Women Turn Ideas Into Businesses
Walk the halls of some secondary private schools in Ohio and you will see students adorned in what appears to be typical school attire: striped skirts, traditional ties and stark white button-up oxfords. What you won't see is the hard work behind the attire.
What you do not see are the amazing women around the globe who use sewing skills, passed down from generation to generation, to craft the uniforms. Nor do you see a Kent State University alumna whose heart for humanity has turned a fashion dream into an ethical business that empowers women out of poverty.
Meet Hilary Dell. In 2010 she graduated from Kent State’s Fashion School and entered the fashion industry only to be dismayed by the waste and unethical practices that surrounded her. Instead of taking part, Hilary reflected on an internship she once completed in Uganda, Africa.
“I just saw the effect that fair trade had on women living in remote areas who don’t have a lot of access to income,” Dell said. “I was really inspired by that and just decided to make that what I do with my life, is to help those women.”
Dell started One Seed Heritage, a company that partners with women around the globe to ethically sew sustainable uniforms for private schools in Ohio, including Gilmour Academy, Gates Mills; Our Lady of the Elms, Akron; Beaumont School, Cleveland Heights; Magnificat High School, Rocky River; and St. Ursula Academy, Cincinnati.
The women sew recycled jeans into skirts. The shirts are made with organic cotton from fair trade organizations that work with small farmers. The ties are created out of previously worn skirts.
Dell credits her success to Bad Girl Ventures® - a nonprofit organization that helps women start and grow businesses in Kent, Ohio and surrounding communities, including Cleveland and Cincinnati.
“We want to target female entrepreneurs so that they are fundable and they are loan ready,” said Réka Barabás, NEO market manager for Bad Girl Ventures. “They can start dreaming bigger so that their businesses grow.”
Bad Girl Ventures has now teamed up with LaunchNET Kent State to offer classes through the EXPLORE program, taught by successful local business owners and professionals.
Jessica Campi joined the program to learn how to start a kickboxing fitness gym.
“My children will be in school next year, fulltime, and I don’t want to sit behind a desk,” Campi said. “I want to do something that I’m passionate about.”
Others participants want to take their businesses to the next level. After graduating from Kent State last fall, Jessica Trevino co-founded Weldon + Lee - a digital creative agency.
“Every class I leave feeling motivated,” Trevino said. “I’ve learned so much and I get more and more excited each week.”
“It’s been so exciting over the past few weeks to see them grow and be more confident in presenting their ideas and realizing this can be a reality,” said Tabitha Martin, advisor for Venture Initiatives at LaunchNET Kent State. “It’s really exciting to be able to help in just a little way.”
For Dell, that little help has gone a long way. The uniforms that she has sold have helped the sewing cooperative in Guatemala buy its own sewing workshop.
“The business skills that I learn here, I take back with me to Guatemala and help them grow their own women-owned businesses,” Dell said.
The first EXPLORE class is set to graduate May 17, 2016. Classes will return to Kent State next Spring.
For more information on Bad Girl Ventures, visit www.badgirlventures.com/locations/cleveland/.
For more information on LaunchNET Kent State, visit www.kent.edu/launchnet.