Like many college students, Shaina Louis has to decide how to schedule her classes so that she can also have a social life, and time for a job. But Shaina’s “job” is different from those of most of her peers. You see, she’s her own boss. As the founder of La Glasse Slipper, which she initially started on Etsy, but has since branched out offline to other markets, she’s joining the leagues of entrepreneurs who are launching brands while still in undergrad. Her first breakthrough as a business woman came from attending the Clinton Global Initiative conference as part of a program on campus. She presented her business idea at the event, and was awarded $1300 in seed funding.
From there, the New York resident was in business. La Glasse Slipper consists of jewelry and arts and crafts pieces marketed by Shaina herself.
These days, La Glasse Slipper’s founder has been making quite some leaps with her startup. One of her biggest coups this year was getting her brand in Main Street Mercantile, one of the most influential shops in the Fairport, New York area. Another is increasing the number of women she employs in Haiti.
The lady boss was born in Aux Cayes, Haiti and moved to New York eight years ago when she was eleven. She says that the name of her brand is a French/English for The Glass Slipper.
Above: A piece from the La Glasse Slipper collection, a fashion and crafts accessories line launched by Shaina Louis, a college junior.
Kreyolicious: How did you come to be interested in fashion and jewelry design?
In Haiti, I went to a very competitive Catholic school where everyone aspired to become doctors and other traditional occupations, but I was always different with my own goals and aspirations. My mother graduated from law school and was involved in the political circuit in town. She was very active in providing opportunities for the women in our neighborhood. Being the only woman attending community meetings and watching her gather women from our neighborhood to distribute food and other resources, I was inspired to follow her footsteps. She was always lending a hand where needed. I began to organize my ideas and create an opportunity that women in Haiti could easily learn and benefit from. That’s when I started getting interested into fashion and jewelry design. [It should be] noted[that] Haitian women are good at crafting and sewing, so it only made sense to create a job where they can continue to excel[at it]. My mother was a teacher too, and my father was a self-made businessman. My mother raised me to treat others like I would want to be treated. My brother is following her footsteps in going to law school, but I want to be business-savvy like my dad was in Haiti.
Above: The entrepreneur wears one of the pieces from her startup La Glasse Slipper.
Kreyolicious: Ah…any skills you learned in school that’s helping you carry out your business?
Yes. [Back when I was] a freshman, we were only allowed to take so many classes, especially within our grade level. I had a meeting with my academic adviser about a course that caught my immediate attention, but was not offered to freshmen. After our meeting, I was given the “okay” to take Social Entrepreneurship. I started to see my project as more than just a hobby. From this point, I began crafting my college experience around my business plan, which at the time was just an idea. Later, I took classes in Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Legal Environment of Business, and Micro and Macroeconomics all of which are things that I put to use everyday in my business.
Kreyolicious: What do you like the most about being an entrepreneur?
The best part of being a social entrepreneur is being an entrepreneur for a cause that is so personal. It is a great feeling hiring a childhood friend by way of earned opportunity instead of merely sending money. My mother’s strength, knowledge and poise allowed me to be where I am today. Her perseverance and dedication to law school while raising three children with a full-time job in Haiti makes being a social entrepreneur that much more exciting. The saying, “My foot is too big for the glass slipper”, is more than just my mission statement. It’s all about opening an avenue for Haitian women to be self-sufficient and independent while earning a living to surpass the societal pressure of marriage to escape poverty. Reducing male financial dependency is a huge part.
Kreyolicious: Girl, I am in awe. Where do you see your brand five years from now?
I am always thinking and coming up with new ideas. In five years, my small atelier would grow into employing the majority of women that live in the [outskirt] areas in Aux Cayes. The women are currently working on designing pillowcases and creating traditional Haitian dresses and skirts. I want to grow into a lifestyle brand where people can count on La Glasse Slipper to get authentic handcrafted jewelry, art, home decor and other goods for their home made out recycled materials.
Above: A bracelet from the La Glasse Slipper collection.
Kreyolicious: What female entrepreneurs do you most admire?
I have a lot of females entrepreneurs that I draw inspiration from. Myrtha Vilbon, a woman that started her own toilet paper company in Haiti after overcoming so many obstacles. I admire anyone that builds a business from the ground up and continues to pursue their passion.
Kreyolicious: Impressive…What advice would you like to give to someone who wants to follow your footsteps?
I would tell them to believe in their vision even when others don’t. In the beginning a lot of people thought that I was just a tourist that was just buying goods in Haiti just to go back home and sell them. I had a vision much bigger than that, and I stuck with it. My experiences have taught me to go for it—even if you don’t know where it’s going to go.
Kreyolicious: Your parents have given you their stamp of approval?
Explaining to my Haitian parents that I am double majoring in Marketing and Business instead of going into the medical field was not an easy task. Telling them about my three-week trip to Haiti by myself when I turned eighteen was harder. Once my mother saw how much of an impact that I can make, she understood why I wanted to go back and follow my dreams. She supports me a hundred percent. After all, she knows—and I quote—“Shaina is gonna do what Shaina wants to do.”
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