Téa Devow is a young Indigenous girl breaking glass ceilings in business. (ABC Canberra: Mark Moore)
Téa Devow hasn’t even started high school and she already manages her own Indigenous clothing label and runs a successful YouTube channel.
The 11-year-old based in Canberra partnered with her friend Belle Cooper to start the fledgling business selling Australian products with an Indigenous twist.
Belle Cooper finds embracing Indigenous culture isn’t about being black or white. (Supplied: Téa&Belle)
There’s a broad market for the products which are designed to share Indigenous culture with non-Indigenous Australians and tourists.
“Being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander means a lot to me and it’s really cool that I can embrace that,” Téa said.
Sharing culture a family value
The Devow family had always been close with Belle and her mother Sally.
Belle’s non-Indigenous background wasn’t a barrier to friendship and she was drawn into learning more about Aboriginal history and culture.
“I’m always included in all their family stuff which makes me happy,” she said.
Téa&Belle showcases local Australian products and Indigenous designers. (ABC Canberra: Mark Moore)
Both girls have kept in touch over video chat since the Coopers moved from Canberra to Sydney.
The pair started a YouTube channel where they take turns reading books by Aboriginal authors.
Téa said they reached out online so they could share Indigenous stories as well as raise awareness about the authors.
“Once we’ve finished reading them we give them away to day cares and pre-schools.”
Devow family business Darkie Designs made uniforms for Reconciliation Week matches. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)
The spirit of reconciliation
This practice inspired one of the goals of the Téa&Belle enterprise: to educate customers about Aboriginal history.
Both girls researched the products and included personal cards for customers which explain their significance.
“It’s important to know where people have come from and what’s happened in the past,” Téa said.
Some of the stories have been personal to the Devow family.
Téa’s great-grandfather Hillary “Dib” Thomas was an Indigenous stockman in northern Queensland.
The kangaroo leather collection was named after him and consisted of locally sourced handmade products.
Dion Devow has used his role as ACT Australian of the Year to benefit Indigenous businesses. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)
Supported by strong role models
Family has always been important for both girls with their parents the driving force behind the Téa&Belle label.
Téa’s father Dion Devow was chosen as the 2018 ACT Australian of the Year.
He founded his clothing label Darkies Design as a way of showing pride in his Aboriginal culture and heritage.
“For me, business is a way for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to get ahead,” he said.
“It’s a way to change how non-Indigenous Australia see Aboriginal people.”
Téa always dreamed of taking over the business when she was older, but the dream arrived early with her own label.
While Darkies Design was initially geared toward Indigenous people, Téa&Belle aimed to make the products accessible to everyone.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” Téa said.
“We’re all human and we’re all Australian.”
The girls hope to follow the success of strong Indigenous women, or “Tidda Queens”. (ABC Canberra: Michael Black)