A uniform that grows: S H E teams up with Because's Pursuit Incubator

S H E (Style Her Empowered) has provided school uniforms to over 215 girls in Notsé, Togo, as part of its mission to fund and support education. The Boise- and Notsé-based nonprofit operates on the knowledge that “providing school uniforms is actually one of the most cost-effective ways to keep girls in school in the developing world,” as Payton McGriff, founder of S H E, puts it.

During the first school year of S H E sponsorships, S H E provided school uniforms for 65 students. However, there was a problem: girls were outgrowing their uniforms halfway through the year. As Payton thinks back, “Even if they could afford a uniform at the beginning of the year, the fact that they could outgrow that at any point continued to threaten their education.”

So, Payton took this problem to a student in the University of Idaho’s design program. The requirements? The uniform must be comfortable, durable, and adjustable.

The first prototype of the S H E uniform that grows had a string fastener. In the Pursuit Incubator, Payton and her team innovated a new button system to fasten the uniform.

The first prototype of the S H E uniform that grows had a string fastener. In the Pursuit Incubator, Payton and her team innovated a new button system to fasten the uniform.

Payton and the design student sent the first prototype of the S H E uniform that grows to the S H E team in Togo. The uniform, though, had a fastener that their youngest students, six and seven years old, didn’t know how to tie. It was back to the drawing board.

Payton worked to develop this uniform, but she was juggling the many other aspects of S H E’s educational programs. She needed a way to find focus with her project. So, Payton looked to Because International to help her “have clarity with her vision” of the S H E uniforms that grow.

Payton became the first participant in the Product Launch training of Because’s Pursuit Incubator. The Pursuit Incubator is a free online training program designed to support entrepreneurs with ideas for life-changing products. The Pursuit Incubator consists of two training modules: Product Launch and Product Growth.

The Because Community is a family of monthly donors who make the work of the Pursuit Incubator possible. Join now to support entrepreneurs like Payton.

The Product Launch training is designed for an entrepreneur who has an idea for a product but needs help making it a reality. The five sessions bring into play product design, prototyping, and a launch strategy.

While in the Pursuit Incubator, Payton worked alongside many Because team members, depending on what aspect of the uniforms she was working on.

Payton says that meeting with Kenton Lee, Because International’s founder, “breathed new life into the project.”

Payton says, “From the beginning, it was very top level, like ‘what are you trying to do, and is this part of that goal?’” Payton says that, from the big picture to the small details, working with Because helped narrow the focus of S H E and create more tangible goals. She says that she felt encouraged to “nail it down” and “really scale things to where they are productive.”

The S H E uniform grows six sizes and up to 12 inches in length.

The S H E uniform grows six sizes and up to 12 inches in length.

During her time in the Pursuit Incubator, Payton and her team sent a second prototype of the uniform to Togo, gathering more valuable feedback. Ultimately, the S H E team created a uniform that “grows six sizes and up to 12 inches in length,” Payton says.

Now, not only can S H E provide a uniform to each student, but they can also be sure that the girls will fit the uniforms comfortably and will continue their education throughout each year. In addition to sizing, S H E is innovating other features of the uniform and its production to benefit girls and women in Togo.

S H E is using antibacterial and anti-odor fabric, so that the uniforms can go longer between washes, which will save time gathering water for laundry. During the first round of production of these uniforms that grow this year, S H E will work to source a textile maker local to Togo or the West Africa region. They will also source the buttons locally.

The leftover uniform fabric will be shredded and sewn into reusable menstrual pads, which will both reduce the waste of the uniform production and better support girls through their menstrual cycle.

Because International’s Product Launch training guided Payton to make the uniform lasting, sustainable, and foundational to what S H E does.

While working with Because, Payton also continued to navigate her role in S H E, being a part of the stateside team working to support rather than manage the team in Togo. To best support, Payton is moving toward the logistics side of the operation. She says, “Being able to choose a lane rather than feeling like I’m in the center of all activities is how I’ll shift approaches this year.”

Being a part of Pursuit Incubator gave Payton the confidence to launch the S H E uniform that grows. She says, “They’ll challenge you to think differently.”

“Do it! Absolutely,” Payton says of the Product Launch program. She also adds that Pursuit Incubator is “hands on, it’s actually adding value. I can’t stress enough how much of a difference this has made, not just for our organization but for me personally.”

If you have an innovative product to fight poverty, apply to our online Pursuit Incubator. This is for you.

To support an entrepreneur in the Pursuit Incubator, become a monthly donor through the Because Community.

Photos courtesy of Style Her Empowered.

ImpactLinnea Hanson