Women’s March 2018: Startups Go All In to Mark Feminist Protest
Companies across the country are celebrating the anniversary of the national feminist event, fueled by the momentum of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
It's been a year--one remarkable, game-changing, some might say soul-searching year--since the Women's March on Washington.
Many entrepreneurs say they plan to participate again, as cities around the world plan an encore this weekend. "The last time I went to the one in Washington, D.C., because I wanted to be out there protesting Trump," says Brianna Wu, co-founder of the video game developer Giant Spacekat, who is making a run for Congress in 2018. But this year, Wu plans to stay close to home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where elected officials including Maura Healey, the state's attorney general, are set to speak. "My entire campaign [of around 30 people] is going," Wu says. "We're going to be making our voices heard."
Like Wu, many entrepreneurs say taking part in this weekend's anniversary march after the energy of last year's event is a no-brainer. Some have plans to make signs, create promotional media or otherwise encourage employees to show support for women.
Siheun Song, the co-founder of Rally, a bus chartering service based in New York, plans to transport thousands of protestors to marches across the country, in cities including Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C. Her four-person startup is a crowdfunding platform, of sorts, for transportation: An app solicits customers to pledge funds for a bus, and if enough of them do, Rally will commission the bus and take a sales cut.
"After Trump was elected, I was shellshocked and pretty depressed," Song says. Last year, Rally transported nearly 50,000 people to the Women's March, sometimes on behalf of organizations, and it's hoping to have a similar impact this year. Song and her team plan to work Saturday from 4 a.m. onward, running operations and hosting a sign-making breakfast gathering, and later a post-march happy hour at the company's headquarters.
Some entrepreneurs were inspired to start businesses because of the feminist movement itself. Alicia Driskill launched the Chicago-based incubator Evolveher last month, after working on it for about a year. "Coming from the corporate world, I felt like I wanted to do something more with a bigger purpose," Driskill says, noting that she held focus groups for many months to learn more about women's personal and professional challenges. Now the business, which employs four people out of a 5,000 square-foot loft in the city's trendy North River neighborhood, supports women entrepreneurs by providing tech consulting, social media marketing and other business help, as well as meditation and yoga classes, for a monthly membership fee.
This year, in honor of the Women's March, Evolveher is also hosting a series of events to honor women leaders in the Chicago area. "The past year has been an emotional roller coaster," Driskill says. "But there's been so much momentum with MeToo and Time's Up," referring to two movements aimed at generating awareness for sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. On Saturday, the company plans to host a breakfast for its 35 members, where they intend to make signs before heading over together to the Chicago march.
To be sure, there are drawbacks for participating in what some view to be a partisan issue. Rob Janicke, the founder of a New York City based music label called SoundEvolution, says his company has gotten a lot of flak for publishing a controversial music video featuring the feminist punk duo Dolltits. The song, released this week, is called "Locker Room Talk," in which the lyrics are drawn from President Trump's own words. The opening line--"She was married, I did try and f**k her, I moved on her like a b**ch"--comes from a leaked Access Hollywood tape in which Trump discusses his sexual encounters.
"The reaction has been what we assumed: A lot of people liked it, and a lot of people hated it," Janicke says. But the way he sees it, music--as a form of artistic expression--shouldn't be censored for political messages, no matter how much money a label stands to lose or make. "I think it was important to do," says Janicke. "I'm proud of it, and truth be told I agree with it."
Some businesses aren't shying away. This weekend, Uncommon Goods, an online retailer of unusual gifts based in Brooklyn, New York, is donating 100% of profits from sales of its "Keep Marching" necklace in honor of the women's march anniversary. Proceeds will go to RAINN, the anti-sexual assault organization. "As an independently-owned business, we have the freedom to support causes we believe in and to impact the world in a positive way," says Rhashiva Taft, a spokeswoman for the firm. "We're more than happy to do just that."