Representation is everything. Despite the increasing popularity of adult coloring books—both paperback and digital—there remains a huge void when it comes to adult coloring books that encompass visuals which are representative of the Black experience. Washington D.C.-based married couple Muoyo Okome and Nicaila Matthews Okome are on a mission to change that through the creation of their app called Color Noir; a visual ode to Black culture.
The adult coloring trend has significantly grown within the past few years, especially in the digital space. According to Digiday the apps—which are known to help combat stress and anxiety—are amongst the top grossing apps in the Apple iOS Store. But what happens when the Black community doesn’t see themselves reflected in this new form of wellness? This is something that Muoyo pondered while exploring different coloring apps. After noticing the lack of Black imagery, he and his wife Nicaila saw an opportunity to create one for the culture. Inspired by the impact of projects like the film Black Panther and songstress Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, the Okomes were motivated to make a cultural impact through the creation of Color Noir which launched in May. “As an entrepreneur, you’re always looking to solve problems,” Muoyo told NewsOne. “We started thinking about the impact that could happen when we start highlighting the Black experience. We wanted to solve the representation problem in the app store.”
The app—which has thousands of users across the globe—features hundreds of vibrant images that capture the essence of Black culture. It includes over 45 skin tones and is designed for colorers at all levels. Both Nicaila and Muoyo have equally contributed to the growth of the app through bringing their expertise to the table. Muoyo, an app architect, handles the technical development of Color Noir and marketing maven Nicaila oversees the imagery and user interface as well as growing Color Noir’s digital presence. Led by the principle “success leaves clues,” the couple has created a global digital community where app users offer feedback and they lean into what’s working. “The most rewarding part has been the response. We have reviews from folks who see themselves represented in the app,” said Nicaila. “When we created this, we hoped that people would enjoy it but now that we’ve seen the response, we really have a deeper purpose than we expected.”
The Okomes want to use the app as an avenue to celebrate Black artistry. They are working on partnering with artists of color to have their work featured on Color Noir and they want to create a marketplace where they can monetize their art. “We love having Black art in our home. We wanted to create a space to share and spread awareness about artists of color. We look for images that are striking and represent us across the diaspora.” said Muoyo. They are aiming to reach 1 million downloads.
The couple’s collective mission is to empower Black entrepreneurs. They’re doing just that through Color Noir by illustrating how impactful leaping into tech entrepreneurship can be and creating a platform that celebrates the work of Black artpreneurs. Aside from Color Noir, the couple has led several other projects that provide individuals with the tools needed to succeed in starting their own businesses. Muoyo is the host of the podcast Game of Grow where he uses his own experiences to school aspiring entrepreneurs on how to cultivate a powerful and profitable business. He has also created a book and course on entrepreneurship. Nicaila is the founder of an inspirational and informative podcast called Side Hustle Pro which delves into the journeys of Black women who have successfully turned their side hustles into profitable businesses.
“When I was starting out and trying to find a career out of business school, I was interested in entrepreneurship but I didn’t see myself as an entrepreneur because podcasts, magazines, and other forms of media were dominated by stories that were not about people who looked like me,” said Nicaila. “It’s so important to see yourself represented and be reminded that it’s possible.”
Color Noir is available on iOS and Google Play.