New Reality Show Hones In On Young Entrepreneurs

New Reality Show Hones In

On Young Entrepreneurs

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Call it the reality effect. For Jeannine Shao Collins, CEO and Co-Founder of Girl Starter – a new television show on TLC – now was the right time to use the reality show format to help empower young women in business. Collins is also the former EVP and Publisher of MORE Magazine.

“I will say right now everyone knows women are leading men in education,” says Collins, whose new six-episode show is meant to empower young women in business. 

“There is such a [self] starter spirit of these young women vs. the boomer generation. They don’t think they have to work their way up the corporate ladder. They want to own their businesses now. We’ve seen it resonate and want to keep that going.”

Each episode highlights a piece of the Girl Starter curriculum: Start it. Plan it. Prove it. Build it. Brand it. Fund it. The grand prize includes up to $100,000 of investment and services.

According to Collins, the genesis for the show actually came from her 16-year-old daughter, Julia, after Collins had explained to her about the well-known gender disparity in business. “She was quite adamant and said I have to do something about this gender inequity thing,” Collins says. “She told me she was going to start an entrepreneurship club so that young women can develop a risk tolerance. I said, ‘Julia, that’s brilliant and I believe we have to get behind girls while they are younger but I don’t think it’s going to affect the world.’”

To make a bigger impact, and after considering a recent statistic stating that 97 percent of millennials aspire to be famous, the gears in Collins’ mind started turning. She decided to transform her daughter’s idea into a reality show in order to bring the message to the public. Before deciding on the format, Collins and her team decided to talk with Julia’s peers to understand their sentiments about joining the business world.

“We did a focus group with young women [and found out] they felt like the word entrepreneurship was elitist and difficult to spell,” says Collins. “To get women to lean into it, it had to be more approachable and more inviting. We were trying to inform young people to think of how to make ideas, how to get mentorship and how to pitch for funding.”

Ultimately, eight girls between the ages of 18 to 24 were selected to participate in the show, which featured guest mentor judges like Tiffany Pham and Stephen Shapiro. Additionally, Collins secured Collete Davis, a 23 year-old rallycross race car driver, as the show’s host. 

After meeting with a casting director and posting a casting call online, Collins says she received 400 submissions from girls in 10 days who wanted to be part of the show, even without knowing the associated network. “We know there’s a huge appetite for young women who want to aspire to be the next Mark Zuckerberg,” says Collins. “We really tapped into something, and ended up with eight very diverse girls; geographically, socioeconomically, educationally, and culturally. We wanted the show to be democratizing.”

“The whole thing was my first journey as an entrepreneur,” says Collins. “I feel I’ve learned all those lessons that the girls have. You don’t really know what it’s like until you are there. It’s filled with ups and downs and highs and lows. We all learned a ton through this experience.”

Because Girl Starter is a reality show, Collins says there was some behind-the-scenes drama, but that overall vibe was positive. “There was a ton of drama but not many cat fights,” says Collins. “There is drama in business. You think you are going one way and it pivots another way. The girls relied on each other and they feel like they made seven best friends.”

Another strategic choice was to select investors like Microsoft, Staples, Visa, AT&T, and the US Airforce that represent women in media without necessarily being “girl brands.”

“We really felt these companies wanted to get behind these women… and make sure women lean into stem and tech,” Collins says. “It only means better products for them.”

“Our brand is about trying to capture those investors [focused on] female entrepreneurs,” says Collins. “Those who walk the walk and talk the talk, and are totally authentic. Those who want every man and woman to achieve their full potential. We are a startup and want people who are authentically behind the mission.”

Collins said another motivator was her personal goal of helping improve the role models for women in media. “They want to be known as smart, capable, innovative and multidimensional,” she says.

Filming, which lasted six weeks and started in February, was taxing. But with production company, Al Roker Entertainment at the helm, Collins said she was re-invigorated and reminded of her mission. “He’s a father of two and such a girl star, getting behind young women,” says Collins. “The girls loved meeting him.”

“The whole project has been amazing,” says Collins. “Frankly I can’t wait to share these girls with the girls [of the world]. It’s totally inspiring.”

Looking to the future, Collins, who reveals Girl Starter Season 2 is in pre-production, wants to expand the reach of the show, potentially utilizing social channels and other digital mediums. 

“We’d like it to be a movement on all platforms,” says Collins, who owns the rights to the show and all its associated content. “We can play in digital, and hope to get involved in large social media platforms.”

Viewers can catch episodes on TLC Go.

Belisa Silva

Belisa is an editor with more than 10 years of experience. Prior to SWAAY, she worked as freelance writer, covering lifestyle, fashion and beauty industries. Belisa was a Market Editor at Women's Wear Daily for five years, where she interviewed rockstar business women like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Lopez and Iman. Belisa also contributes to Cosmetic Executive Women, where she highlights female executives making an impact in the beauty industry.

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