Picture of a phone with Shopify software

Start Your Business with Shopify

Try Shopify for free, and explore all the tools and services you need to start, run, and grow your business.

Build Black: How the Creator of Hella Awkward Is Rewriting Her Family’s Future

Founder of Awkward games, Brittane Rowe

Name: Brittane Rowe, co-founder and CMO (alongside co-founders Brandon Rowe and Jane Lim)
My business: Awkward Games
Product: Hella Awkward, a card game that sparks unforgettable experiences and awkward conversations through 140 thought-provoking question cards
Year founded: 2020
Based in: New York

Why we started our business: 

We founded Awkward Games during the NYC quarantine in 2020. We created this game to inspire meaningful conversations for people like us. Growing up, these types of conversations weren’t had in our communities. We’re driven to encourage people to connect across cultures. Hella Awkward is a tool for sharing our stories, connecting in safe spaces, and diving into our feels. Every detail of our game was considered—we aimed for a premium yet approachable game experience. 

Close up of a hand shuffling game cards around on an orange table

The biggest challenge we’ve faced: 

Starting a business during a pandemic is no easy feat. We dealt with major supply chain issues—in 2022, we couldn’t get product in stock for five months. 

How we pulled through:

In order to take advantage of that time, we revisited our long-term goals and strategized on how to achieve them effectively. We focused on building our community, making connections, and setting up systems so when the product arrived we could hit the ground running with partnerships and retail opportunities. It was a reminder that entrepreneur life is a journey, and to take every hit in stride and move forward, no matter what.

Build Black with Shopify was developed to create one million Black businesses with partner organizations like Operation Hope. Its aim is to provide tools, resources, and education to remove the traditional barriers to Black entrepreneurship. Join the Build Black program to connect with other entrepreneurs like you.

Learn more

What the future holds: 

We’re working on expanding our product line to continue the awkward conversation, building our retail footprint to include more mass retailers as well as small businesses, and becoming a go-to game in everyone’s home. 

Advice I’d give to a new entrepreneur: 

Your network is your net worth. Lean on your family and friends for encouragement and support when needed. This journey can be long and lonely at times. Start attending networking groups’ events and be active in offering resources and advice as much as possible. People are attracted to passion, so don’t be afraid to share goals and aspirations—you never know who you’ll meet that will help make it happen!

As a Black woman, I feel the responsibility to succeed and create a pathway for others like me to start businesses of their own.

What legacy I want to leave: 

The legacy I hope to leave behind is one of empathy, compassion, and vulnerability. As a Black woman, I feel the responsibility to succeed and create a pathway for others like me to start businesses of their own. We’re still new to the game, but we are passionate, skilled, and intentional about building a way forward for connection. 

Brittane and Brandon Rowe, founders on Hella Awkward
Brittane launched Awkward Games with her brother Brandon (right) and co-founder Jane Lim. Awkward Games

What it means to be a Black business owner: 

I grew up watching my dad dream of building a business of his own. We’d often joke about his ability to sell water to a whale. Like many Black people, his creativity and raw talent were no match for the lack of capital he had access to. Seeing him struggle to build wealth subconsciously subverted my own desires in business. 

It wasn’t until 2020 that I realized business ownership could be a legitimate option for me. As I embarked on my entrepreneurial journey, the learning curve was a steep one. Each day was met with new challenges to tackle, and yet here we are! I often wonder what my ancestors would think of all this. It drives me forward to learn everything I can so I can offer my knowledge to those who come after me.

The social platform I use most for marketing: 

I’m a millennial, so Instagram will always be my favorite, but TikTok is certainly a priority and where I (and our target customer) spend most of the time these days.

How I use social media to grow my business: 

Thankfully, I’m no stranger to building an audience on social media. I’m taking a creator approach to marketing my business and leveraging the organic growth to build community and attract leads. We have a small but engaged community, and word of mouth via social media has been a huge driving factor to our continued growth.