National Women’s Small Business Month: 31 Outfits and a Lot of Lessons Learned
I’ve been championing women-owned brands for years through my work at Berlin Cameron. I’ve hosted events that celebrate women-led companies and written articles about how women should help other women.
But because October was National Women’s Small Business month, I decided to put my money where my mouth is: I’d overhaul my wardrobe and arsenal of beauty/personal care products to only wear and use women-founded brands through the entire month, then document all of it on social media. I wanted to understand the pain points for women-run businesses.
Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Well, it wasn’t. Even though I’ve been supporting women-owned brands for years, when I took a hard look at my closet, I was a little dismayed that only maybe 10 to 15 percent of it was stocked with said brands. And restocking everything would be expensive, as many women-founded brands sell at a higher price point.
So after an entire month of shopping and snapping pics, what did I learn? I thought I’d recount some of my findings for you today, to celebrate Women-Led Wednesday:
Research was difficult.
Again, you might think spotting women-owned brands would be a no-brainer, but it takes legwork. We’ve found in our research with Ellevate Network that women want to support women-founded brands, but only when it’s easy for them. Given the amount of time I spent researching company’s founders on Google, we need to make the information more accessible.
Information is seasonal.
Women-led brands get the most press during special months (like, say, October) and holidays that celebrate them. It would be more beneficial if there was more information (and celebration) year-round.
Services like Rent the Runway were essential.
Rent the Runway, which was founded by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, understands that women want to try out new designer looks without spending a lot of money, so they let women rent and return. Bonus: You save on dry cleaning and get the chance to experiment with styles that might be outside your comfort zone.
Women-founded brands understand what we actually need and want better.
Women-run brands like Sarah Flint shoes know that it’s possible to have comfort without sacrificing style. And you know how companies just take a men’s product and slap the color pink on it? Society Nine considers the shape and size of a woman’s hand when they’re designing boxing gloves.
The experience of shopping women-founded can be more special.
When it came time to choose a Lincoln jumpsuit size, I was actually able to talk to someone to make sure I got the right fit. A. Lynn makes layering shirts in three different lengths and 15 different sizes, and they’ll even send you fabric swatches. And the Luxeire shirt I bought came in the most beautiful black box tied with a ribbon—it felt special to unbox it.
Some categories were just impossible to replace.
Someone called me out for wearing a Fitbit. If someone can find me a woman-owned tracker that I like as much I’ll happily switch! I did recently find Vodo Sound earbuds that are specially made for women’s ears. But I have yet to find any replacements for Apple products. Affordable basics, like T-shirts and socks, were hard to find, too. Fast fashion is pretty much nonexistent. And lastly, I couldn’t find any technical athletic shoes.
I have a newfound respect for fashion influencers.
At first, it was fun to document my outfits on Instagram, but the pressure to look good every single day became exhausting! It’s hard enough to get out of the house with two small boys.
Logos Do help.
I love that Los Angeles-based ice cream shop Coolhaus has a huge mural outside its Culver City location that screams “Women Owned.” If only every brand made it that simple! I’ve found that looking for the Buy Women Owned (which is I how I found Coolhaus!) and Female Founder Collective logos can make spotting brands easier, but there’s still more to be done.
I’ve been inspired to extend the challenge. I keep an eye on Gender Fair to make sure companies value equality. They make sure companies go through an accreditation process and use data to evaluate the diversity and fairness of American companies. It’s allowed me to have a wider range of choices across industries where finding women-owned companies can be difficult, like airlines.
I’m going to continue my support of women-run brands. Even if you don’t want to rehaul your own shopping habits, we can all do our part to support women by: 1) investing in women-led businesses, 2) buying from women-owned businesses, 3) promoting and talking about women-led businesses and 4) donating to nonprofits that support women and girls. Let’s make an impact together!
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
A seasoned integrated marketer with nearly 20 years of experience working on Fortune 500 brands. She has recently championed a new division of Berlin Cameron, Girl Brands Do It Better, empowering female founders through creativity and connection and has spoken at many industry events on female leadership and entrepreneurship. DMN News called her out as a Woman to Watch in 2018. When not at work, Jennifer advises female run start-ups, is on the board of... Continue Reading
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