October 22nd, 2014 - 9:57 am § in Uncategorized

A new venture for girls: Can a development practitioner change the world through business?

I went out with a new friend back in April, for sushi. Just sushi. And it ended up costing me thousands of dollars.

As Melissa Ovard described how they had formed a company to provide products to make girls’ adolescent transitions easier, I was hooked. Her enthusiasm spilled all over our unagi and seawead salad, and I knew I had to be a part of Girl Lux.

Turns out, over the last 25 years not much has changed for girls going through adolescence. But we think there’s no reason the next generation has to suffer the same anxiety and embarrassment. As a 100% woman-owned and operated company, we want to offer underwear, bras, and sportwear for girls ages 8-14 years old. We know we can do this better and help girls (and their parents) have more peace of mind during this delicate time of growing up.

But what do I know about starting up an apparel company? My Masters of International Development and years working at NGOs and foundations certainly didn’t prepare me for this. Or did it?

Early on, I called a friend and mentor who works in the “girls space” within the development and philanthropic sector and asked for her thoughts. I was unsure if this new venture would fit with all the other commitments I juggle and the approaches I espouse, and whether having a bit of a domestic focus would be ok. But she had the best advice of all that I’ve heard from the many(!) people we’ve been talking to in order to learn how to start a venture like this:

“Make this company successful. That’s how you can make change for girls.”

Whew. Wait, that’s reassuring, but definitely not easy.

In addition to our CSR plans (imagine a massive improvement on the BOGO model!), here’s why I’m proud of Girl Lux so far and why it feels so related to all that I’ve learned and experienced in the development sector so far:

1)     We care about building self-reliance. Being a girl is a wonderful thing. And being a woman is even better. But that transition from girlhood to young womanhood is not the most pleasant experience to go through. We offer products so that puberty doesn’t become the enemy of self-esteem. Making it an easier experience means girls are more confident in all aspects of their lives.

2)     We care about inclusion. Spanx, one of these most popular undergarment lines for women in the US only comes in two colors – my skin tone and jet black. If you are an 8-year-old who is developing early (a more common phenomenon in the US these days), the last thing you want is for people to know that you’re wearing a bra. So what if you are not white? We have 5 colors to match every skin tone. Do you glow? Are you luminous? Radiant, vivid or brilliant?

And no one has to buy products that are labeled XL. We are committed to embracing and celebrating all of our beauty in every shape, size and color. All we know is that every girl deserves to:

3)     We care about empowerment (in an innovative way). Our newest product, the Pocket Pantie™ contains a small, inside pocket on the back, that sits right below the waistband and is just large enough to hold a wrapped pantyliner or thin maxi pad. The pocket is discreet enough not to show through clothes or bother you when sitting. It’s here for when you need it! It’s the thing I wish I had had growing up, and if it sounds good for you or the girls in your life, every donation on the Girl Lux KickStarter campaign, no matter the size, helps us reach our goal of $20,000 to place our first major order!

Working in global development, we learn that we have to dream big, but that we have to expect stumbles and back tracks along the way. So I am learning, yet again to:

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