street is LONG! It’s the longest street in North America!—(girl…pack those sneakers. No time to be cute in 4 inch heels walkn’ up and down Yonge Street!)–
Next, walk or take a cab until y’all find where you would like to eat–(The restaurants and shops are straight up Yonge and straight up delicious! It doesn’t feel like too much walking at all. There is so much to take in —and great for people watching! Next day, if there is time, (and you can move your legs)… head out to Niagara Falls! It’s only about a 2 hour drive from Toronto and worth every minute of travel! Rent a car! Sing travelling songs with your bestie–(wear ear plugs) –whatever you do, you’ll have fun!
Other places and things to do worth mentioning:
1. CARIBANA! (insert whistle emoji here). In Toronto, we host one of the biggest Afro Caribbean parades in the world. This happens at the end of July every year (well, except this year. Ya know –Coronavirus). You would have to book early because it’s hard to find a place to stay at this time.
2. Spoken word poetry–
3. Kensington Market
4. St. Lawrence Market–A vast array of “real” food all in one humungous old building
5. Black Market – vintage shopping
6. Queens Quay/Harbourfront – Cultural concerts and events always going down 7. Theatre -Catch live plays
8. Ashbridges Bay – A “hidden” beach
9. TIFF (Toronto Film Festival –yearly at the beginning of September)–
10. And of course, all Toronto’s national sports teams, and art galleries.
11. The “Entertainment District.” You’ll find many clubs and bars in this area. It is “dress to impress” for a lot of the clubs here, so bring your “A” game.
12. CN Tower–(considered one of the seven wonders of the modern world)– I ain’t gonna lie, this place is bougie—You’ll roll up to an elevator with a glass panel floor that propels you to hundreds of feet in the air to a revolving restaurant. It’s also the best view you will get of Toronto and surrounding cities.
My advice is to go around sunset. It’s extraordinary! Enjoy! —But one last and important thing– while you’re here, check out and support Black owned businesses. We always welcome your support!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We are thankful to, “Lifted By Purpose.” This charity is a trauma-informed creative arts organization that focuses on helping youth living with mental health challenges by providing capacity building, counseling, and art therapy programs. They provide a safer space for youth to participate in their programs, services, and engage in the community. This year we will be donating 10% of our profits to this worthy cause. Please support us so we can help support them!–
I’d like to give a shoutout to my teenagers who stepped up! Oh yes they did! Once we went viral they helped out tremendously to fill the HUGE amount of orders that we were not expecting. I’d like to also give a shoutout to Daymond John. Yes, “The People’s Shark.” His office contacted us and set us up with his online business course that has been helping us out immensely! Special thanks goes out to Katherine Allen for volunteering her time and expertise to help us out with marketing and business advice –as well as Brian Cooper and his brother Jeff Cooper who connected us to the apparel industry and to Katherine. Lee Green of Liore’s, who recommended us for this interview and continues to be a huge advocate for SDHtoronto and our mission, we give many thanks. I would like to thank everyone who has supported us in many other amazing ways. Too many to name. Last but not least, I’d like to thank God for blessing us and helping us to give light to the world through our designs. Our mission is real and it is palpable throughout the world. You can also support us by following us! Stay blessed!
*Thanks to the Shoutout series for this opportunity.*