Name: Samantha Hodgkins
Business: SparkFire Active
Location: Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Industry: Apparel & Accessories
Reason for starting? I am the mother of 2 daughters…My SparkFire Girls! They are girls who think the whole world is ahead of them. They’re feisty, strong, smart, adventurous and so much more. But in these vulnerable, critical adolescent years, they feel self-doubt, insecurity and sadly, significant body image concerns. They are bombarded by media influences of unrealistic, unattainable images of “perfection.” By the time they are 14 years old, girls drop out of sports at 6x the rate of boys. Girls need to feel strong and confident in their own bodies, minds and hearts.
Girls today live in casual sports clothes – leggings, running shorts and tops – just like my daily wardrobe. My daughters started wanting to raid my closet and shop for activewear with me. But they are no longer little girls in youth sizes, not yet fully grown women in adult styles. I created SparkFire Active so that every SparkFire Girl can #BeTheSpark to herself, to her friends and peers, and to girls everywhere.
How do you define success? Beyond all else, I am passionate about and deeply committed to helping girls grow strong, confident and bold in knowing their strength, owning their power, and using their voice to help, in order to help elevate today’s girls to become tomorrow’s leaders. Isn’t that what the world really needs?
Every girl that feels uplifted, empowered, elevated, supported and encouraged through connection with SparkFire is a success. I actually have a photo board hanging above my desk with names and pictures of real girls who have experienced the Spark. So I love meeting, learning, laughing and connecting with real SparkFire girls and encouraging them.
Biggest success: SparkFire is a girl-powered business, so everything we design, make and run is created by and for SparkFire Girls. We engage a team of talented young women, many as interns from Atlanta-based colleges and high schools, to work on branding, consumer marketing, product design and business operations. Every girl contributes significant value to building SparkFire as a business and a tribe, as well as the opportunity to learn, grow and develop her own skills and abilities.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? My vision is clear, my strategy is set and my passion is unwavering. But the early stages of creating and launching a purpose-driven consumer brand with high quality physical products in a highly competitive marketplace as a self-funded sole-proprietor can be daunting. My biggest challenges during the start-up phase was wearing all the hats of strategist – manager – tactical executioner, juggling daily priorities and opportunities, as well as unexpected obstacles. There is so much to do, so much to learn. And finding and nurturing the first group of loyalists who not only support the brand mission but also become active customers — it’s hard to build that “TRIBE”. I work through these challenges by moving forward every day — taking actions, making progress and celebrating success. I am paving the path as I move towards the bigger vision. Because just like a campfire, a small spark can light a great fire.
I have clear line of sight to creating a full retail portfolio offering of Performance Activewear apparel, with the fit, style, performance and lifestyle appeal appropriate for this Teen Girl target market. It may expand direct-to-consumer sales channels to grow beyond e-commerce and into branded catalogs and/or retail locations. Also, retail/wholesale possibility exist for distribution via specialty sporting goods and targeted retail outlets. Beyond the apparel clothing itself, I envision and plan to create (likely in partnership with others who already have expertise in this area) experiential programs, travel and/or curriculums that leverage the SparkFire brand platform of Strong Girls = Strong World. And very importantly, I am focused on securing and building the social enterprise foundation of the business, to ensure that funding, support and advocacy for Girls Education and Girls Empowerment is directly correlated to SparkFire business growth.
Related: Read about another entrepreneur empowering young women here.
Who is your most important role model? My daughters are really my role models. They are young enough to be brimming with confidence, courage, boldness, creativity, energy, passion, optimism and a whole unique range of skills, abilities and experiences. I love watching them be fun, energetic, spunky, active, strong, creative, boisterous, kind, quirky, sometimes confident, always unique. They go out into the world every day believing that they can do anything, they are loved and valued, and nothing can make them “less” than their true selves.
My daughters are watching and learning with me on this path as an entrepreneur. I get to (have to??) be honest, excited, transparent and undaunted in sharing the creation process with them – so they see all of my purpose-led passion, creativity, tenacity, resilience, strategic vision, generosity, vulnerability, strength, courage, discipline, heart and drive in taking action for what I believe. My own chance to play hard and dream big!
Edited by The Story Exchange