She is a Fashion 500 Honoree. She is the President and CEO of 5001 FLAVORS and Harlem Haberdashery. She is a pioneer in couture urban fashion. If Jacob the Jeweler is the first stop for hip-hop artists to show their arrival, then 5001 FLAVORS is the shop for a custom wardrobe MTV red carpet worthy. When Raheem wrote Queen, he described Sharene Wood – nurturer, superwoman, mother, QUEEN! For Mother’s Day, we spotlight a strong woman of color leading by example in work, home, and community.
Mr. Refined (MR): Several companies started in dorms and garages, like Microsoft and Facebook. You started 5001 FLAVORS in your dorm at Columbia University your junior year. When you were a young girl growing up in Harlem, did you think or know you would be in the fashion industry?
Sharene “Shay” Wood (SW): I didn’t realize that I was part of a trend. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I just didn’t know in what field. I grew up watching my father run his business on Lenox Avenue. I would assist writing checks and doing administrative support. I liked that. I liked the family aspect. It shows young kids what is possible. I liked fashion, classic items that made a statement. So when Guy (Wood) asked me to be his business partner while he was creative director, it seemed natural. We started 5001 FLAVORS with $600 using my Brother Word Processor, no computer.
MR: What inspires you?
SW: My family inspires me. I want to leave a transferable legacy of wealth and business. I want to leave my family with more than I started with. It’s all about the betterment of the family and a business legacy.
MR: Who are your female role models?
SW: My mom, Esther Barnett, is my role model for a strong, independent, well spoken, and intelligent woman. She encouraged me to be inquisitive and nurturing. She told me that I was capable of all that I wanted to be. She instilled that message from the beginning. I never realized how important a mother was until I became one. I realized the power of my words could build up or break down my child. I never fully knew the gift and responsibility I was getting when I became a mother. My mother set such a wonderful example for me.
MR: You are a household name in the fashion industry, known as the First Family of Fashion. Celebrities flock to you. You could have opened your store anywhere – Los Angeles, Miami, SoHo, or Fifth Avenue. Why Harlem?
SW: Harlem is swag and personality. Urban street wear fashion started in Harlem. Harlem is home. I grew up on 143rd and Lenox. It needed to start in Harlem. The community needed it too. Our flagship store had to be in Harlem – setting a brand standard for the community.
5001 FLAVORS was our custom brand owned by me and Guy. Three years ago, we wanted a retail expression of our custom line that was accessible and catered to the consumer that wanted their red carpet moment. Everyone wants to be treated like a celebrity. Harlem Haberdashery was created for that purpose. Although my brother, Bernard “Kells” Barnett, has always been involved with 5001 FLAVORS, Harlem Haberdashery gave us the opportunity to include more family members in ownership. It allows us to showcase different brands like our women’s line, Valencia Atelier, designed by Brittny Wood. Billionaire New York is designed by Guy Wood Jr. This is a family affair.
MR: Your commitment to the community is evident in events you sponsor. You recently had your 2nd Annual Masquerade Ball that benefited Harlem Hospital’s Pediatric Unit.
SW: When we opened the store, we connected with The League: A Distinguished Gentlemen’s Movement. The League started “Greener Lenox” to make green space along Lenox Avenue. They were the recipients of our 1st Masquerade Ball. This year we chose Harlem Hospital’s Pediatric Unit as the recipient. We want to make sure we give back to the community.
MR: Tell me about #TakeCareofHarlem.
SW: #TakeCareofHarlem is a nonprofit initiative started by my brother, Bernard “Kells” Barnett. It is an outreach for community involvement. The first project was #Feed500. The goal was to make lunch bags and give them to 500 hundred in the neighborhood. We ended up making 650 lunches. Last year, we gave away 1,000 lunches. #ArtLivesInHarlem is also another project. It was instrumental in donating art to the Harlem Hospital and starting art workshops at the hospital. This year we are donating school supplies through #ArtLivesInHarlem. Additionally, #ArtLivesInHarlem was involved in assisting local artists, like Ron Draper, who recently had his gallery opening.
MR: You are also currently running your 3rd Annual Prom Drive.
SW: Before we opened Harlem Haberdashery, 5001 FLAVORS was always involved in giving gowns and tuxedos for prom. When the store opened, we partnered with others in the community. This is Harlem Haberdashery’s third year participating in the formal wear donation drive. Once all the clothes are collected, we convert the store into a special boutique where the young ladies and gentlemen try on selections and take pictures. It is wonderful to see their smiles.
Additionally, I am involved with Black Women for Black Girls. It is an organization of women who raise money for the young black girls they were. Our annual event is the College Shower. We select high school graduating seniors associated with the Star Boutique and open a registry for them so that they have all they need for college, from linens to laptops. We want them to go on campus ready to succeed.
MR: You are truly dedicated to the betterment of Harlem. You also have a Derby party for the community.
SW: Harlem Haberdashery was created for family, fun, entertainment, and fashion. Also, May is the store’s anniversary. We wanted a way to celebrate. We like to host events for the community that families can attend. On May 2nd, we host a Kentucky Derby party. We open the patio and the place is packed. It is a diverse group of people. We have hosted many events on the patio and in the store – kid’s birthday party, wedding shower, book signings, and more.
MR: How do you balance being a mother and an entrepreneur?
SW: I don’t think you ever balance. It always feels like a compromise. You can’t do it all. Don’t strive for perfection. Strive for happiness. First, make time for yourself so that you can be there for your family. Second, prioritize your day. I make daily To-Do lists to balance being a mom, daughter, sister, and business owner.
MR: Your daughter, Sydney Wood, is just 6 years old and in the store with you. You encourage her to join the family brand?
SW: She is learning. She comes to work with me. It is important for her to be in the workplace to understand that it is not just dressing up going to events. It is work. She understands that it is a never ending job. But she sees it is also fun. She is a hard worker. At the end of each day, she asks about her pay. She recently informed me that she needed business cards.
MR: You built a brand and empire with your husband, Guy Wood. How do you balance being a wife and business partner with your husband?
SW: Guy and I started out dating and living together. Then we broke up and did not date for a long time, about ten years. However, we were always friends first. At times it was hard while we were not dating, but we built a brand together. Neither of us wanted to jeopardize the brand. Guy is my partner in life and in business.
MR: You will have been married 8 years in May. What do you attribute to having a successful marriage?
SW: A healthy family dynamic. Respecting business roles and responsibilities. You have to leave family issues at the door. Remember that you are working on building a legacy together. Again, he is my partner in life and business. What I do does not feel like a job. I sometimes forget that I am at work because I am having a good time.
MR: What advice do you have for young girls?
SW: Believe in yourself. Sometimes you can’t listen to the extra noise. Being self-sufficient doesn’t mean you have to do it all by yourself. It just means you know how, if you need to. Get an education to give yourself options. Be independent, so that you are not stuck in a situation. Love the world and it will love you back.
MR: What advice do you have for women and mothers about making a change in their community?
SW: Pay it forward. Do whatever you can, it doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a difference. Every act of kindness has a ripple effect. Give back for your family. Love your family. Nurture the best in them. Everyone has a gift. Use your gift to change a life.
Leave family heirlooms. In my family there is a black dress that six cousins have worn over the years for important events. That dress is still in the family. It means so much to tell the story of the dress to my daughter.
Treat others like you want to be treated. Every act of kindness matters.
MR: What do you want your legacy to be as a woman?
SW: I want to leave something better for my child. I want to have made a difference and changed the world, making it a better place. I want it to be said that I created opportunities for people and helped educate others. I want to be remembered as making people happy and being happy with life. I want to know that I made someone feel needed and special.
Thank you for being a role model and nurturer to our community. You are an example that #BlackGirlsRock and how we can make #BlackLivesMatter in the communities we live and work.
For more information about Sharene and Harlem Haberdashery, visit:
245 Lenox Avenue
New York, New York 10027