“A Guest at the Table” is a synopsis of a previously aired and particularly interesting interview on my No-Nonsense Roundtable radio show, which airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on NewsRadio WHAM-1180.
After broadcast, all shows can be heard as podcasts at www.nononsenseroundtable.com. The link for this particular show is at the bottom of this page.
When I talked with Nita Brown, she was dressed in orange. It was the brightest color anyone had ever worn on the No-Nonsense Roundtable, and made me a little sad that we were on radio.
But it literally was so fitting for this women who designs clothes that are made in her native Ghana and has a boutique called MansaWear on Park Avenue in Rochester.
“I could have picked pink or bronze to work with. I decided today is my orange day,” Nita said, describing why she chose an orange sweater, orange eyeglasses and orange earrings.
Nita gets her fashion sense from her grandmother, who encouraged her to look to nature. “If it works in nature, it works on you.”
Her grandmother was her role model, so Nita named MansaWear for her.
“Mansa is my grandmother’s name. It’s a Ghanaian name and it means to be the third consecutive girl born to the same parents. I really admire my grandmother, her discipline, her tenacity, her worldly knowledge. She never traveled outside of Ghana, apart from going to the neighboring Ivory Coast. She was not formally educated. She ran three motels and a liquor store. She was incredibly smart. So if I’m going to name a company after anybody, it’s got to be her.”
Nita was born in Ghana but is a citizen of the world. Her father was a diplomat and a lawyer, so Nita and her family lived in Poland, the Czech Republic and England, to name a few places. With her parents traveling so much, Mansa served as Nita’s guardian in Ghana, where she finished high school at a boarding school.
“I always tell my daughter it was one of the best times of my life. … I thrived on it.”
Like so many people I talk to, Nita took a roundabout path to where she is today. As a child, she wanted to run a big corporation. She has a degree in history and an MBA, and she had come to Rochester in 2000 to work for Kodak.
But a conversation at the gym changed everything.
“I was at the YMCA and I leave to go to work. Two women who were my locker mates said, ‘We really like the way you dress. You need to start thinking about selling it.’ I didn’t think anything of it until one day one of them said, ‘I could get you angel funding if you want to do this.’”
She set up as vendor at the second Fashion Week and saw the reaction. She opened MansaWear in 2014 at the corner of Park Avenue and Oxford Street.
“I wanted to have a place where there's a lot of pedestrian traffic. I live in the neighborhood, so I'm just going to open where I live. There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic and I wanted to have beautiful things in the window so people would just stop in.”
She told me that shopping at MansaWear is an experience. She gives free style consultations and she invites clients to touch the 100%, 300-count cotton fabrics.
“If it's beautiful and it's well made and it looks good on me and at the end of the day that's what I look beautiful in, why not?
To hear the conversation with Nita, click “browse YouTube” here.
QR link to Nita's YouTube interview: