Major: Social Entrepreneurship
Expected Graduation Date: 2021
What inspired your idea?
Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) was conceptualized when I was forced to withdraw from my dream fashion school due to financial constraints. As an at-risk fashion designer, I longed-for a supportive and resourceful environment, one where beginners and seasoned veterans come together to practice the art of fashion design and production; where at-risk fashion designers receive affordable and quality fashion education, industry placement, direct mentorship, and lifelong friendships. After a year of frustration with not finding the space, I decided to create it myself. When the business model you need does not exist, then you have to create it.
What stage is your company in currently?
Startup stage. We completed a beta launch and look to officially launch in Fall 2021.
Who’s your customer?
Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) targets at-risk fashion designers and hobbyists, who cannot afford traditional fashion education.
What problems are you solving?
Statistically, 40% of fashion students who start their ideal major drop out due to financial constraints. That’s a lot of students who leave without a degree that would otherwise land them a dream job in their field. And for many, they leave with accumulated debt and few resources. For a fraction of the cost of fashion school today, Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) equips at-risk fashion designers with a co-working sewing and design studio, affordable and quality fashion education, direct mentorship, summer internships, and an apprenticeship upon graduating from our award-winning program. We thrive on professional development in an open, fun, nurturing environment.
What has been your biggest challenge in launching?
Financial capital. However, we are currently participating in business pitch competitions to hopefully secure grants.
Have you always been entrepreneurial?
Yes. I believe I have the entrepreneurial spirit. I have a true passion for building something great from nothing, and pushing myself to the limits to achieve small and big goals. Not only am I the founder and CEO of Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF), but I also am the founder and fashion designer for Ngounou (an eco-luxe Women’s Wear brand).
What role has Georgia State played in your entrepreneurial journey?
A business like Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) naturally requires extra hands on deck, and adequate resources. Georgia State University, specifically LaunchGSU, has been very instrumental to the success of SELF by providing business assistance services, professional development, and a workspace to beta test and operate in. I will forever be indebted to the amazing staff at LaunchGSU and their commitment to help student entrepreneurs at Georgia State University succeed.
What resources have you taken advantage of at Georgia State?
The resources I have taken advantage of at Georgia State University include services and facility provided by LaunchGSU and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute (ENI), applying for scholarships from the Scholarship Office, and completing our customer acquisition with students on campus. Also, I participated in 4 business pitch competitions including the Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund 2021 Cohort.
Please share the role that LaunchGSU has played for your business during 2020?
2020 was marred with unique difficulties, including transitioning to distance learning. Fortunately, with LaunchGSU’s business assistance services, we were successfully able to pivot the structure of Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF).
Was LaunchGSU helpful to you during quarantine? Please explain –
Yes! In early March 2020, during quarantine, we were not successful in transitioning from teaching our sewing and design program in-person to distance learning. It required resources that we did not have, at the time. Thus, we were forced to pause the program and pivot. In April 2020, we launched our manufacturing services to small businesses that needed masks. LaunchGSU helped us promote our manufacturing services, and we were able to successfully sew and donate 1,000 masks to frontline workers in Atlanta, New York, and Maryland. Additionally, we received a $3k grant from a nonprofit for our community effort.
What role has Atlanta played in your entrepreneurial journey?
A company like Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) requires extra hands on deck, seeing as creative work takes community effort. Atlanta has provided tremendous support from recognition/press, and more importantly our students and Instructors.
What are your company goals for the next 6 months?
Today, we are applying to several pitch competitions and grant applications, in hopes to secure financial capital. By Fall of 2021, we look to officially launch Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF).
What continues to inspire you to forge ahead with your company?
At the heart of Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) is intentionality. We are a sewing and design Academy where at-risk fashion designers are priority. To offer them the best services, Fashion Instructors, fashion and tech partners, and eventually a 24/7 access co-working sewing and design studio (outside of Georgia State University). Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) is bigger than me. It’s for at-risk fashion designers, worldwide, who cannot afford traditional fashion education and need an alternative. And that is what inspires me to move forward daily.
For more information on LaunchGSU at Georgia State and what it offers students, visit here.