By: Kaliena Joy Bowen
Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund recipient, social and fashion entrepreneur, and media entrepreneurship major are some ways to describe the ambitious Gynella Ngounou (B.I.S. ‘21). Ngounou has been developing her business, Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) since 2018, and most recently was selected as a part of the inaugural Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund 2020 Cohort.
SELF equips the next generation of fashion with an alternative to an expensive, traditional fashion education experience. Ngounou’s company assists designers and sewists in developing their skills and gaining experience with workshops, internships, 24/7 sewing space, and industry placement. Amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, Ngounou has moved her classes from LaunchGSU, a 24/7 coworking space for student entrepreneurs located on Georgia State’s downtown campus, to virtual courses. SELF prepares students to become leaders in the global fashion industry by offering memberships and rigorous courses at an affordable price point.
SELF has grown tremendously over the past year. By the end of 2019, the company had a trained staff, plans for business expansion, and over 90 members. Ngounou claims that none of her accomplishments would have been made without the hard work of her team and continued support from Georgia State University. She thanks the entire Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI) team for their commitment to helping student entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams.
Leveraging those skills as a business leader in response to the global pandemic, Ngounou has started making masks to aid healthcare workers and those on the front lines. Her act of charity sprouted from Ngounou making masks for her mom and a colleague who work at Emory Hospital in Augusta. Ngounou’s team can create a mask in fifteen minutes time with their available fabric. With the masks, they send handwritten thank-you notes, a SELF sticker, and a discount code to SELF’s sewing courses.
Nurses at Emory Healthcare’s Augusta location and workers of 365 Everyday Care Services daycare have been the recipients of the more than 250 masks Ngounou’s efforts have produced. SELF has now partnered with Jo-Ann’s Fabric & Craft in Snellville, to receive scrap fabric donations to support SELF’s cause.
Entrepreneurs can take guidance from Ngounou’s motto to “have the I.Q., E.Q. and A.Q. to be a business leader” during the Coronavirus pandemic. She believes entrepreneurs need to have the intellectual ability to manage problems (I.Q.), emotional wherewithal to manage stress (E.Q.), and the adaptability to react to change and lead (A.Q.).