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Rising Stars: Meet Penny Clarke

Today we’d like to introduce you to Penny Clarke.

Hi Penny, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
I was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.

I immigrated to the United States in October 1986 at age 16, straight out of high school, to attend college. With a strong interest in travel, fashion, and foreign languages from a young age, I initially wanted to return to Liberia and open a boutique, but circumstances surrounding life, work, and family prevented this.

In 2015, I visited a village in Langa Township, Cape Town, South Africa, and that reinvigorated my passion and desire to help women around the world achieve their dreams. I visited various female artisans, clothing designers, leather makers, and fabric distributors to bring this to fruition. On April 9, 2016, those encounters soon birthed Millie’s International Creations – in memory of my mother, the late Mildred F. W. Yancy.

We are proud of our organic growth over the last two years. We are looking forward to continuous growth, that will lead to job creation in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
It has not been a smooth road by any means, and it still isn’t. The struggles include capital to scale, finding trusted help, delays in shipment, as well as the fact that I still work my full-time job in the legal profession.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a litigation lawyer. I left private practice and became a public servant in 2013. My current specialty is in electronic discovery. I am an old IBM days former programmer.

There are quite a few things I am most proud of. First, I am proud that I have two very good humans as my adult children. I am also most proud of my ability to juggle both my career, family, and my business, which appears seamless to those on the outside. Finally, I am proud of the fact that I entered law school pregnant with my now 24-year-old daughter, gave birth to her via C-section during my first semester of law school, returned three weeks after to take my first set of final exams, and graduated on-time with my law school class. I could have quit or taken leave, but I persevered.

What sets me apart from others in my business is my focus, drive, and commitment to service excellence. I am a stickler for excellent customer service. As a consumer, poor customer service has always been one of my pet peeves. I pride myself on treating my clients how I want and expect to be treated.

I have also set myself apart by consistently using my Weekly Facebook Live broadcasts (Millie’s Style Party) to not only teach my clients about the products but to educate them on the continent of Africa as a whole. It’s always about education because I strongly believe that education is the way out of poverty.

So maybe we end by discussing what matters most to you and why?
What matters most to me is ensuring that I am reaching back to help as many people as I can by impacting their lives through my fashion business.

I am particularly focused on Africa because that is where I was born and raised. I know and understand the plight of those in need on the continent and it is imperative that I reach back to help and never forget where I come from. Although I focus on Africa, my local community benefits because I am working to create jobs for those in need right in the community, as we continue to grow.

Doing my part for humanity is very integral to me as I watched my mother be kind to so many people during my upbringing. She used whatever little resources she had to educate other people’s children and provide them room and board when their parents could not. She provided shelter to her best friend and her 5 children when they lost their home.

It’s that level of humanity that is engrained in me that causes me to work to ensure others’ needs are met.

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  1. Adolphus D. Swen Sr.

    April 21, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    I I am very much inspired by this story n I want to encourage you not to give up. Thanks

  2. Delain Cowell

    May 16, 2022 at 5:01 pm

    I am a happy customer!! Keep doing what you’re doing & continued success will be yours.

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