Allyson Yuille doesn’t look quite like Martha Stewart. Her skin is a tad darker, her lips a bit fuller and her style of dress somewhat different, but her ambitions remain the same. The Los Angeles native made the near 2,700-mile trek from the West Coast to the East, arriving in Washington, D.C. in 2006 before transforming herself into one of today’s most interesting entrepreneurs. In February, Yuille launched Sweet Potato Paper, a stationary company that provides customized lines of invitations for people of color just in time to coordinate with Black History Month.

Although the company is still fresh, Yuille’s craving for Sweet Potato Paper actually began in 2009, when she was busy planning her own wedding. After scavenging through several invitations trying to find a Harlem Renaissance theme, all that the 31-year-old could find were conventional invites. “From family reunions to anything that had to do with people of color what I found was really stereotypical,” Yuille said. “It was either outdated or had some sort of fist or Kente cloth.”

From there, Yuille took matters into her own hands. She gave up her search and simply styled her own invites, prompting a clamoring from friends and family who also wanted more personalized invitations. With a background as an advertising and marketing director, Yuille applied her efforts and intuitiveness to her new craft. “I taught myself how to do a lot of different things by reading different books and using it surprisingly to learn a lot of the design software that’s out there.”

The illustrations for Sweet Potato Paper serve several multi-cultural celebrations. From Día de los Muertos to Christmas, the stationary company’s range of diverse invitations is unmatched. Since its launching, things have gone “really well” for Sweet Potato Paper without any major advertisement. Although business has blossomed so far, Yuille’s plans for success aren’t finished. She has a goal in mind and it’s modeled after one of the most successful business women over the past few years.

“My whole goal is I really want to be, and I hope this makes sense, like an urban Martha Stewart,” Yuille said. “I want to be the person who can talk about hostessing parties but focused on the different types of parties for people of color. I want to do that for every culture: just really highlight the way that they celebrate and how invitations and different things can be used to successfully promote that particular culture’s event.”

Sweet Potato Paper has a chance to be a trendsetter. With a name and service that’s unique among its peers, staying power seems certain for the newborn business. Perhaps its arrival falls just in time for a wakeup call to stationary companies everywhere. “We’re not the minority anymore,” Yuille added. “The number of Latinos and African Americans together make up a majority of America but yet there’s not a lot of things out there for us.”

For more information Sweet Potato Paper visit www.sweetpotatopaper.com

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO