Women of Wednesday: Monica Phromsavanh on Rising from Retail and the Power of Women

Olivia A. Cole
Nov 8, 2017 · 4 min read

WOMEN OF WEDNESDAY is a micro-interview series featuring women of color in various industries and walks of life, focused on highlighting their pursuits and making it easy for readers to support their endeavors. If you would like to be featured, please submit your answers to the below five questions here.

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Monica Phromsavanh, CEO of ModaBox

1. Tell us about the work you’re doing and why it’s important.

Growing up in a refugee camp, I never imagined a life outside: I didn’t know any better. My parents escaped the chaos and violence of the Secret War and resettled in Argentina. Living in a Laotian community in Argentina, work was almost impossible for my parents to find, as they couldn’t speak much of the Spanish language, so when I turned fourteen I dropped out of school, and by the age of 15 found myself working at a retail store 12 hours a day, six days a week, for very little pay. However, for the first time in my life, I was able to afford my own groceries, a pair of shoes, and a winter coat, and that meant the world to me. That particular feeling gave me hope. I did not imagine back then that later I would pursue a career in retail that allowed me to launch ModaBox, an online personalized shopping service. Having worked in the industry for so long, I realized that most women regarded fashion as an experience that allowed them not only to look great, but feel great too. I truly believed — and believe — that the 5th Avenue luxury service should be unique not only to NYC elite: women everywhere deserve a seamless and empowering shopping experience. In 2014 I recruited a network of industry-trained stylists who shared my vision, and ModaBox was born.

Getting dressed should be an empowering experience with the ability to make you look great and feel confident. At ModaBox, we believe that convenience and personalization should be accessible to every woman, no matter where they are or what they do.

My experience growing up made me aware of the struggles of women and girls around the world, and giving back is a huge part of what drives the Modabox team. We have partnered with Bottomless Closet, an organization dedicated to helping disadvantaged women entering the workplace. In every Modabox, there is a note asking members to consider donating gently worn business attire for women, and a pre-addressed envelope to use for any items they wish to contribute.

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2. What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in pursuing the work that’s important to you?

Being an immigrant and school drop-out has been exceptionally challenging. I not only have to learn how to articulate and express myself in a new language but also learn all the ropes in business. Being an entrepreneur already has its own challenges, and I have the additional challenge of overcoming the disadvantage of being both a minority and a woman running a tech company.

3. What do you need in order to continue your work in the way you envision?

I need more women leaders to come together and rise! The more we help and support each other in our endeavors the more we can do, and that applies across all industries.

For happy customers and fans, support by spreading the word about ModaBox so we can continue to give women everywhere the confidence they need to start their days. Women deserve to look and feel great regardless of their age or what they do — and regardless of the challenges they face.

4. Where and how can we support you to make #3 happen?

By sharing our mission and stories of women like myself to inspired others. Visit ModaBox here.

5. What is your favorite quote?

“Why be average when you can be extraordinary?”

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