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Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF)

Metro Atlanta was ranked among the top 3 Startup Ecosystems in the United States. As Online Optimism’s Business Development Strategist in Atlanta, I want to shed light on the incredible startups based in the city through Startup Spotlight. In this monthly blog series, we will put the spotlight on an Atlanta-based startup, sharing their mission, breakthrough moments, and impact. We want to acknowledge the incredible founders of these startups for their hard work and dedication in their entrepreneurial journeys. If you know of a startup that should be featured in our #StartupSpotlight for 2022, reach out via our contact page and we’ll consider them for this series.

 

Organization: Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF)

Founder: Gynélla Ngounou

Career/ Area of Study: Entrepreneurship and Marketing/Fashion & Design

Book Rec: Relational Intelligence: The People Skills You Need for the Life of Purpose You Want by Dharius Daniels

 

INTRO

Gynélla Ngounou has proven herself to be a dedicated woman with a passion for fashion and design, while helping to educate other at-risk fashion designers, helping them build a sustainable career in the fashion industry. 

I first met Gynélla as a student at Georgia State University, we were both members of LaunchGSU, an entrepreneurship incubator catering to students on campus. At the time, she only had the idea for Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF), to prepare at-risk young people who want to become designers for sustainable careers in the fashion industry. Now, she has developed that idea into a thriving organization serving the community. 

AT-RISK FASHION DESIGNERS

“They are othered.” SELF ‘s mission to support at-risk fashion designers, stemmed from Ngounou’s own experiences. She was admitted to her dream fashion college, but was unable to complete her education due to the expensive educational costs, forcing her to continue her education elsewhere. Gynélla soon learned there were no affordable local resources for young at-risk fashion designers, on campus or even in the City of Atlanta that offered a quality education. The inexpensive programs that she could find only catered to hobbyists, not those seeking a career in the fashion industry. She realized she would have to create the program herself. 

SEW with SELF

In 2017, when she transferred to Georgia State University to major in Social Entrepreneurship and Marketing, Ngounou realized there was no designated place on campus for those who wanted to seriously discuss and study the fashion industry. So she made a space. Students Expressing Life through Fashion (SELF) began as a fashion club with weekly meetings, to discuss fashion and design trends. The club’s direction pivoted when one of the members inquired “Can we make clothing too?”

That question proved to be the catalyst for her entrepreneurship journey. In 2019, she just had the idea for one design program, Students Expressing Life Through Fashion. Three years later it has grown to offer three fashion programs; Sew with SELF, Booked by SELF, and Sewn by SELF. 

 Sew with SELF. provides fashion education services for members from a team of fashion teachers, recent grads, tailors, seamstresses on a weekly basis. Booked by SELF is now in the beta stage, as they offer members an educational curriculum on Georgia State University’s campus. Booked by SELF offers their members job and internship opportunities in fashion, tech, retail, and entertainment. Sewn by SELF introduces manufacturing models to brands who want to make low batch units in apparels and accessories. 

SUPPORTERS of SELF

Gynélla says she is incredibly thankful for the progress of SELF’s development. She credits much of her success to her friend and fellow GSU student, Sasha Gay-Trusty (now contributor at SELF) for introducing her to Launch GSU, LaunchGSU for giving her the resources to launch the business, and SELF’s Fashion Instructor, Janice Wilbourn. Janice Wilbourn brings to SELF her wealth of knowledge from her 40+ year career as an international fashion designer and businesswoman in her own right, as cofounder of Wilbourn Sisters Designs, Inc. 

OPTIMISTIC SELF

With the support of her team and high-demand from her community, Gynélla looks forward to the continued expansion of SELF She anticipates moving to a larger brick-and-mortar space to accommodate the growing number of instructors and resources needed to support her students. Her advice to other entrepreneurs and others who aspire to pursue their dream is, “Know who you are and honor who you are.”

FOLLOW SELF’S JOURNEY

https://www.sewwithself.com/ | Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sewwithself/ 

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