My History, How & Why
My mother is an artist and my father is a well-known author and PhD professor of ethics. Both worked in television news when I was young and were interested in technology. Consequently, in 1994 I got hooked up to the Internet. At the time I read a lot of fashion magazines and was interested in the fashion & entertainment world. My attitude was “Hey, if other people can make Web sites then so can I!” I was lucky enough to have interests that lent themselves well to the medium of the Internet, and fortunately I was able to recognize that…
I didn’t take any classes for Web design. In fact, when I started in 1994 there weren’t any! None of my friends or classmates had heard of “the Internet”, let alone knew what an email address was. I pretty much learned on the go. HTML was much simpler back then and got more and more complex as the years passed. It was easier to learn progressively rather than jumping in later and having to get up to speed all at once.
LAUNCHING THE MAGAZINE
In late 1994 I began writing articles and posting them on a free webpage, with the intention of someday having a real print magazine. In 1995 I realized that the web would play a big part in the future of publishing, and I launched my articles in the form of a women’s magazine. It was the first online magazine, and I called it HILARY Magazine (mostly because I was reading Jane, Marie Claire, etc. and couldn’t think of anything else). It’s since been re-named to Urbanette Magazine, which I like much better.
I was sick of superficial print magazines that were crammed with advertorials and articles that make women feel like they need to change. One of the goals of the magazine is to publish articles (on body image, the media, etc.) that are not only interesting, but that also benefit the reader in some way. Through articles about body image, the over-sexualization and objectification of women in our culture, music and advertising, conscious living and how the media affects women, Urbanette Magazine is able to help its readers alter their views and adopt a more healthy and accepting outlook on women and themselves.
Nowadays I have staff writers, interns, and dozens of contributing writers helping to keep the content fresh. I’m very proud of the magazine because of what it stands for, and the fact that it was the first and there’s still nothing out there quite like it.
LAUNCHING NEW FACES®
In the winter of 1994 I began planning, designing and developing New Faces®. By the time my summer holidays at age 15 rolled around, I had completed New Faces® to the point where it could officially launch. It was the first talent portfolio database (of any kind) on the Internet, the first online agency, and the first community for talent online.
The Goal: to save models and actors money and at the same time help them get worldwide casting exposure 24hrs a day. To this day it is still the best known and most visited premium model & talent site. New Faces® became successful very quickly, likely due to its popular subject matter, and has changed and expanded a great deal since its inception. It is frequented by the biggest names in the entertainment industry, with a current growth rate of 32% over six months.
LAUNCHING PROJECT MIGRATION
It’s always been clear to me that for humanity to not only thrive but survive, the world would have to give more power to women. I was volunteering for a charity in Africa and trying to help them improve and market their hand-made products, so that they could raise more money. This was in 2009, before social enterprises (companies that give back) were popular. It was one of the very first social enterprises (charity-focused businesses). The only other one I really knew about was a then fledgeling company called TOMS shoes, and I only knew about them because I sat next to their founder, Blake, on a plane ride and we became friends.
I knew wanted to help single mothers in Africa for several reasons. Firstly, the single mothers of Africa have just about the hardest life a person could possible lead. Secondly, I have always felt strongly about female empowerment, and helping women be successful as entrepreneurs is something I care strongly about. Thirdly, helping girls and women learn how to create a sustainable living is the best per dollar investment you can make to help end poverty. When you invest in girls and women, you change the dynamic in villages and help women to be seen as equals, giving them empowerment to help themselves and others.
I’m terrible at asking for donations, so I decided that the best way for me to help was to raise funds by creating and selling products. So I started researching factories in Africa, because I wanted everything to be made by women in need. It took years to develop, and it’s still morphing into what it will end up being, but Project Migration picked up some pretty hefty supporters right away. I’m excited to see what the future brings for this project!