April 2012 – Choosey Chicks

Choice defines who you are, say the Choosey Chicks.  Jessie Harrison, Sara Cook and Pamela Goldberg are the Choosey Chicks and they are Pinks Ladders Women of Focus for April.  They chose to launch a business in 2006 to show young girls the empowerment of choice using messaging and graphics on tee shirts.

The Choosey Chicks are three women who have fathomed a business around the message to choose.

Know you have a choice in every moment in small and big ways from choosing to be nice to choosing to vote.

Jessie and Sara had teenage daughters they were picking up from school.  Jessie noticed the disempowering messages on tween clothing.  How about putting messages of choice on cool clothing for young girls?  She called Sara who was sitting in a car pool line to propose her business idea; clothing with empowering messages of choice, being vocal about what you support.  They called Pamela, a graphic artist friend from college days living in another state, to join the venture.

Empowerment to make a good choice can be conveyed even on a tee shirt, says Pamela.  Although the tweens were the targeted market, the product demographic turned out to be 18 to 35 year olds.  Pamela says her 72 year old aunt sports the Choosey Chick tees.

Determination and passion are essential elements to success in launching a new business, say the Choosey Chicks.  So are goals.  Write down your business and personal goals because they are intertwined.  Start out with the first five years.  Appreciate the message and try not to be discouraged; and in our case, know it may take five years for the brand to expand.

Everyone does not like what we like!  Listen to the masses – not just what we think in our bubble.

Listening to the feedback and their daughters’ opinions are important to their success, say Jessie and Sara.  Designs and messages they thought had a big impact, turned out not to be so; and in other cases where the anticipated impact was expected to be mediocre, was in fact popular.

The first step in developing their business was preparation; learning about tee shirts and screen printing and interviewing other entrepreneurs for advice.  “We flew by the seat of our pants the first year,” says Sara.  Seeking direction from a small business development center; finding a mentor; setting goals; writing a business plan; and keeping the budget tight are essential elements in embarking on a new business, say the Choosey Chicks.

Are you a risk taker?  Knowing what this means will prepare you for the reality of owning your own business.  You have nothing to fall back on but yourself.

Evaluating your business as you proceed is essential.  “We realized we were a messaging company rather than a tee shirt company,” says Jessie.  “We are about designing and message.”  Today Choosey Chicks licenses their messaging to apparel and paper product companies.  These companies have a large sales force involving established relationships with buyers; and distributions channels already in place.

The Choosey Chicks messaging is not only sported on clothing but on school supplies in 800 college bookstores now. Their messaging can now be seen on journals in 475 Barnes & Noble stores.  Their business plan has now incorporated new product ideas for dolls and books, as well as an apparel line for young boys and girls called Choosey Chickadees.

We know we are on the right track because our message is appreciated.

Choice is everywhere in all we do.  What we do not always see is that another choice is always an option.  When you hear “I did not have a choice – I know you do,” says Jessie.  Seeing choice messaging such as Choose Strength or Choose to be Free (of anything from clutter to sugar), encourages regrouping and recognizing another choice or best decision does exist.

Choose to be Different is one of their favorite tees shirts in black with all white sheep about, but one that is pink.

The buyers light up the messages when the Choosey Chicks hear stories such as a woman who suffered a difficult divorce when her husband left her with daughters still in school and scant financial resources.  She chose strength.  She lost 50 pounds and had not sported a tee shirt in years.  She chose a Choosey Chick tee shirt to wear with her new skinny white jeans.  “I looked beautiful,” the woman said.  She had no money to replenish her wardrobe after losing the weight so the Choosey Chicks sent her an array of tee shirts recognizing her choice of strength.

“I believe 100% in the message of positive choice and that each woman has the power to make positive choices that will enrich their lives.  I found the strength and inspiration to keep pushing forward from friends, family and my faith in God.  I also found inspiration from my business partners – we all bring different assets to the table which keeps it interesting,” says Jessie.

All three Choosey Chicks are working in the profession they had originally chosen, in that they are using the same skills in their business they developed in college and in previous jobs.

“I never thought I could do what I have but I moved forward despite my parents.  In my youth, I had a mentor who believed in me. I also felt that there was nothing I couldn’t learn or do in my career choice,” says Pamela.  “My complete enjoyment of what I do and that I am challenged every time I work on a project keeps me going.”

Meditation also promotes balance for Pamela.  “I meditate on a daily basis and believe that it gives me strength.  Learning to meditate was a gift from Pamela’s sister who has recently passed. Pamela has been meditating for more than six years since her sister’s introduction.

One of the two people who inspire Pamela is Eleanor Roosevelt because she was an advocate for Civil Rights; and she worked to enhance the status of the working woman.  The other is Mahatma Gandhi because he led with nonviolent resistance against the British rule. He never wavered in his beliefs and achieved what he believed, says Pamela.

The people who have inspired Sara are Condoleeza Rice, served as Secretary of State, for her intelligence and poise; and Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard, for her business accomplishments.  “I was raised by two working parents who taught by example.  Good work ethic and to always do your best.  Being an eternal optimist helps me to realize that if you hit a speed bump in the road, you take a detour.”

“I wanted to show my daughter that we can make a difference.  There is more to being a mom than going to lunch, cooking dinner and doing laundry,” says Sara about being a stay at home mom.

I am proud that our business has grown and that our brand is being recognized, says Jessie.

I believe, very passionately, that our message is strong.  It is my hope that all females will wake up, gain more strength, and realize that choice does define who they are and that they always, always, have a choice.  Be choosey, says Sara.


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