Christie Garton of UChic - Breaking Barriers Between Girls and Their Dreams
When we learned about Christie Garton's mission with her company UChic, we knew there was more to learn about such a Fab Femme! A social commerce platform to "help and inspire young women to live their dreams," UChic is a company that I'm sure we all wish we knew about when we were in school. A big dreamer herself, Christie started the foundations of UChic in 2008 and recently hosted a successful IndieGogo campaign to raise funds for her first product. Learn more about Christie and UChic below!
Femme & Fortune: Hi Christie! Tell us a little about yourself and why you started the UChic brand?
Christie: With college tuition soaring, girls today are cash-strapped for out-of-classroom experiences and educational expenses that can unlock the path to one’s dream.
I founded UChic, a lifestyle brand for teen girls, with the sole mission of breaking down barriers between young women and their dreams at a critical life stage by providing access to funding, valuable advice and support.
According to our research, 95 percent of young women lack easy access to funding to pursue their dreams in full – whether it’s taking an out-of-state internship, buying plane tickets to study abroad, purchasing textbooks or critical course equipment (e.g. high quality camera for a photo journalism course) or anything in between.
I know these experiences are important because they were important to the success I enjoyed in school…and beyond. When I was a sophomore at the University of Kansas, I was offered a summer internship position with the U.S. Department of Commerce in DC. Luckily, I was able to bootstrap some funding together to help cover the costs of living in such an expensive city. And that internship ended up being an important door opener. During that internship, I was able to author a paper on how the Commerce Department was uniquely helping women small business owners sell their products abroad. That paper got me an invitation to present at an OECD conference in Paris. That experience -- which led to a scholarship opportunity to study in Paris for a full year -- would have never happened had I not gotten the chance to intern in DC. We want to ensure that all women with big dreams have the same access to those life-changing opportunities.
Femme & Fortune: Tell us a little more about your “1000 Dreams” scholarship program and how it operates. How can we get involved?
Christie: Through our 1,000 Dreams Scholarship Fund, our mission as a company is to help fund these extracurricular experiences and educational expenses that young women are struggling to afford. Depending on the specific need, our fund provides up to $1,000. From our research and in speaking with our girls, we know this amount will cover the majority of her funding needs, and if more is needed, this will at least provide her with a significant start in the right direction. Anyone interested in applying is encouraged to visit our website where she can find more information and a link to our scholarship application: www.uchic.com/1000-dreams.
This year, we’re on a mission to empower – and fund - 1,000 young women through our program because we believe big expenses should never stand in the way of big dreams. Once we reach this goal in funding 1,000 dreams, we will set our next goal!
Now, we won’t be able to reach this goal without the support of our consumers. We’ll be officially launching our first product – a trendy tech case – in May, and can use everyone’s help in reaching our goal! Ten percent of every product sales goes to our foundation, which supports our fund. It’s a win-win. The better we do as a company, the more good we can do on behalf of our consumers.
Femme & Fortune: You graduated with a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, how has your educational experience affected your success in running a business? Do you believe in being more book smart, street smart, or both?
Christie: My legal education has been such an important foundation for the confidence I’ve had to go out there and launch a company. From the legal training and connections I made in school, I’ve been able to successfully navigate a few challenges, especially when it came to fundraising for the company.
To be successful in business ultimately requires a ton of confidence. I think book and street smarts work hand-in-hand to ensure the steadfast confidence every entrepreneur needs in order to go out and make things happen when others may question you or say you can’t.
Femme & Fortune: Have you had any mentors along the way who have helped influence you?
Christie: Definitely. There are numerous mentors who’ve been instrumental in my success from high school and college advisors to mentors in the workplace. In fact, one of my mentors from my time at USA Today is now a member of my company’s advisory board and has made some incredible introductions that have greatly benefited my company.
Mentors are an important part of everyone’s career, and I encourage our girls – your readers – to seek out people who inspire you for support and advice along your path in life. And don’t forget to pay it forward! There are women, younger than you, who can benefit from the experiences and knowledge you’ve gained along the way.
Femme & Fortune: You've written best-selling guides to college for women, U Chic: The College Girl’s Guide to Everything and U Chic’s Diploma Diaries: The Chic Grad’s Guide to Work, Love and Everything in Between. What is one sound piece of advice you could give us right now that remains important at any stage, whether entering college or past graduation, for women to acquire?
Christie: Write your goals down and keep them somewhere close where you can frequently review and update them from time to time. I have found that at every stage of my life, keeping my goals close at hand have kept me focused on the things that I’m most passionate about and have led to a career that I truly love.
Femme & Fortune: How have you grown your team at UChic?
Christie: Recruiting and nurturing talented individuals who care as much about the mission of the company as much as I do has been key.
Femme & Fortune: What are your future goals for your brand and where do you see it going within the next five years?
Christie: I’d love to extend this brand into multiple product categories beyond books and fashion accessories. We’d also like to launch as many new and exciting patterns as possible that are inspired by the young women we work with -- like 17 year-old singer/songwriter Gracie Schram. She’s the inspiration behind our first pattern that you can see featured on our bags. By growing and scaling our brand quickly, I hope to touch as many lives as possible through our model.
Femme & Fortune: What is one mantra that you live by every day?
Christie: “Never never never give up.” - Winston Churchill
Femme & Fortune: What items do you personally use to stay organized and succeed in your daily activities as an entrepreneur?
Christie: To be honest, staying organized is always tricky for a startup entrepreneur who has to wear many hats and juggle many things. It is the same for me! I think I’ve probably been more successful in having a “balanced” life thanks to my two year-old daughter who reminds me that a frequent swing at the playground can be a great stress relief.
Femme & Fortune: What are some final thoughts that you'd like to share with our Femme & Fortune readers?
Christie: Women have the power to do incredible things today, thanks in part to the access to education and opportunities that previous generations of smart and talented women didn’t have. I believe that we can find even more power by banding together and being willing to support each other’s dreams and successes no matter what they may be. That is the driving mission of my company UChic – to create a source of inspiration and support through the collective wisdom and buying power of women. I believe that, together, greater achievements can and will be made.