Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, but it’s never too early to go local and start celebrating Small Business Saturday. Traditionally held on the Saturday after “Black Friday", #SmallBizSat celebrates the makers, creators, and entrepreneurs that power the Shop Small Movement. This past Saturday, women's-only co-working collective and club The Wing teamed up again this year with American Express for a Shop Small celebration: a day of workshops, chats, and one-on-one mentorship, held at The Wing’s flagship Soho location. Kicking-off with breakfast, current and aspiring female entrepreneurs were able to learn from industry leaders, and discuss everything from branding and marketing to raising capital and fostering community.
Panels included “Money Moves: Conversations About Cash Flow and Capital” with Nisha Dua, co-founder of BBG Ventures and “Building Buzz” with Mollie Chen, Co-Founder of Birchbox, Grace Kang, founder of Pink Olive and Lisa Price, founder of Carols Daughter (among others). In between events, visitors had the chance to chat one-on-one with successful female founders, like Cuyana’s Shilpa Shah. Since launching in 2016, sustainable clothing line Cuyana’s four brick and mortar stores offer a range of ethically sourced and manufactured clothes and accessories at accessible price points, range from chic bags built from Italian leather to their newly launched Ponte pant. “We’re always thinking of who our customer is, and what piece does she actually need in her wardrobe,” explained Shah.
Cuyana is the brainchild of Karla Gallardo, an Ecuadorian immigrant (Cuyana means “to love” in the traditional Quechua), who holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and previously worked at Goldman Sachs in the Investment Banking Group. Gallardo initially set out to create a global design house that would inspire “slow fashion” shopping with attention to fair labor, but the concept quickly grew. Teaming up with Shah, who began her career in interactive design, crafting web and mobile interfaces for Fortune 500 companies like Disney and AT&T, the duo are on a mission to produce goods rich in quality and storytelling, and built inside artisan factories from Scotland to Argentina, allowing them control over both price and quality. “By keeping [manufacturing] in one place, you can control the environmental impact, cost, and quantity” (hence why nothing on Cuyana's website is over $500).
Part of the brand's mission is also to support and empower women and the reason why they launched the Lean Closet movement, a partnership with Stella McCartney's H.E.A.R.T. (Helping Ease Abuse Related Trauma), where shoppers can donate unwanted clothes to help victims of abuse gain a fresh start. For Shah, participating in small business focused events at The Wing is all about empowering women as both individuals and as entrepreneurs. “As a gender, we doubt ourselves more,” she explained. “But looked at in another way, we’re humble. We have to use that humility and empathy to our advantage and ultimately honor these traits, making them work in an often a difficult business reality. If women feel their most beautiful, they feel confident, and then they’re their most unstoppable.”
While women are at the forefront of Cuyana’s hearts and minds, the brand recently launched a unisex Dopp kit for the holidays and hinted they might someday expand into men’s products. As for a 5-year plan? “To grow this brand as beautifully and authentically as possible! That’s always been the goal, from day one.”