For many women of color, teenage memories include curling up with the latest issue of Honey, Suede, Essence or Vibe Vixen, among other print favorites. But with the current tech boom, is there really a place for today’s girls of color to get that same experience?
It’s a question that came up when Marissa Jennings, founder of SOCIALgrlz LLC, a social community designed for African-American girls between the ages of 13 and 17, was a student at Bennett College. Dedicated to creating a platform for African-American girls by African-American girls, it inspired Jennings to develop a teen magazine for this niche audience. Years later the Los Angeles native stuck with her vision, adding a new-age twist, launching her mobile, web and publishing company SOCIALgrlz in 2010, and an online educational platform in 2012. The company launched its first crowdfunding campaign, the Add Your 2 Cents initiative, which will help develop the first mobile application for African-American girls on the Apple and Android platforms.
“My entire career path has been focused on working on behalf of girls, especially girls who look and come from similar backgrounds as myself,” said Jennings to BlackEnterprise.com. “Today technology is the leading tool to communicate across the world. I’m witnessing the print industry essentially changing, with some publications ceasing to exist, and the Internet and mobile applications have become a resource as well as a tool with content interaction.”
The Add Your 2 Cents campaign allows contributors to provide financial backing as well as application suggestions. The app includes articles, interviews, a specially designed SOCIALgrlz Textbook, a collaborative book between girls and experts, as well as a column with nuggets of wisdom from seasoned African-American women. The SOCIALgrlz mobile site allows young women to share their stories via four platforms. The FOCUS 100 fellow explained in an email what each channel would offer:
Be Heard!: The platform provides a safe space for girls to provide their opinions about topics they are concerned about. SOCIAlgrlz provides the questions and the users share their thoughts.
SOCIALgrlz TXTbook: Here, girls are able to read actual scenarios, add their voice to the conversation and receive expert advice. This area will cover six specific topics, including Lifestyles, Health & Wellness, Finance, Education, Leadership and Building Relationships.
SOCIALgrlz Bookshelf: Serving as a resource for young girls, bookshelf is a place where they can find books and novels centered around self esteem and self confidence.
Odessa’s Wisdom: Named after Jennings’ late grandmother, who was a journalist, this section provides pearls of wisdom from seasoned women. “My team and I want to make sure that these young ladies receive the best advice, tender nudges and a few laughs.” She added: “There is nothing like connecting with the ones who have traveled before us.”
Up until this point, SOCIALgrlz has been financed through Jennings’ bootstrapping efforts and a family and friends seed round. In addition to its crowdfunding efforts, the company is also seeking investments from private and angel investors.
“SOCIALgrlz, LLC is the solution for empowering African-American girls with a voice and respect through technology,” said Jennings about her socially aware startup.
To learn more about the crowdfunding campaign, click here to visit the SOCIALgrlz Indiegogo page.