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Empowering Girls, One T-shirt at a Time

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Sharon Choksi, creator of children’s clothing brand Girls Will Be, wants all girls to think they can do whatever and be whomever they want. 

By Danielle Ransom, Photos courtesy of Sharon Choski

Three years after launching a young women’s clothing line, Sharon Choksi’s passion for female empowerment continues to be fully embodied in her brand. Austin Woman met up with the designer to learn the inspiration and mission behind Girls Will Be, a company name rooted in the idea that girls can be anything they want to be, stereotypes be damned.

Starting a socially conscious clothing brand is a big commitment. And for Choksi, her company has had a positive impact on her family.

“The impact on my kids has been one the best and kind of unexpected parts. You don’t think about [the family impact]necessarily when you’re first starting a business. First of all, for [kids]to see a parent starting a business is just a huge lesson in life: If you believe in something, you go and make it happen.”

Choksi’s inspiration to start her own clothing company was driven by a true need.

“The industry is very separated by gender. The big retailers [haven’t changed] much since we’ve been in the business,” she says, adding that before releasing her first piece of apparel, she approached independent retailers asking if they would stock her products. “A lot of them would say, ‘Well, I think that’s an interesting idea but I have to tell you that I probably wouldn’t buy [it]because I know what’s going to sell in my store; it’s the frilly and sparkly. That’s what a lot of moms coming in want to buy.’ They were being honest with me and upfront.”

Bucking convention, Choksi launched her online store July 4, 2013. As a small-business owner, she’s experienced her fair share of ups and downs. Learning the ins and outs of the manufacturing process and building awareness have proven to be her two biggest challenges.

“The hardest part by far has been the manufacturing [since]I don’t have a background in fashion,” Choksi says. “My background is in business and that is a difficult industry filled with new jargon and new lingo.”

This summer, Girls Will Be released its second line of shorts, which features an in-the-middle fit that isn’t too short or too baggy on girls.

As the owner of a small business, Choksi takes every opportunity to stay engaged with fans, customers and the general public.

“Our very first press came through the Austin American-Statesman in 2013, and it just went viral,” she says. “At the time, there were very few businesses, even small businesses, out there offering different options for girls, so, it really resonated with parents. The article by the Statesman went crazy on social media and it got picked up by CNN, today.com and all these different places. It was awesome.”

Facebook is where Choksi gets the biggest feedback from mothers and engagement with her customers.

“My favorite part is hearing from moms or older girls, sometimes through their moms. I get feedback on how confident they feel [while wearing Girls Will Be clothing]or how they will wear a shirt multiple times throughout the week,” she says. “I think of these girls out there in the world going to school wearing their science shirt or their football shirt. Their peers see that and the more it’s out there, the more normal it becomes. It breaks down stereotypes with the T-shirts just being out there.”

While Choksi has started printing some designs on adult shirts, the primary focus of her brand is young girls, ages 4 through 14.

“What I love about that age is that girls are super confident in themselves in elementary [school]and are interested in many things,” she says. “But then culture kind of wears away at that and makes a lot of them think they have to be a certain way.”

Regarding the future of her brand, Choksi has some lofty goals.

“Right now, our plan is to stay online and go directly to the customer. I think there is so much opportunity and upside with owning [an online store].”

As for day-to-day operations, Choksi finds inspiration from choices that girls are lacking in fashion.

“A lot of the initial inspiration came directly from my own kids. But now, it is just looking around and seeing what is not well-represented for girls,” she says.

Even though she just launched her second line of shorts, Choksi is already on to her next move.

“The next thing to go after is pants that aren’t skinny-fit. That is one of the requests we got when we launched our shorts,” Choksi says.

For Girls Will Be, Choksi has always envisioned having a full product line. “I think girls need this kind of style for everything,” she says.

In the future, Choksi is looking at adding more items, such as children’s undergarments and swimsuits, to the line.

“We are definitely growing every year, which is fantastic,” she says. “I’d love next year to have even more help with social media, [incorporate]additional products into our line and just keep growing.”

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