Alumni Share the Benefits of Design Entrepreneurs NYC


Layla L’obatti, Nzinga Knight, Jes Wade, Ayaka Nishi

We’ve heard many success stories from designers coming out of the program over the past two years. Here are a few testimonials from our alumni on how Design Entrepreneurs NYC impacted their business:

“DENYC gave us the deadlines and framework to update our business plan to reflect our business’ growth and path going forward. It gave us access to some really great resources that allowed us to understand our customer and focus in on what we offered them and what we could improve.” – Layla L’obatti, Between the Sheets

“DENYC opened my eyes up to many things and I learned so much about business. I’m more confident about doing business and selling. I was uncomfortable with selling my own product, pitching to stores and doing trunk shows etc…and now I love it. I realized that selling is and interacting with customers is important. Doing events has become a part of my business and my marketing strategy. I also learn more about my collection, what people want and what I should design more of.” –Nzinga Knight

“I approach my design and my business from a hands-on and in-depth perspective. The lectures and mentoring at DENYC refined my working business plan and each year the network of professionals grows and provides new opportunities. My research and studies at DENYC gave me confidence to expand upon a vertical concept where every step of the business, from design to manufacturing and retail, occurs in the Jes Wade Atelier located in TriBeCa.” –Jes Wade

“After participating in the DENYC holiday pop-up shop, I saw that these events worked for my business so I started to seek out more of these opportunities.” –Ayaka Nishi

Learn more about the program at Design Entrepreneurs NYC. 

Design Entrepreneurs NYC Spotlight: Ayaka Nishi

Our design entrepreneur Ayaka Nishi gives us the inside scoop on her brand, being in the program and a fun fact about her business.

What’s your brand signature?

The Bone collection and Spine bracelet.

Whats your favorite piece in your collection?

The Cell cuff

 Why did you apply to DENYC?

I learned design in school, but I haven’t had the opportunity to study business, which is crucial to being successful!

What do you hope to get out of the program?

Business knowledge from the instructors and the opportunity to connect with other talented designers who are serious about making it in the fashion business.

What’s the best part of being a NYC designer?

Sometimes unexpected opportunities arise, like the DENYC program!

Can you tells us a fun fact?

An osteopathic physician became interested in my Bone collection and asked me which bone in my body was used for casting!

Learn more about our design entrepreneur at Ayaka Nishi. 

Design Entrepreneurs NYC Spotlight: Ayana Evans of Yana Handbags

Ayana Evans

Today we’re spotlighting our Design Entrepreneur Ayana Evans for Yana Handbags. Learn more about her and be sure to read the entire interview because you will remember her three fun facts!

Can you tell us about your business? 

YANA is a handbag company that embraces high art aesthetics, whimsical humor and socially conscious business practices. Our designs merge artistic themes of women in love with practical function and luxury details, such as 18k gold plated custom hardware based on designer Ayana Evans’s favorite childhood earring and metal labels with hand sewn satin bow details. Special concern is given to creating light weight handbags, with comfortable straps, and easily accessible pockets. The label also always offers custom orders. Our customers like being having access to one-of-a-kind/limited edition products. We are fashion X art.

A portion of all YANA’s online sales are given to charity. Additionally, YANA’s eco-friendly snake skin bags are made of re-purposed leather and feature vegetable dyed linings. YANA supports local artisans and always strives to ensure that each worker at the factories the company contracts are paid fair wages and given safe, clean working conditions.

When did you start your line?

Technically YANA Handbags LLC was formed in 2007. The unofficial start was in 2004, but  everything was in my kitchen then and I mostly sold to friends back then.

Why did you start it?

I always loved fashion, bags especially. I wanted to have a job that I couldn’t be laid off from during the recession and I wanted to work in an area thatt was creative but wasnt exactly the same as working in the visual “art world” (my background is in painting). It may sound crazy because fashion is so volatile, but that’s why I started my business.

Can you give us three words to describe the brand?

Art, socially-conscious and beautiful.

What’s your signature?

The waist bag (e.g. the fanny pack.)

What’s your favorite piece of your collection?

The black quilted waist bag with a gold doorknocker.

Why did you apply to DENYC?

I wanted to grow my business and I felt I had hit a wall. I felt I would get the guidance and mentorship I needed from this program, so I applied.

What do you hope to get out of the program?

I hope to gain long lasting mentoring relationships, strong connections to other designers, and a business plan that I can use as a road map for the next two years of my company’s growth.

Best part of being a NYC designer?

You get invited to cool parties.

Can you give us a fun fact(s)?

1. I’m a performance artist.
2. My brother is a rapper.
3. Both of my parents are therapists and I was raised like a Cosby kid.

Learn more about the brand at Yana Handbags.