From Fashion Accessories To Fashioning A Career

By Paul Gores
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Goldi Miller still remembers the fun of planning a carnival to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association when she was 8 years old.

“I loved being the boss of all the kids in the neighborhood who helped me organize it. I loved going from neighborhood store to neighborhood store asking for donations of prizes for games that were part of the carnival. My whole family got involved cooking hot dogs and roasting corn to sell,” recalled Miller, a co-owner of Milwaukee-based Fashion Angels Enterprises. “Honestly, that got me started wanting to be in business when I grew up.”

Miller said she believes “tweens” today — girls between the ages of 7 and 12 — might feel that same entrepreneurial enthusiasm if they had a little help getting started. And her company has a new product Miller said provides exactly that help.

Fashion Angels, whose craft kits for creating jewelry, designing clothes and making fashion accessories can be found in retail stores around the world, plans to introduce a new “It’s My Biz” line of products Sept. 1.

The intent is to take some of the common interests of preteen girls — jewelry making, clothes, fashion nails and baking cupcakes — and use them as a foundation for becoming entrepreneurs and business women.

“Development of this line of kits started about six months ago, but truly, this has been something that we’ve thought about for years,” Miller said. “Using our craft kits, many girls have made jewelry, for instance, and sold it to their friends at school and then called us and said, ‘I’ve used all the beads in my kits. Can I get more because I’m making bracelets and selling them like mad?’ So we know girls were using our products to start their own small businesses.”

Each It’s My Biz kit contains materials and tools, such as a business planning guide, to launch a one-girl retail business. The suggested retail price for the kits is $19.99 to $25.99.

“Take the bead boutique,” said Chris Dresselhuys, vice president of marketing and licensing for Fashion Angels. “What’s in there is everything a young lady needs to create her own collection. There is enough material to make approximately 75 pieces of jewelry, be it necklaces, bracelets, earrings and whatnot. But the real magic is in all the things we’re giving her to go beyond playing grown-up to actually going into business.”

Among those things: business cards, price tags, ledger sheets, order forms, receipts and a guide on how to develop a business and market a brand — even come up with a logo and tag line.

Miller and Dresselhuys said they hope the line of products will spur not only a spirit of entrepreneurship and business know-how that preteen girls can carry into later life, but build confidence and a sense of achievement in what can be an awkward age.

“As they progress in life, it will be much harder to tell that young lady she can’t do something when she already did it when she was 10,” Dresselhuys said.

Fashion Angels grew out of a kiosk, known as The Bead Shop, run by Miller and her sister, Myra Mouloudji, at Mayfair mall in the late 1990s.

Customers would buy beads and string them together into bracelets and necklaces. The bead business was developed into Fashion Angels Enterprises by Miller, Mouloudji and Miller’s husband, Mark Miller. Goldi and Mark Miller also own Goldi fashion shop in Shorewood.

Employees at the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp. in Milwaukee., a not-for-profit organization that offers training and small loans to help businesses get started or grow, gave high marks to the It’s My Biz kits when they reviewed them this week.

“It appears very age appropriate for young girls in ‘playing,’ but allows them to play and explore something also meaningful — starting a business,” said Wendy Baumann, president of the group. “I remember how proud I was about 19 years ago when my two daughters had got a hold of some of my WWBIC business cards and I overheard a conversation about them playing business owner in their rooms. Loved it. I would have gone out and bought this kit if it had been created then.”

One WWBIC employee who reviewed the kits mentioned they involve traditional girl themes and weren’t gender-neutral. Dresselhuys noted, though, that among the kits is the “Ultimate Business Guide,” which offers detailed business development and planning tools that can be applied to anything a girl wants to do.

“Love the idea of planning in business,” Baumann said. “If that can be taught or exposed early, it will help later for not only women in business, but for women in careers and life.”

The rollout of It’s My Biz involves a digital element as well — a free app that can serve as a virtual storefront.

“It allows the young lady to capture images of her collection, whether it’s her jewelry, the apparel she’s designed with the T-shirt shop, her cupcake designs or her nail designs,” Dresselhuys said. “So she’s basically created a catalog of her wares and can take it anywhere she goes, show it to a prospective customer.”

The app has business planning tools, a condensed version of the business guide and inspirational messages from female entrepreneurs. It has no advertising and doesn’t collect data about the girl, Dresselhuys said. The app can be downloaded by anyone and is set to go live Sept. 9.

To kick off the It’s My Biz line of products, Fashion Angels is putting on a Future She-E-O Contest, which runs from September though February. To enter, girls will describe a business they’ve started. The business doesn’t have to involve Fashion Angel products, Dresselhuys said.

Fashion Angels will pick five finalists who will be flown to Milwaukee in late April, where they’ll visit Fashion Angels headquarters in the Historic Third Ward, then go to Marquette University to give presentations about their business to a panel of female business executives and faculty.

A grand prize winner will be selected and awarded $10,000 for her college education.

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