A Local Business Encourages Girls to Dream Big
After searching through the entire store for T-shirts for Clara, her physical and fearless toddler, KOMU morning news anchor Megan Judy was frustrated: All of the shirts for girls featured princesses, unicorns and glitter, none of which reflected Clara’s personality.
“I naively said, ‘Let’s make some shirts,’ ” recalls Megan’s husband, Cliff Judy. Less than a year later, their business, MyTurn, offers apparel with artwork featuring girls in roles where women are currently underrepresented.
“Piloting was the field that blew me away,” Cliff says as he talks about learning that women currently represent only 7 percent of pilots. Other MyTurn clothing items draw attention to the facts that women constitute only 5 percent of CEOs, about 10 percent of construction workers and about 11 percent of astronauts.
The apparel isn’t just for toddlers. “As we were telling others about the business idea,” Cliff says, “more and more people were asking us, ‘What about my size? You’re going to have my size, right?’ ” In response to the interest, clothing sizes for MyTurn’s apparel range from 12 months all the way to 3XL adult sizes for both men’s and women’s clothing.
For the artwork, Megan turned to a friend from high school. Amy Madej, a working artist and teacher in St. Louis, jumped at the chance to be a part of things. “I’m on the phone telling her the ideas we have for different things,” Megan says, “and, as we are on the phone, she is actually texting me drawings she made of what we were talking about.”
Over the course of the past year, Megan and Cliff discussed their business idea with countless people: family, friends and other business owners. They were thrilled by the supportive feedback they received. Cliff remembers a day when one particular consultant told them, “It’s time. You guys have done all this work, and it’s time to get things started; your plan will evolve as you go along.”
“That was good advice for a couple of perfectionists,” Cliff says. “Every entrepreneur runs into these challenges, and no matter how well you plan, you have to evolve.”
With the shirt designs done, the website built and a handle created for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Megan and Cliff placed their first order for shirts and MyTurn coloring books in April. Missouri Cotton Exchange printed orders for more than 60 customers ordering an average of two garments each. All eight of the MyTurn girl shirts were purchased, with baseball tees being the most popular clothing item. Megan’s mother picked up the first order of MyTurn coloring books, and Cliff’s dad delivered garments to a boutique in Kansas City.
In addition to ordering online, the couple is considering retail outlets for the apparel. “We would like to have some things available in some local places and boutiques — St. Louis and Kansas City as well,” Megan suggests.
The business is inspiring others to help. A pilot acquaintance has volunteered to mentor a young girl who is interested in becoming a pilot.
In addition to the eight original MyTurn girls found on their garments, Megan and Cliff recently added another: Ida the Investigative Journalist. This newest MyTurn girl is named after Ida B. Wells, an African-American woman born into slavery who became a journalist, political activist and suffragette. Cliff — program manager at Newsy — had recently done a story about Ida and met her great-granddaughter in the process. Cliff reached out to her about the idea, and she was thrilled to be associated with MyTurn.
With all this going on, it seems that MyTurn is off to an auspicious beginning. “Do we hope this will grow beyond our basement? Absolutely, but we are not there yet,” Cliff says.
While keeping their expectations grounded, in a recent interview on The Tom Bradley Show, they did let slip a secret hope that Megan has for the success of MyTurn. Cliff jokes, “I think the business is really just a front for Megan to try to get on The Ellen DeGeneres Show someday.”