Merin Guthrie is a girl's girl. Raised to be strong and independent, she grew up in a family filled with unapologetically opinionated, self-assured women, including three grandmothers and her mother. From age 12 she attended an all-female boarding school where she formed incredible relationships, and was never hindered by the world of “man.”
Upon entering the real world for college, Guthrie was wondering, “Why aren’t more people focused on women, and what women need, and empowering women?”
Having such an absence of men for the better part of her young life was incredibly influential for Guthrie. It's not that she thought of men as the bad guys, she just didn’t see herself in the context of a man at all. To illustrate her point, Guthrie brought up the point that Katie Ledecky in the 2016 Olympics was always referred to as the “female Michael Phelps,” but never as her own superior self as an athlete.
Merin Guthrie, Founder and CEO of Kit.
Photo Credit: Samira Bouaou
Along with this problem, Guthrie also became aware of how poorly women’s clothes are made these days. She started wearing her grandmothers’ old vintage dresses that still had amazing quality and fit her so much better than anything she could buy at a store. Guthrie’s own boss couldn’t see how well she performed at a meeting because she was so uncomfortable in her clothes and believed that everyone in the meeting was focused on how poorly they fit.
When it comes to women's clothing, fit is a huge problem. In fact, industry wide--60% of all women’s wear designers are men. How can they possibly be expected to know what will fit us?
One thing was for sure, Guthrie wanted to focus on women and women alone. She based her line on the needs of her female customer service manager, also is a mom with two kids under the age of three. While Guthrie is absolutely not opposed to men, she believes a woman in the customer service job is a much better fit than a man. To wit, a man can’t answer questions about what dress is right for breastfeeding, and how a bust size should fit. The customer service has to fit the demographics, which is what helps make this company so innovative and inspiring.
According to Guthrie, the reason women’s clothes don’t fit well is that patterns are made two-dimensionally, but women have three-dimensional bodies. To address this issue, Guthrie had a long conversation with a pattern maker who made clothes yet still couldn’t find anything that fits. They agreed that they had to throw out the idea of a one-size-fits-all sizing system; it just doesn’t work. Instead of sizing, the company gets information about people’s bodies to make the clothes specifically fit that person.
All Kit clothes are all made after the point of purchase, and because the manufacturing is in-house, the company's seamstresses work with customer service to make everything customizable. Customers who have dealt with one of the workers before will just email whoever they’ve worked with instead of going back to the website; there’s a relationship built there. Furthermore, the company welcomes and evolves with customer feedback.
The reason behind Kit's success, to be sure, is Guthrie's focus on her consumer, rather than on scaling quickly for a quick buck. Instead, she’s focused on keeping the customers happy and producing quality products.
Guthrie (left) and a friend.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kit
“We wanted customer service to be like having a really stylish good friend.”
By getting clothing through Kit, customers are guaranteed a one-of-a-kind service experience along with quality items that actually fit. Although Guthrie came from a background that didn’t include fashion, she was able to think outside the box, and inspire an entire industry by introducing a clothing line that women didn't even know they needed.
If you are a woman, a person of color or LGBTIA+ identified and are a part of a start-up company, this is the competition for you. The SoGal Global Pitch Competition is being hosted in over 25 cities and will culminate in a final contest in Silicon Valley as well as a "3-day immersive educational bootcamp." This could be an unprecedented opportunity for you, your business and for the future of entrepreneurial diversification.
We all know how important diversity is for the world and for any business entity. But the statistics need to catch up with these ideals, because diversity isn't just a moral imperative it can also have an impact on the success and efficiency of a business. So if the ethics isn't enough to get you interested, maybe these statistics will.
- Companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity are 35% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to have above-average financial returns
- Bottom quartile companies (in both gender and racial diversity) are less likely to achieve even average returns
- In senior executive teams in the US for every 10% increase in racial and ethnic diversity EBIT (earnings before interest and tax) rose 0.8%
Despite the fact that diversity is good for business, funding as a woman or a minority is incredibly challenging, but this competition could be someone's game-changing opportunity.
SoGal is a global education and empowerment platform focused on diverse investors and entrepreneurs. Their mission is "to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and venture capital." A tall order, given that 2.2% of VC funding went to women in 2018. Compounding the gender gap with race shows an even poorer picture: in the past decade only 0.1% (yes, that is a decimal) of funding was allocated to black women.
It is a straight up fact that companies with higher levels of diversity perform better, so why is it so hard for diverse start-ups to get funded? Oh right, racism, sexism, homophobia, implicit biases, inequality, classism... the list goes on, but thankfully that's where SoGal comes in! According to Kelley Elizabeth Henry, director of SoGal, "We're done waiting for these statistics to change; we're taking action to point investment capital toward these diverse-led startups. [...] We will change the future of entrepreneurship."
To enter this competition all you have to do is be a part of a pre-Series A startup (raised less than $3M) and have at least one "woman or diverse" founder. After you apply to pitch, you'll have to be able to make it to one of the "regional round location," which range from the more typical options of New York and Los Angeles to global locations such as Nairobi or Bangalore. And, if you're really playing to win, you better earmark February 28 to March 1 of next year, because that's when the top teams will be in San Francisco duking it out to the very end. And by "duking it out," I mean participating in "curated educational programming," talking to press and getting "facetime in front of top-tier investors." Though not everyone can win, the experience in itself looks to be well-worth the time it takes to fill out an application form and huff it to the nearest large city for the first round.