Amil Barnes, The Master of Questions on Cuffin'
Father. Entrepreneur. Fiancé. Digital content creator. So many titles to describe a man with vision, hustle, and grit. Meet: Amil Barnes.
Amil is no beginner to starting and running a business. Nor is he afraid of learning from his mistakes and applying them to new or current ventures.
“I’m a creator and an entrepreneur. I've been working for myself for 10 years; I did work at a radio station for two months but it didn't work out,” he explained.
Entrepreneurship, as I’m sure you’ve seen the plentiful memes, is not for the faint of heart. It is a particular battle when there is family involved. A man’s sense to provide is so deeply ingrained in them that the risk of entrepreneurship can feel unnecessary for the sake of keeping home and masculinity in tact.
However, Amil views his and his fiancé’s ability to create and pursue entrepreneurial endeavors as a legacy to leave behind for their twin girls. They’ll understand the value of work and putting it all together as well as have an established venture to hop into. “I’m not even doing this for me anymore I’m really setting it up for them,” Amil explained. “So they can kind of just get older and jump into the business.”
The story of Cuff Cards did not happen overnight. The journey to selling 2000 decks and counting started as a college event series centered around chicken, waffles, a little drink and a need to spark interesting conversations.
“So, Cuff started two years ago but before Cuff Cards it was actually called Love Jones back in 2010 while I was in college in Charlotte,” he said. “It literally started off as a chicken and waffle night at my house and I needed something else to do besides people drinking and eating.”
At the time, Moo was growing in popularity for its sleek business card designs. Taking advantage of a free business card promotion, Amil printed a deck of 50 with questions on one side.
A party vibe centered around food, drink, and music became a hot bed for debate. “When my friends would come over I literally said pluck a card and from there would start all the arguing,” he said.
The topic of love, sex, and dating will never lose steam. Questions like: “Ladies, do you think a man should stop going to clubs after marriage” and “Should side pieces be compensated to keep quiet,” spark reactions that draw on one’s own experiences and current relationship statuses. If there’s one thing all people can have an opinion on, it’s the matters of the heart - black, white, grey, and situationship.
“Talking about love, sex, dating and everything brings cultures together. I could literally have in a room my black friends, my white friends, my Asian friends, my Hispanic friends, and we would literally all come together and talk,” he said.
Cuff Cards has taken - and continues to take - Amil on a journey of endless opportunity. When the business was called Love Jones, he met and talked shop with Larenz Tate. Conversations surrounding bringing Cuff Cards to the small screens were in motion - an all-star cast, the juiciest questions, and network ready to air.
In that moment, Amil focused on his own mission, his business’ purpose, and the direct control he had over his product. What may seem like a, “get on that” opportunity for many was a test of his own entrepreneurial beliefs. There’s no clout to chase or Instagramable photo if that means potentially losing your work to those with fancy titles and dollar signs behind them.
“Everything went well until it got down to who owned the concept and we went through a few legal thing. It didn't work out because I owned the name and I wasn’t willing to give up the whole brand for that,” he explained.
Too often entrepreneurs are getting sucked into the vortex of being seen. In wanting to be seen every opportunity seems “worth it” in hopes of not only being successful in that venture but also add up in likes and follows.
The experience Amil demonstrates as an entrepreneur shows in his pausing that deal to focus on having all of his ducks in a row. Cuff Cards is a business, not a social media trend.
“With social media we’re trying to come out the gate and win,” Amil explained. “You're doing it for the likes and not necessarily doing it to actually think about the future. Instagram is going to be around forever and with Cuff I plan on giving it to my two daughters to run.”