How This 23-Year-Old Turned Her Breakup Into A Girl Power Streetwear Brand
When college romances end, most of us just blow that month's money on ice cream and tickets to see terrible romantic comedies. Leah Kirsch, however, isn't your average sob story.
Instead of pining over a lost love with whom she'd shared a self-described "good relationship," Kirsch buckled down on her dreams.
"We just had a really bad falling out and I had so much time on my hands. I didn't know what to do with it," she tells me over the phone, rattling out words so quickly my brain can hardly keep up.
Today, the New York resident is the founder of streetwear brand Millioneiress, a rapidly growing web label best known for hats with feminist sayings like "Because I Can" and "Ladies First."
Kirsch and I graduated from Fordham University together, although we never met. But, once Millioneiress kicked off, Kirsch's name became something of a girl-power legend whispered about on campus.
Everyone's friend group has that one sage lady who doles out advice about breakups and stops you texting your ex at 1 am. That's always been Kirsch's role. With her love life on hold for the moment, she decided to spread her single-lady gospel via the Internet.
"I have a lot to say," Kirsch recalls thinking. "Obviously, a lot of people are having similar questions and similar issues. So, why don't I step forward and be a role model for more than just this small little girl gang?"
Around the same time, Kirsch had settled herself in New York City for a summer internship at Harper's Bazaar that didn't pan out -- and that's putting it mildly.
"Everyone that knows me jokes it was the shortest internship ever because I only was there one day," Kirsch says. "Three girls cried, it was totally brutal. It's not secret that internships in New York, especially in fashion, are pretty brutal."
So, she decided to "just leave politely." Instead of spending her days laboring in a magazine's fashion closet, Kirsch began researching ways to start her own business, a dream she's had since selling headbands and flip flops for a few bucks as a little girl. And, with a passion for graphic design, Kirsch had even started designing uniforms for her college volleyball team.
Now was her time to act. Using her own Adobe license and experience with design, the soon-to-be college senior connected with a screen printing professional who happened to be her best friend's step-sister's ex-boyfriend. As luck would have it, he was willing to cut her a deal. Using Shopify, Kirsch soon had a store up and running.
"I did everything on my own, besides screen printing the shirts," Kirsch remembers. "I got such a good response on social media and all my friends were like, 'We want this, we want this!' I ended up making snapback [hats] and those just took off like crazy."
Kirsch started with three dozen shirts, made with money she'd saved up from previous jobs. She sank $1500 into the brand at its inception, plus the cost of Adobe Illustrator subscriptions, Shopify licensing and more.
But, as her senior year progressed, it was clear the world of Beyoncé-loving, feminism-teaching Millennial women wanted what she was selling. After graduation, Kirsch took on Millioneiress as a full-time job.
Today, she employs three interns (one in Ohio, one in New York and one in Georgia) to manage customer inquiries, social media and getting product into the hands of the right influencers. Not on staff, but still vital to the operation, are a designer (Kirsch's best friend), a marketing adviser and her screen printer.
Since 2013, the business has grown from selling a shirt every few days to 300-or-so per month, emblazoned with slogans like "Ladies Is Pimps Too" and "Married To The Money." Millioneiress has even caught the attention of publications like ELLE, and socialite Gaia Matisse.
The next steps? Well, to get a hat on Kylie Jenner, of course. But even that, Kirsch says, doesn't translate to purchases as much as brand recognition. Within the next year, the young entrepreneur hopes to catch the ear of an investor or two. She'll also begin donating a portion of her profits to a female-empowerment organization like the Malala Fund or Planned Parenthood.
And, of course, Millioneiress will become even more feminist. Kirsch plans on seeing her brand through to the end. Or, as she puts it, "never ending a sentence that is a statement with a question mark. I think that's really important."