Girl power

Marquette Business partners with Fashion Angels to help develop ‘Future She-E-Os’

“It’s magic.”

That’s not typically how a business owner pitches a venture to prospective customers. But at 12 years old, Laila B. is not a typical entrepreneur. Her product, Bad Dream Spray, which she says is designed to keep nightmares away, was tested by her 7-year-old sister. And in Laila’s business pitch at the Future She-E-O Contest, she said: “It works. It keeps the bad dreams away. It’s magic.”

The Future She-E-O Contest, sponsored by tween lifestyle brand Fashion Angels and held in collaboration with Marquette Business’ Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship, encourages girls ages 9–12 to submit business ideas for a chance to win a $10,000 college scholarship. The female-owned company created the Future She-E-O Contest in conjunction with the company’s It’s My Biz product line.

It’s My Biz is designed to inspire tween girls to consider futures in entrepreneurship,” explains Chris Dresselhuys, vice president of marketing and licensing for Fashion Angels.

During product research for It’s My Biz, the Milwaukee-based company discovered that young girls often lose self-confidence as they get older, causing many to avoid participating in business ventures.

“We learned that only 47 percent of women believe that they are capable of owning a business of their own, which we found very troubling,” Dresselhuys says.

To help dispel such beliefs, the Future She-E-O Contest gives girls hands-on experiences in businesses of their own. “It would be very difficult to tell them that they can’t do something when, in fact, they’ve already done it at a very young age,” said Dresselhuys, who last year approached Marquette entrepreneurship instructor John Peterson to advise Fashion Angels on the contest.

“When I heard what Fashion Angels wanted to do with the Future She-E-O Contest, I knew Marquette was the ideal place for them,” Peterson recalls. “We were already planning this year’s ImpactNext Business Model Competition, and it seemed like the perfect fit to partner it with the Future She-E-O Contest.”

The Kohler Center has hosted a new venture competition for more than a decade, and that sort of brand equity made it an ideal platform for Fashion Angels’ new contest, according to Megan Carver, associate director of the Kohler Center for Entrepreneurship. “As we look for ways to grow ImpactNext and the Kohler Center as a hub for innovation and collaboration, strategic partnerships like these are critical,” Carver says. “What’s more, introducing these girls — the next generation of female business leaders — to entrepreneurship is foundational to our mission.”

The 2015 Future She-E-O Contest finalists.

Of the more than 100 entries from tween girls around the nation, five Future She-E-O finalists were selected to compete in the final round at Marquette. Despite their young ages, the finalists showed veteran poise and ambition.

Their ventures included doll clothes, handmade gifts, a bakery boutique, hair accessories, and the Bad Dream Spray, and like any good entrepreneur, the contestants have plans for their futures.

Wisconsin native Tesse O. wants to grow her hair accessory line, Hair Spins. “I hope to expand to an Etsy shop or even go international someday,” she says.

Ten-year-old Isabella K. of Nevada intends to use the profits from her businesses, Baker Street Books and London Luxuries, to help pay for college.

Future She-E-O winner and Pink & Green founder Allison F. is a social entrepreneur. Half of her bracelet sale profits go to help the homeless in her native Seattle.

What may be most encouraging from these young entrepreneurs is their desire to help others. Future She-E-O Contest winner Allison F., age 12, donates 50 percent of the profits from her company’s bracelet sales to help the homeless in her hometown of Seattle.

“Green represents giving back,” Allison says of her company’s moniker, Pink & Green.

None of the Future She-E-O participants has yet reached high school. Nevertheless, it’s clear they’ve already reached great heights.

Hear from the Future She-E-Os themselves.

Written by Sarah Eslyn