Vivean Pomell: A powerful journey from pain to hope

Brynels Ltd and Lolonyo

In a powerful story of overcoming the odds, Vivean Pomell, the creative director of Brynels Ltd and Lolonyo shares her story of hardship, loss and finding hope.

Vivean was born in the United Kingdom to Jamaican parents who arrived in the late 1950s. Because of their respective hopes for a better life for themselves and their children, they decided it was best to leave their children's educational journey to those who were placed and paid to do the right thing!

Unfortunately, the learning and historical endowments implanted in her and her siblings did not bear the desired fruit because they were not given the same opportunities to maximise the learning environment as others.

Instead, she was subjected to largely negative treatment by educators, who subtly exposed her to negative narratives that painted a distorted picture of what it meant to be black in Britain.

Vivean's ambitions after leaving school in 1981 were largely limited to assisting people with health issues. This led her to become a paid advocate for a local sickle cell charity that assisted black sickle cell patients in making sense of their illness, which was not fully understood in terms of management and treatment at the time.

Later she took on the role of nursery officer for a large city council with a renewed focus on and a steely determination to 'think the impossible'. In this role, she was able to work with young children who, on average, came from single-parent homes, dysfunctional family units, and were labelled with behavioural diagnoses such as autism or ADHD, among many other.

If you ask Vivean, she will tell you that this was the 'tipping point' moment in her life. She realised that the disappointment she felt in her formative years was now being transformed into the fuel that would power her renaissance, paving way for the person who now champions and advocates for those who have had similar experiences.

By 1990, her employers recognised her burgeoning confidence in the field and took the decision to invest in her future with a secondment to North Birmingham College to obtain her diploma in Social Work (CQSW).  This was achieved in the summer of 1991.  Hereafter, Vivean was appointed to the position an early years Registration & Inspection Officer for the city council. 

Armed with a renewed sense of self-belief and a desire to support children in reaching their full potential, she began to put her newfound belief into practice. Fusing her practical experience with academic constructs, Vivean quickly began to forge relationships with statutory and non-statutory bodies.

Her time and resources would further support parents helping them refine their approach as she worked with both the disenfranchised and marginalised to enable them to make sense of their hitherto life experiences.

Vivean, along with other members of the local authority's early years team were TUPE transferred to OFSTED in early 2000. Shortly after the birth of her first child in 2002, she was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, making it difficult for her to continue in her position. 

Sadly, after much discussion with the line managers who objected to agreeing extended maternity leave, based on the exigencies of the service, Vivean had no choice but to resign from her post. With a child to care for, Vivean embarked on a BA Ed at the University of Worcester. 

This sparked a broader thought process in her almost introspective look at her own childhood journey and how her early decision-making processes may have given rise to some negative traits fuelled by taking on adult opinions that skewed her perception of self. However, the touchpaper had now been lit and in 2008, Brynels Hats & Accessories of Edgbaston was opened.

Unfortunately, Vivean's mother died during this time period, and she was unable to visit the boutique named after her. Brynel was the driving force behind the family's foray into business when she launched her own bespoke accessories in the early 1970s, so her death was a devastating blow.

The first broadsheet article about the new boutique was, to say the least, a tribute to her mother's efforts, and the name Brynels was a direct nod to her legacy.

A legacy that has led to previously unimaginable opportunities, such as being commissioned to design five pieces for London Fashion Week, receiving a special recognition award from the British Female Inventor & Innovator of the Year Award, being a finalist in the Barclays Black Businesswomen Awards, being featured on the cover of the Advantage West Midlands Annual Review Report and sitting on the panel that launched the Science White Paper with the then Cabinet Minister.

The irony of this story, as well as the journey that took Vivean from overcoming many structural and subtle obstacles, did not deter her from becoming the businesswoman / creative and driven entrepreneur that she is today.

Her understanding of the needs of families, single parents/carers, and children enabled her to design a service that has centred on the needs of the entire family rather than a narrow focus on just the child. With many years of business experience behind her, it was easy for her to recognise that many parent(s) require additional help, support, and in some cases signposting to find the help required for both the child and the parent.

Vivean only needed the country's national lockdown to launch Lolonyo. Lolonyo’s educational resources, in and of itself, was the solution to a problem that her rich history of working with children and families, combined with her commercial acumen, and more recently, parents' request for access to culturally sensitive materials that children and parents could use during lockdown to maintain focus on learning and personal development.

The range of available resources has been welcomed and used by private fostering companies with a focus on children’s well-being, third sector bodies, day-care provisions, faith organisations and for private usage.

Vivean's journey as a parent, creative director for Brynels Ltd, and lead designer, owner, and content developer for Lolonyo is testament to the values that drives her to be the best she can, despite the challenges and obstacles she has had to overcome. Culturally appropriate reading and learning materials for preschool, early childhood, and young people are intended to bridge inclusion and positive representation gaps, so that such material is no longer outside the margin of normalcy.

Finally, the goal is for all children to be able to compete on a global scale. To accomplish this, we must make every effort to remove the stains of yesterday and replace them with hope. Her mantra is ‘positive representation is a requirement and not an option'. She strongly believes that children learn best when they see images that reflected who they are as this influences the process of reframing how they see themselves.

To get in touch with Vivean, contact