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5 Questions with Maura Chanz

Modern-day “It” girl on entrepreneurial activism

Maura Chanz is a woman who moves in many worlds: fashion and beauty, media, retail and cultural commentary. Those worlds intersect on almost daily thanks to a cultural entrepreneurship bent that drives almost everything the recent Spelman grad does. Follow her feeds and you’ll find pics of Chanz designing graphics for a New York fashion launch one day and posts celebrating the viral success of her “Coretta & Cardi B” shirts on another. Between her creative agency, Glitter & Hustle, her networking platform for Millennial women of color, YouNeedTRIBE, and her apparel line, SHOPBLK, she’s levering the digital space as an unapologetically proud young black woman.

 

Chanz recently sat down with Bridge to talk bringing ideas to life, the entrepreneur mindset and why Millennial women of color in particular need tribes.

 

Why create a platform like how YouNeedTRIBE (YNT)?

When we decided to launch YNT with #TRIBECHATS, a monthly curated twitter chat, we kept our target demo centered. Millennials have a proven shorter attention span and a desire to both learn and genuinely connect. Through #TRIBECHATS we are able to grant a plethora of women access to engage and learn from otherwise “inaccessible” or “high-level” professionals and influencers, while simultaneously allowing them to foster connections amongst themselves in as little as an hour each month. We’ve set ourselves a part in the Millennial networking space by No. 1: placing women of color at the center of all of our efforts, and No. 2: believing that every woman at any professional/personal level has something to contribute and teach. We focus on a more holistic definition of success. Of course, we want you to score that high-paying position at your dream company, but we want to also make sure you’re living your best life across the board. We touch on everything from relationships to self-care and travel.

 

And then you have the “Coretta & Cardi B” shirts that went viral. What was that process like?

The Coretta & Cardi B shirt was birthed from a tweet I posted almost a year ago. I wrote, “I am Whitley Gilbert. I am Cardi B. I am Coretta Scott King. I am Freddie Brooks. I'm every woman, it's all in meeeee.” The tweet got a lot of engagement. Women replied telling me how they never saw a tweet describe them more perfectly. It was in that moment that I knew it would be a great tee. The initial response was good, but I could never have imagined it would go viral. I would love to chalk it up to some amazing strategy, but honestly it was pretty organic. The shirt resonates with this generation of women. Like so many before, we are tired of being boxed in, but we are vocal about it. I wear my tee everywhere. The virality is a combination of the right people seeing it at the right time and people sharing it on social media. I’ve been wearing the tee for almost a year, and I believed in the message enough to keep wearing it and pushing it before we had a drop of press.

 

All your projects have a common theme of connecting and supporting women of color. Why is that?

Because women of color are still underserved. I am both black and a woman. I don’t choose one side of my identity over the other. Sitting on both the margins of race and gender, women of color, specifically black women, always seem to be left out. Although it would be nice, I won’t beg for others to love us, to enable us, or to support us. I’ll just do it myself. The response has been good, but as with any polarizing message, there are always those who disagree. I’m unapologetic in my activism.

 

What role has tech played in that entrepreneurial activism?

Particularly mobile tech has made it possible by providing access and a platform. Although my name is just starting to reach people’s radars, I’ve been putting in the work for a long time. I’ve built my brand largely in part to mobile applications. I’ve had Twitter since ‘08 or ’09, and it’s provided me opportunity, widened my network, and provided a space for my work to be showcased instantaneously. These days, many people don’t have publicists, agents, etc., especially starting out. They just have their mobile device.

 

What has your professional “tribe” taught you?

Management tools. Advice on how not to be too hard on yourself during slower periods. Having other entrepreneurs who have either been through what you’re going through or are going and growing through it simultaneously is a godsend. And take care of yourself. While it is true that your business doesn’t work unless you do, you can’t do your best work when you are not your best self. Take a break! Enjoy a date night or girls night! Workout! Do whatever you need to be at your best. Own every part of you! You can reach your full potential by being unapologetically you!

 

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