The Story and Biography of the Founder, Yvette Jenkins

This is a photo of my grandmother, Elizabeth, me in the middle and my Mother, Elvia on Christmas. I was 17 months ago and a happy little girl. I certainly didn’t what was ahead of me.


When my grandmother, Elizabeth, was 10 years old she came to Michigan to escape an abusive father. She shared with me about standing on a chair at 10 -11 years old to wash dishes and iron clothes to earn money. She was so young to be responsible for herself.


She divorced a grandfather I never knew and raised five children as single parent.


My mother, Elvia Mae was her youngest child.  Smart and pretty, Mommy graduated from Cass Tech.  Only one of a handful of people of color there at the time. She also had five girls. I am her oldest child. My mother was an active, caring mom and engaged in all sorts of community activities. She taught me how to sew, crochet and knit. She shared her passion for books, libraries, culture and museums. Books led me to dream about travels and wonderful places all over the world to visit and experience.


When I was 12 years old, she had a nervous breakdown. The mother as I knew was forever gone. My mommy would spend years in and out of mental hospitals fighting Schizophrenia.


I remember my grandmother taking me aside at the time and telling me that I had to “be responsible”. I was the oldest and needed to help with the household and my little sisters. But I am traumatized. I am frightened. However, my grandmother said I had to step up and “Nothing beats a failure but a try, so try.” So, I tried.


I paid close attention to what needed to be done. I learned to at least try. To find a solution.


When I was 13-14 years old, I was tired and overwhelmed by all the responsibility, fear and uncertainty that I decided to run away from home. I was clueless on where I should go. Deep inside, I wished that someone would care about me, love me, take care of me. I left the house, but I did not know where to go. One block up and one block over was an empty parking lot. So, I went there to figure it all out. And if somebody wanted to, they could find me. I sat on metal/cement railing and cried and cried and cried. After a while, I looked up at the sky and noticed the branches of a tree and the leaves gently swaying in the breeze. I imagined the limbs of the tree were arms. And the arms of the tree were sheltering me, hugging me and comforting me. The trunk of the tree was strong and steady. It would listen to me. My eyes traveled up and down the tree trunk to the branches and back down. The rustle of the leaves were murmurs of comfort. I thought of God. I waited for someone to come around the corner looking for me. Saying, “don’t go, come back home”.  We do love you. Nobody came. It started to get dark and a little cold. Nobody was going to come. Really. Who was there but four little girls younger than me? Silly girl, mommy was sick. Daddy was at work. Take yourself back home. When I got back home, nobody had noticed I had gone. But whenever, I was sad and needed comfort, I had my tree… Bigger and stronger always watching over me. Always. There. Always.


It is ironic that I would have Love in the name of my business when I had such a hard time saying the word or even believing that that word had a place in my life. When writing letters and signing them, I never wrote “Love, Yvette”. I would write “Like”. Love was this big huge “thing”.  I did not know what it was. I just knew that I could not use that word unless it was something really, really meaningful. I had never heard it used in connection with me. I mean you love God. And God watches over you. Love is something that happens in other people’s houses. Happiness happens other places.


It was my job to take care of my little sisters. I knew what it felt like not to have someone notice what you needed. I did not want them to feel the same way.


I was 17 years old and just graduated from high school when I took my first grown-up trip alone. Since then, I have traveled to over 20 countries and 33 states.  My mission or goal every trip is to understand what makes a place special.


In 1996, I took my first trip to Africa to Senegal a French-speaking country. On that first African trip, I had several requests from people to bring them something back. Something that said “Africa”. So typical Yvette, I put a lot of effort in picking out just the “right thing” for them.


While there, I met an artisan that spoke beautiful English.  In fact, she had taught herself to speak seven languages. Her potential customers came from all over the world. How could she do business if she couldn’t speak to them? As a single mother, she had to take care of her children.


Nothing bets a failure, but a try. If this woman, could teach herself seven languages and do what she must. What excuse did I ever have?


On December 30, 2009, I was downsized from my 6-figure corporate job. I have held a job and worked since I was 16 years old. This was another scary time for me. I was traumatized. I was frightened.


Nothing beats a failure but a try, so why not try by building my own business. What do I know? Travel. Helping people help themselves. Being a conduit and connecting people with what they want.


I constantly listen and pay close attention to people’s needs and wants figuring out that something that will make them happy. The perfect something for them.


Because the grandmother that loved me, encouraged me to act to and to at least try.


This story tonight is dedicated to my Grannie.


Look at what I have been able to do because I tried. And it worked. I have been able to help women in South Africa, earn some income to take care of grandbabies and themselves.


I bought product from a Senegalese woman, who taught herself seven languages because of the love she had for her children.


I may not have known how to say the word “Love” but I think I know how to show Love by my actions, by my choices, by my following your guidance.


You knew from first-hand experience that this could be a hard world for a young girl. Nothing beats a failure but a try. So, I try. I try with the best I have to offer.


I want them to know someone noticed and someone cares.


I believe that energy goes into handmade items. Love goes into them. Love Travels Imports. From artisans to you.

Yvette JenkinsComment