Faces of Entrepreneurship: Audrey Kosla, Founder of Stitched, and Grace Kosla, Co-founder of S.P.A. Girls
The Kosla sisters are young entrepreneurs who recently pivoted their business models in response to the Coronavirus. Grace (age 10) is one of the founders of S.P.A. Girls – a line of all natural bath products and Audrey (age 13) is the founder of Stitched – a collection of fabric pencil cases and handbags. The girls developed their businesses with the help of Girls Crushing It, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls to flex their leadership muscles through entrepreneurship. The girls were in the midst of production in preparation for the Girls Crushing It Spring Pop-up Shop when shelter-in-place orders were issued for the state of California and community gatherings were canceled. With a surplus of fabric and uncertainty around when they would be able to sell their products, the girls pivoted in response to the growing need for personal protective equipment from healthcare workers. They started by sewing and donating masks to local healthcare workers. As the CDC broadened recommendations for all community members to wear fabric masks, the girls began to get requests from non-healthcare workers who wanted to buy their masks. The girls instituted a 1:1 model, where they donate one mask for every mask purchased. This model allows for the sustainable production of masks and the girls have begun to replenish supplies. The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center caught up with the Kosla sisters to find out more about their journey.
How did you become interested in entrepreneurship as a path?
Audrey discovered her love of sewing in 2nd grade, when she signed up for her first sewing class. She was so determined to start a business that she ordered business cards right off the bat and the rest is history. Grace joined forces with a few friends and formed S.P.A. girls, which is an acronym for Super Positive Amazing.
How did you decide to shift the focus of your business to masks?
Our aunt sent us a video about how badly healthcare workers are in need of masks, and the video showed how the masks were made. We were inspired to help keep healthcare workers safe, so it was an easy decision to shift to making masks.
How did your entrepreneurship education with Girls Crushing It help prepare you for this journey?
The business planning skills we learned in Girls Crushing It really helped us with everything from organization and timeline to production and inventory management. Our pitch training equipped us with the skills to communicate with customers about our products. We’ve even used our networking and leadership skills to recruit friends to help with production.
What challenges have you faced?
Our masks were originally designed with the same pattern on both the inside and outside of the mask. We quickly learned from customer feedback that fabric masks should not reversible. The outside (which is exposed to the elements) should always face out. Therefore, we adjusted our design so that our masks are white on the inside and patterned on the outside.
We have also experienced variances in the quality of available elastic, so it has challenged us to develop solutions such as substituting fabric ties for elastic.
What are you most proud of?
We are most proud of the impact we are having. We didn’t expect to come this far.
How are you balancing school and business?
We start our day with online school and reserve the afternoons for business.
In your opinion, what are the 3 top qualities of a successful entrepreneur?
Persistence, confidence and bravery
What does success look like to you – before the Coronavirus and after?
Before Coronavirus, success was developing our entrepreneurial skillset and growing our businesses.
After Coronavirus, success is helping to keep people safe who are risking their lives to care for others.
What does a typical day look like for you?
In the beginning Grace would cut and iron and Audrey would sew, but now we both participate in all aspects of production. Audrey coordinates with friends who have volunteered to help with their efforts. We also recruit our parents to help when they can.
When you’re not being an entrepreneur, what do you like to do for fun?
Grace: I like horseback riding, gymnastics, ukulele and robotics
Audrey: I enjoy tennis and basketball
What are some constructive insights that you’d like to share to help other entrepreneurs?
It is important to have a vision and a plan to achieve it, but it’s equally important to have a compelling story that connects you with people.