Women have always been on the forefront of change. Whether its been mythically (Helen of Troy) or historically (Joan of Arc), women have been leading captivating movements that have won wars and won the hearts of many. It only makes sense that women-founded businesses of today have a hand to help foster the girl game changers of tomorrow.
Sometime in the mid 80’s my dad had a bright magenta coding book. Since I was very much an indoor child, I would sit and type in the lines of code. They were lengthy, but at the end an animated design would populate on the screen for a minute or two. Now, having my own website, I have recognized that being able to design an eye-catching page with the backend information to facilitate is powerful knowledge.
Kayte Malik, founder of Dresscode, understands the importance of coding and is working towards solving the lack of females in technology by utilizing the bond between fashion and technology. Dresscode sells bracelets that have computer science code strings that unlock different coding lessons. Future plans include accessories that have lessons in3D printing, voice technology and other programing languages. Had fun and educational accessories been available 30 years ago, perhaps I would have been interested in pursuing a lucrative career in STEM.
In high school I wore a uniform. It was green and grey and had three yellow bands that went across the left upper arm. A uniform – besides taking the guesswork out of what to wear each morning also created a sense of community and belonging. Olivia Rose Wright, CEO and Creative Director, of Rallier, a New York womenswear brand discovered the importance of uniforms. She found that the lack of a school uniform was keeping approximately 43% of girls in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, Kenya out of school due to a lack of a uniform. By collaborating with the non-profit partner, Shining Hope for Communities, for each Rallier piece sold, the brand covers the cost of materials and labor for production of school uniforms. The uniforms are then provided to local schoolgirls to ensure their education. Who knew that a uniform could change the life of a young girl in Africa?
Last year I wrote a piece entitled, Together We Rise. It described my love for start-ups and how engrossed I became in those working towards a common goal in business. A few years ago, I volunteered for an UK organization called Grow Movement, where business school grads mentor a select group of entrepreneurs in Africa. After a series of coaching sessions and homework completed, reports are written to grade the efficacy of the sessions. Ideally, the mentees were able to learn skills to help grow their business. Naima Atti’s created her company NINI (Kotokoli for ‘delicious’) to celebrate African culture all the while, supporting and mentoring women entrepreneurs in Togo, West Africa. Growing up in Libreville, Gabon, Naima would sell beverages alongside other traditional African food outside her family home. Now, in New York, Naima keeps the tradition alive by selling drinks with West African ingredients like hibiscus and lemongrass. Teaming up with Afo Charity International Inc. in Africa, proceeds from NINI help teach women how to farm and train others to be successful entrepreneurs.
Looking back, as a child from the 80’s learning to code to completing grad school, I have had great opportunities. Not everyone can share the same sentiments and its heart warming that there are female-first companies at present looking beyond their bottom line. These companies have incorporated social entrepreneurship and paying it forward seamlessly in their business strategy. They are not only concerned about building a brand, but also nurturing a culture of women worth with succession, sustainment and social impact in mind.