As a mother of three who has been working from home for years, this is like no other challenge professionally and personally. Maintaining the safety and sanity of my family is a priority right now.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of my series about how women leaders in tech and STEM are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Blumenthal.
Emily Blumenthal is the Founder of The Charmsters. She created The Handbag Awards, wrote a book called “Handbag Designer 101,” and is also a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Emily is passionate about girl empowerment and representation for young girls so they can see themselves in the products they buy, the shows they watch, and the books they reed.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Ihave been running The Independent Handbag Designer Awards for almost 14 years now and a few years back, I had a client who had a handbag charm that was really unique. My daughter who was a young tween at the time had taken it multiple times off my desk. I set timee for us to have a “meeting” to discuss as to why this charm was so interesting to her (enough to take over and over.) We then took it a step further — what would her friends look like, what would a play pattern be, how can this help girls in a postive way — that is how The Charmsters came to be. They originated as ethnically diverse handbag charms with mix and match clothes and accessories, kind of like a 3D paper doll. They all have STEAM names as well, Entrepreneur Ella, Coder Cora, Architect Aaliyah, Blogger Bailey, Reporter Rita and Innovator Ivy — all working together with a common goal of achievement. I patented the play patterns and in the meantime, created an animated teaser to give The Charmsters DNA and the response was so good that we decided to develop their personas on social media. On our Instagram you can see each Charmsters interact with other products and each other in a real-world life setting which has also been part of their “charm.”
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started at your company?
The most interesting stories have been the thank yous we have received from parents of color. “Thank you for showing my daughter that she should not be a supportive character.” Or, “Thank you for portraying my daughter in a hijab. She has never seen an animated character that looks like her.” The nicest one was a from a mom who had commented that it was long overdue for girls to see themselves in a way that friends really do, for who they really are and what they contribute in friendship. That has been the biggest validator.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are working on partnerships and collaborations with some bigger brands in hopes to show diversity and inclusive can be something to be worn with pride and smiles. We have an animated series in the works too.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Having been an entrepreneur for many years, it’s the kindness of others. This is a new launch and to receive press and support from friends, industry colleagues to cover, and even family when another brand is press launch — especially now, you have to be grateful for everything.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
As a mother of three who has been working from home for years, this is like no other challenge professionally and personally. Maintaining the safety and sanity of my family is a priority right now. The Charmsters has actually been a way to find a way to show positivity and a spark of fun in such a tricky time.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
Our social media posts have focused on having Zoom calls with friends, reflecting on outfit changes and taking pictures to feel like you have purpose, Girl Scouts supporting one another, and finding role models within the female entrepreneurial community. We did a feature on Beatrice Dixon, the Founder of Honey Pot. She was grateful and so were we.
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in STEM during this pandemic?
It is a constant challenge to try and maintain STEM core values especially now. The TV is on all day and at the end of the day, you want to create as much calm and harmony as possible. We try to show STEAM/STEM projects and even via our social, The Charmsters working on elements that represent their names. Coder Cora working on a website, Reporter Rita coming up with a great story, Innovator Ivy has a great idea — things like that to find positivity and smiles.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
I think there is no such thing as balance. We are in for a long ride and trying to wake up and keeping a mild semblance of a schedule is all we can do. Eating together as a family has definitely been helpful as well.
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place for long periods with your family?
I send my kids out for runs. It doesn’t matter if they run around the block but getting air is key to sanity. (Even that’s a challenge!) It’s even harder when you are in an apartment since the parks are shut and you want to avoid everyone. It’s all a day-by-day game and celebrating at the end of the day that we did it, we are together, and we should be grateful.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Your health. We never realized so much that should be valued more than anything.
Your family. It’s so hard for everyone. But even if your family is fighting which I am sure everyone is, you can go to bed knowing that you still have each other.
Your shelter. Basic needs that were taken for granted — we have never been more aware of how lucky we are.
Ability to persevere. In times of tragedy is when the best ideas come. You can pivot your business. Discover what your real passions are. Try to bake and eat everything what you baked and be happy with that.
Hustle. This is it. Times are tough. Business is tough. This is the time to be creative and do something unique and interesting so you will be one of the ones to talk about as to how you were able to put a smile on someone’s face during a tough time.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Bake. Breathe. Go to the bathroom and shut the door for privacy. Open the window and close your eyes and then realize that you can get through this.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Hustle forward. That’s all you can do and especially now, be kind to everyone. We all need it.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!