Kent State graduate gives advice to starting a business at All the CEO Ladies event

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Katie Masko

StarAndia Johnson, StarAndia J. owner, speaking at All the CEO Ladies event Feb. 16.

Katherine Masko , Reporter

Creating clothing dyes out of natural products, making fashion more sustainable and imposter syndrome in the business world were just a few of the topics discussed at the virtual All the CEO Ladies event on Feb. 16.

“I want to start introducing people to … how you get dyes, save the planet and make fashion more circular so that we’re not throwing away things we could use,” said sustainable small business owner of StarAndia J., StarAndia Johnson.

StarAndia J. is a slow fashion business that focuses on “leaving a positive footprint on the environment” while creating products that are unique and beautiful, its website stated.

StarAndia J. sells t-shirts dyed using onion skins, embroidered patches and other dyed products that range from $5 to $40. Every product is handmade by Johnson, including the dyes she uses to tie-dye her t-shirts and tote bags.

Johnson is a 2021 fashion design program graduate from Kent State. She learned in her textiles classes here that natural products can make beautiful dyes.

“I always tell people playing with natural dyes is like magic, you never know what you’re going to get,” she said.

Johnson started her sustainable small business after going through LaunchNET’s Black Women Bosses program. The program helped her create her mission and values, as well as gain the confidence to start the business.

“The most challenging thing is being the underestimated person in the room,” Johnson said.

All the CEO Ladies started 7 or 8 years ago by a student employee as a student organization who wanted to create a way for female entrepreneurs to connect and have a support system, said Tabitha Messmore, the assistant director of LaunchNET.

When the student employee graduated, the organization fell through, until LaunchNET decided to partner with the Women’s Center to revive the events, officially naming it All the CEO Ladies, said Messmore.

“We revived it because we knew it was a good program, we knew there was a need,” Messmore said. “The idea is that it’s support and learning for female entrepreneurs.”

All the CEO Ladies events have a speaker or a topic that is talked about amongst a smaller group of people with a networking component as well. People who are just starting out or need help have time to ask each other questions while networking.

The most important thing to Messmore is that new entrepreneurs feel supported.

“[It’s important] that they walk away feeling like, hey, there’s someone else who gets this, who understands what’s happening in my world, even if it’s not exactly the same as my situation,” she said.

“As you go forward, I would say kind of be fearless,” Johnson said. “Don’t get into your head too much about what other people might think of your business.”

The next All the CEO Ladies event will be held virtually Wednesday, March 16. LaunchNET’s All the CEO Ladies website will be updated with a sign-up link before the event.

Katherine Masko is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected]