A Scarf Story: Passion in Action

1When most women look at a scarf, we see an easy way to add a “pop of color” or a little flair to any outfit. However, when Michelle Blue looked at a scarf, she saw so much more. Beyond the value of this versatile fashion accessory, Michelle saw the opportunity to dramatically impact the lives of a group of women living half way around the world.

It all started at the University of Georgia where Michelle Blue was pursuing a Marketing degree with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. During a trip to West Africa to study textiles and provide outreach, Michelle was inspired by the “joyful spirits” of the young women in the villages, regardless of their circumstances.

2In West Africa, there are no Federal or state-sponsored schools. Therefore, families must bear the costs of books, supplies, tuition and uniforms. After primary school, most girls are not able to go on and pursue secondary education. Instead, they stay home and take care of the domestic duties of the home while the boys go on to secondary school. As a result, their future hopes, dreams and aspirations are surrendered.

Inspired by these girls as well as the vibrant West African textiles, Michelle and her best friend Sasha decided to use their passion for clothing and fashion to make a difference. Sasha graduated from Florida A&M with a degree in Mathematics. Together, Michelle and Sasha combined their skills and started a company named Bené which means “goodwill or desiring to help others.” According to Michelle: “We knew that the need was still there, the girls were still there, we were still compelled to act and to do something.”

3They started with a line of scarves and sold them online as well as in trunk shows at private homes. They began with scarves because as Michelle points out “You don’t have to worry about size, you don’t have to worry about fit, and what woman does not love a great scarf?” Proceeds from the sale of the scarves went to support girls in West Africa through the full matriculation of secondary school. This included books, tuition, uniforms and supplies. “When you educate girls, you’re not just educating them. You’re changing their lives, their family lives, and you’re contributing to their countries. When you think about what impact that really has, that can change the world. And if we can be a part of that, I think that’s awesome” states Michelle. All prints are custom-made and are named after the girls they support as a way to more closely connect consumers to the cause.

Bené has now extended their line to include three different types of scarves (skinny, infinity, rectangular) as well as kimonos and caftans, all available in five different patterns. Recently, Sasha and Michelle were featured in Pantene’s “Stronger Together” campaign with Walmart. Michelle was also featured in TEDxUGA as well as the 2015 Small Business Matters conference in Atlanta. To date, Bené has supported five girls for three years, and their work continues.

4Today, Bené serves as a great example of what can happen when passion is put into action. However, both Sasha and Michelle are quick to point out that their focus is on the fashion and the cause, not one to the exclusion of the other. Currently, they are working on the release of their 2015 Fall/Winter collection. If you would like to get more information about Bené or to view their entire collection, please visit www.benescarves.com or contact email mblue@benescarves.com.




Written and Posted by Beth Schultz on the Behalf of Concierge Services of Atlanta, Inc.

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