Clarke will pitch for startup funding at the annual shark tank-style entrepreneurship competition, the Fairfield StartUp Showcase, on April 26.
"...people buy the emotion, not just the product, and for the Showcase I’m really working on how to make my story come through my business pitch.
— Diandre Clarke '18
Diandre Clarke ’18 is a second-time competitor who has been selected to pitch her business idea at this year’s Fairfield StartUp Showcase. Last year Clarke worked alongside Julian Ashong ’17 (founder) and Kristine Miller ’17 as part of team Africa Requests, a delivery service designed to securely ship products from the US to Africa. An inspiration for Clarke, Ashong encouraged her to develop her business idea for an inspirational clothing line to empower women, reminding her, “Next year it’s your turn, it’s going to be you on stage pitching,” he said. Now Clarke is working hard to finalize plans to introduce her business, Belle, to Fairfield students and investors.
Belle is a clothing line that aims to inspire confidence in women. As a B Corporation, Belle is a for-profit business dedicated to social issues, and Clarke plans to donate a portion of profits to counseling services for women. The story behind Belle is a personal one for Clarke. While in high school, Clarke developed insecurities that left her with little confidence to go to school. Luckily, she found a friend who shared her same struggles and together they began to encourage one another, nicknaming each other “Belle,” the French word for “beautiful.”
“When girls are about to hit puberty they are most susceptible to bullying and self-harm and don’t always have people to encourage them,” explained Clarke. “Then in their early twenties when women should feel confident, they may find themselves entering a workforce that is dominated by men. Having other females dare to empower each other is a powerful thing and what Belle is about.”
Clarke wants to show that her clothing line is not just words on a shirt, but something much bigger. Her apparel includes sayings that are light-hearted like “love ya self,” and others that dig deeper. For one concept Clarke is working with local Trumbull, CT painter, Arthur Payne, on a shirt design that will display her saying, “My body is the canvas, My soul is the art.” Even as a business student, Clarke has always enjoyed creative writing, and the poems that inspire the sayings for Belle will be published in Inkwell, Fairfield’s writing club's publication. Through her writing Clarke wants to empower women and show them that they’re not alone when dealing with insecurities and low self-esteem.
To launch Belle and create a supportive network for women at Fairfield, Clarke has enlisted brand ambassadors who will wear her apparel at “Ladies Night,” an event on March 26 in the Barone Campus Center from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. A collaboration with Fairfield Counseling and Psychological Services, and Fairfield’s chapter of American Association of University Women (AAUW), Ladies Night will feature a keynote from Julia Smith, LCSW and University counselor, on the topic of women standing united, followed by poetry and other creative writing samples read by students who write for The Mirror and Inkwell. At the event Clarke will sell Belle merchandise and will give away “You are wonderful, You are unique #Belle” bracelets.
“One thing I’ve learned is people buy the emotion, not just the product, and for the Showcase I’m really working on how to make my story come through my business pitch,” she said.
To see Diandre Clarke '18 pitch Belle at the StartUp Showcase be sure to save your seat at the event on April 26 at fairfield.edu/showcase-rsvp.
Can’t make it to the Showcase? You can watch the action live on Facebook.
For more information about entrepreneurship opportunities at Fairfield visit fairfield.edu/entrepreneurship.