Sydney Parker shares how a strong vision for the future guides her through entrepreneurial challenges and drives her mission
Sydney Parker is the Co-Founder of Aurora Tights, an apparel brand dedicated to creating inclusive products for every unique skin color — a much-needed mission for an industry lacking representation. Sydney Parker pursued a degree at the University of Maryland, specializing in Public Relations and Communications, where she met her two best friends and co-founders, Jasmine and Imani. Sydney danced her entire life and joined the university team at Maryland, where her inspiration and drive for bringing inclusivity to dance began to flourish.
As a young athlete, Sydney danced on predominantly white teams and experienced, first hand, the inequalities in the dance industry. Coaches advised her teams to buy the same tights and dance apparel, despite various body types and skin tones, which brought forth feelings of insecurity and marginalization. One size, one color, fits all. It became clear that the definition of beauty in performance sports was lacking dimension and representation. Sydney and her co-founders understood the value of growing your confidence through performance sports and set forth to pave a more inclusive road for young women.
How Sydney’s experience in the dance community shaped and inspired her mission
Sydney faced many inequalities in the dance community as a dark-skinned woman in a predominantly white sport. Hair products, makeup, and apparel never seemed to fit her appearance, and as one of the only black women on the team, she felt isolated in this struggle. Sydney experienced various microaggressive acts — coaches afraid to touch her hair, pointing her out in a crowd as the only black performer — and because of this, her confidence took a hit. She never lost her love for dance, but it wasn’t until dancing with the University of Maryland team that she began to feel empowered and confident in her skills.
“I loved dance, because I got to feel really strong and powerful in that space.”
In University, Sydney danced with a very diverse team and took a leadership position, honing her talents in an inclusive space for the first time in her career. Surrounded by the support of her team, she grew into her strengths and pursued a mission to transform dance for young women who had been in her shoes. With this mission in mind, Aurora Tights took the stage. In just one year, they opened an online store, won a pitch competition that funded their manufacturing, and produced tights in a variety of different shades.
“If we're increasing the diversity, we're increasing the options for young people and providing education for coaches and retailers so we can create an inclusive experience for performers.”
Sydney and her team went the extra mile to produce various tight shades, creating inclusive apparel for all. They went through 1000’s of color samples and dyes to ensure that young women felt represented and proud in their performance apparel.
How Sydney and her team maneuvered through the impact of the pandemic and tragedies that struck the black community
As dance, figure skating, and other performance sports shut down in response to the waving pandemic, Sydney and her team had to redirect their efforts to reach customers at home. They launched an entire apparel campaign, complete with exercise tights and at-home wear. But their direction quickly changed after the death of George Floyd, followed by a movement to amplify black voices. Sydney and her team utilized their platform to educate others on the Black Lives Matter movement and halted their campaign efforts to advocate for social justice.
Around this time, conversations began to circulate about the disparities felt by the black community in multiple industries, namely dance. Black and brown dancers wore Aurora Tights to signal their solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which came as a moment of inspiration for Sydney and her team. They partnered with five non-profit organizations in the dance and ice skating community to raise $30,000 to build inclusive spaces for black and brown performers. In addition, they funded two scholarships to aid performers affected by the pandemic.
How Sydney Parker balances her ambitions: Working full-time at Facebook and progressing Aurora Tights
Sydney has a hectic schedule, but her inspiration and ambitions keep her motivated. Sydney believes the extra energy given by her mission motivates her to balance a heavy workload.
“You have to create your own balance” and communicate with your team when you need extra support. In the early stages of an entrepreneurial startup, the hard work never slows down, but Sydney sees opportunities to design meaningful change and is driven by passionate work.
“If you need encouragement, then you shouldn't be an entrepreneur.”
How Sydney balances a heavy workload and stays productive
Sydney is a big advocate for power hours: sitting down for an hour to finish one project or task. This helps her focus on one thing at a time, so she’s not hopping back and forth between a million different tasks. Sydney takes frequent breaks throughout the day and maintains a balanced flow of work and rest to avoid burnout and refresh her mind.
Sydney uses Shift to aggregate Gmail and Outlook accounts, manage her calendar and integrate with Asana, social media apps, and Shopify. Browser chaos is very familiar to Sydney, so streamlining all of her applications and email accounts is a huge time saver.
Luck or hard work: to which do you attribute your success?
Sydney believes that both luck and hard work have contributed to her success. Hard work does not always equate to success, and you don’t need to work yourself to the bone or make personal sacrifices to be successful. This idea runs rampant in the Black community — you must work twice as hard to see success — which is a significant impediment to work-life balance. This grind-mentality is partially responsible for poor mental health among entrepreneurs, especially black female entrepreneurs, and Sydney believes in dismantling the culture of overworking.
Sydney has experienced the wins with the losses and has seen luck play a huge role in her success. But, she maintains that you still need to put in substantial work if you want to see any kind of luck in business. Don’t overwork yourself, but keep your eyes on the vision and fulfill your ambitions to see luck and hard work come together to create success.