By Jessica Hancock
When Jennifer Muhm’s 4-year-old daughter asked to be an astronaut for Halloween, Muhm was more than happy to make that happen. While browsing through a costume catalog, they could find only one, in the boys’ section. Muhm’s daughter said, “I can’t be an astronaut! That costume is for boys.” Not long after that, Malorie Catchpole’s 2/12-year-old daughter wanted train-themed training pants. Again, they had to go look in the boys’ section to find them. That’s when these women knew that something had to change.
All Muhm and Catchpole wanted was for their daughters, and girls like them, to be able to find clothes and toys that reflect their interests—space exploration, dinosaurs, trains, themes that children of all ages love, but only available in the boys section. In a store full of clothes, there was nothing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)-related in the girl’s section. No retail store seemed to take notice. But these women were going to change that.
When buddingSTEM co-founders Muhm and Catchpole launched their Kickstarter in March of 2015, just one year ago, they had no idea just how fast it would catch fire. They had found a designer, a local screen printer for their T-shirts, and a manufacturer for the dresses and leggings before they had even launched the campaign. Soon enough they had backers all over the world and $70,000 to launch buddingSTEM.
“We were overwhelmed by the positive reaction from around the world,” Catchpole said. “We had backers on almost every continent, and lots of national and international press. It showed us that there were lots of other parents who wanted more options and more inclusive messaging for their girls!”
But the story didn’t slow down there. Shortly after the site launch, buddingSTEM was nominated for GeekWire’s “Geek of the Year” award. The shock and awe was palpable in their response. I can hardly imagine what it was like to walk into this award ceremony surrounded by other entrepreneurs, some of whom helped design the phone in my purse! And to be the only women nominated? What a hell of a rush.
“At first, we were shocked to be nominated for GeekWire’s ‘Geek of the Year Award,’” Muhm said. “We were super excited! Then we found out that we were up against Paul Allen. Yes, that’s Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Owner of the Seattle Seahawks Paul Allen. We really thought we had no chance of winning. But, as the only women nominated, we decided that we might not win, but we wanted to try.”
“Public voting determines the award winner. So we reached out to everyone we knew over social media and asked them to vote. And we asked them to ask their friends to vote. And then we won!” said Catchpole.
Now, in 2016, product availability is a lot different than just two short years ago. You can find Marvel and Star Wars underwear for girls. Characters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens Rey are ruling the roost. STEM and now STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math) have spread like wildfire. As for buddingSTEM, the company’s founders have their own little inspirations to keep them on their toes.
Both daughters continue to provide Muhm and Catchpole with design ideas all the time. In fact, the team is launching a whole new collection this spring with even more designs and prints to keep up with the ever-changing list of interests as the girls grow. The styles are timeless, with allover-print designs on high-quality clothing. The uniformity and clean lines mixed with their whimsical prints pair perfectly with the essence of what buddingSTEM is all about.
The goal of buddingSTEM from the start has been the partners’ desire to show their daughters that women can have it all. Girls can love science, be astronauts, and wear dresses, too. Muhm and Catchpole wanted to push the market to reflect all the things girls love, not just the things they are told they love.
“What we are most proud of about starting buddingSTEM is that we have shown our daughters—and all girls—that if you see a problem or something that is not fair, you can use your creative problem-solving skills and be part of the solution,” said Muhm.
Take note, little ladies: We’ve all got your backs.
Just for being Awesome, here’s a 20% coupon for your next purchase at buddingSTEM.
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