Whenever 17-year-old Journi Prewitt and her relatives spend time together, she always gravitates toward caring for the younger children. That earned her the nickname “Mother Hen.”
“I would go out of my way to do anything for the little people around me,” said the Memphis, Tenn.-based teen. “That’s when I noticed how much making a change in children’s lives mattered to me.”
Prewitt put this passion into action by creating a subscription box service for African-American girls ages 5 to 19, called Black Butterfly Beautiful. Her goal was to inspire young black girls to read, learn more about their history and culture, and build up their self-esteem.
“I wanted to make something to inspire little girls because I didn’t have anything like this growing up,” said Prewitt, who started the business in June 2017. “I was picked on for being dark-skinned and for having natural hair. If I had something like this growing up, I would have been more self-aware.”
Each monthly box has a timely theme, is curated based on subscriber age and features a book with African-American characters, products from black-owned businesses and other items with uplifting words and imagery.
Items in the box feature sayings like, “‘Your brown is beautiful,’” Prewitt says. “The sole purpose is to help with self-worth and really knowing who you are before anyone else can tell you different.”
Subscriptions can last three months, six months or 12 months, with prices depending on the length of service. A one-time box is also available.
One past box focused on three generations of black female activists; another highlighted award-winning African-American actresses.
“I want girls to see that there are a variety of things in the world for them to do.”
The idea for Black Butterfly Beautiful grew out of the books and gifts Prewitt would give her 6-year-old cousin, who she says is like a little sister to her. It was Prewitt’s godmother who encouraged her to make the boxes available to all girls.
“My godmother helped me to understand that all girls in the world should have somebody that’s supporting them and in their corner.”
In that spirit, one of her next goals is to donate boxes to homeless girls in Memphis.
“Not only do they need someone to be there for them and care about them, they also need someone rooting for them just like anybody else. Donating a box to them would be really powerful.”
After a conversation with her younger brother, Prewitt decided to make bimonthly boxes for boys. She calls those boxes “Black Dragonfly.”
“My little brother saw my cousin getting a box, and he wanted one too,” she said. “I created the boys box to teach boys that being an athlete, actor or reality show star isn’t the only option for success. I wanted them to know that they can be CEOs and billionaires.”
Prewitt heads to college in the fall and plans to broaden her business.
“When I go to college, I want to start a new piece for college students called ‘Butterfly Destination’ that will have things college students need, like coupon books for food and groceries. I also want to start a nonbinary children’s box and call it the ‘Firefly Box.’ It will center around children who do not identify with the gender they were given at birth.”
Prewitt credits her mother, Shauntay Hampton-Prewitt, with teaching her the value of service.
“My mom instilled in me to create change, no matter what avenue,” Prewitt said. “As a teenager, it’s an amazing thing having a business that impacts people’s lives.” She wants to be seen as “a 17-year-old that’s doing something positive — yes, for herself — but more so for her community.”