When Fashion Intersects with Philanthropy
When it comes to shopping, everyone has their reasons. Some women are obsessed with staying on top of the next fashion trend, others do it out of necessity. Some women feel guilty when they spend too much, or think they are being too materialistic.
What if you could remove all the bad connotations that come along with excessive shopping and channel those shopping habits into something good? Well if you haven't yet heard of Studio 15, you're in for a real treat.
Studio 15 is an online dress boutique that offers girls a way to keep their style current and on-trend, at a fraction of the cost. Shaking up the way consumer fashion has been done for ages, Studio 15 saw a way to save shoppers a pretty penny by cutting out the middlemen, selling directly to the consumer in an e-commerce store.
Without the overhead of up-keeping a physical shop, and the marketing that goes with it, Studio 15 is able to sell a dress for less than half the price you would pay at a luxury retailer, while still maintaining the high-quality standard smart shoppers value.
Bringing gorgeous, high-quality garments to women of all walks of life is their mission, and paying it forward is their privilege. In collaborating with the Kleos Microfinance Group, Studio 15 donates a portion from each sale to help female entrepreneurs in Uganda with their own small business endeavors.
This is one company that helps everyone look their best, while helping other women reach their goals and follow their dreams. We had a chance to sit down with Founder/CEO Jia Wertz. Jia spent over 17 years working in the fashion industry before realizing her dream of combining fashion and philanthropy.
Q & A with Jia Wertz, Founder/CEO
What is your background in fashion?
"I had always dreamed of working in fashion as a kid, so I left my hometown of Calgary, Alberta and moved across country to Toronto to study fashion management and merchandising. I spent 17 years working in business development for the corporate offices of some of the largest retailers including Aldo and Bebe before launching my own company."
What made you decide to start Studio 15?
"At a young age I had the opportunity to work with two great founders of a denim company in Canada, and from that moment on I always knew I wanted to open my own boutique. But I didn't actually do it until many years later. I chose to spend time working and learning from some of the big names in the business, only to find that I didn't like contributing to corporate greed and I wanted to do something better with the sales I helped generate."
In your bio, you mention that you saw there was a gap in the market, but what made you finally decide to just go for it and start the company?
"To be honest, I didn't do it sooner because it is tough to leave behind a great salary and job security to do something that is so difficult in a crowded space. But what pushed me to finally do it is that I got fed up with company after company being bureaucratic, not appreciating their employees, and doing the typical things many corporations do. I just realized it was time to do something different."
You also incorporate giving back into your company's philosophy. How has that impacted the business? Do you feel that this is also a trend seen among retailers - to give back?
"Yes, a portion of proceeds from each sale supports women entrepreneurs in Uganda start their own businesses. Women love that fact that we donate and help other women, it also makes them feel good about contributing while doing something they would be doing anyways, shopping. Giving back has become a trend among retailers lately, but I do feel that the companies that are doing it to genuinely help others are doing it significantly differently than the companies who think it is a "trend" that will help their business. To date, we have donated more money to the non-profit than we have made, that says a lot. Being a startup, it isn't always easy to build sales, but we make sure to donate from each and every sale we make, even when we have tough months"
How did you start working with Kleos?
"That is an interesting story. My brother has been in the non-profit sector for a long time now, and he is the Executive Director of Kleos Microfinance Group. When he started traveling to Uganda on a regular basis, I was a little worried because I had heard that it wasn't very safe to travel there (which I didn't find to be true actually). I originally went to Uganda to volunteer and meet up with my brother, but I also wanted to make sure it was a safe place for him to travel to. After spending a few weeks there and working with the women who had received loans from Kleos in the past, I was so taken aback by the drive these women had and how positive and happy they were, and that's when I made the decision that I wanted to contribute and help these women too."
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs that want to start a business or who are just starting out? What have been your greatest challenges?
"Advice I would give young female entrepreneurs would be two things. One, to learn and research as much as you can, but don't think you have to know everything. You can just start and learn as you go, there will never be a perfect time, so don't wait for it. Two, make smart decisions but keep moving forward. If you get stuck on things and strive to make them perfect, you will fall behind. Strive for progress, not perfection."
What has been the best part of being an entrepreneur?
"On a more granular level, I'd say being able to make decisions and move quickly. Eliminating the bureaucratic processes that used to stall every project was very frustrating for me personally. And looking at the bigger picture, it is being able to help other people and see a direct impact on their lives. "
What is your favorite outfit or style of dressing? Do you have a particular piece in mind?
"Well, my favorite piece is always a dress. It is so easy to wear, you don't have to coordinate multiple pieces, and you immediately looked dressed up. I'm loving maxi dresses right now, I can't wait until the weather warms up a little so I can start wearing them. "
Do you have a favorite style you currently sell on the site?
My favorite piece right now is the Crop Top & Pencil Skirt Two Piece Set.