Meet The VFA Accelerator Teams: Ellen Currin of Harriette

The Venture for America Accelerator is a three-month program open to VFA alumni and Fellows at the conclusion of their two-year Fellowship. On August 1st, seven teams descended on Detroit to begin working full time on their companies. Thanks to generous support from the William Davidson Foundation and Quicken Loans and with help from the Venture for America team and a wide range of industry leaders, Accelerator teams have the time, space, and funding to focus solely on building their fledgling companies.

Meet Ellen Currin, a 2015 Fellow and Founder of Harriette. Harriette makes all-natural body hair care essentials for women. Here, Ellen shares her experience of unexpectedly becoming an entrepreneur, embracing change as a business owner and her mission for women.

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Have you always wanted to start a company? What were some of the critical inflection points that got you to actually launch?

When I joined VFA, I was so convinced that I never wanted to start a company. I filled out a survey last week from my alma mater and I actually laughed out loud when I selected “entrepreneur” from a drop-down list of occupations – it still doesn’t feel real to me! But being in Detroit and being surrounded by people building impactful things has definitely rubbed off on me.

I started the accelerator last August with the intention of building up Detroit’s rock climbing community – and eventually a brick and mortar gym – through my organization, Climb Rock City. It was around this time that my hobby slash side hustle of making and selling natural cosmetics really started to pick up. I never expected that it would gain traction so quickly and eventually scale into a business – but that is the story of how Harriette was born!

What’s it like building a company in Detroit?

I spent my fellowship in Detroit and I am so grateful that VFA led me to this city. Detroit is the most amazing place to start something new because the community of makers and entrepreneurs here is so strong and very supportive. Entrepreneurs in this city are more than willing to help in any way that they can – donating time, offering advice, and making connections. I honestly can’t imagine trying to start something brand new in a city like San Francisco or New York – it must be so hard and so lonely.

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Which aspects of VFA have helped you the most throughout your journey?

Having the support of VFA fellows and team members has been such a gift. Harriette is tackling a pretty big social taboo head-on, and that can be really scary. A lot of days I wake up and I worry that people won’t take me or my business seriously. But the VFA family has provided me with so many positive words and so much encouragement. It definitely helps me stay confident when things are hard!

Where do you hope to see your company grow in the next three years?

Just as THINX has normalized menstruation and just as Dame has brought female sexual pleasure into the mainstream, I hope that Harriette can catalyze the acceptance and celebration of female body hair. Three years from now, I hope that body hair care is considered as common and as essential as skin care or nail care.

What’s your mission and how do you plan to live it out every day?

My mission is to erase the shame and stigma surrounding female body hair, and to reclaim body hair as a clean, beautiful, sexy, inherently feminine part of the female body. I quit shaving my legs when I was 17. And although I have never regretted my decision to embrace my natural body, I still struggle with feeling ashamed and embarrassed of my body hair.

Over the years, caring for my body hair has helped me embrace and celebrate it. The intentional act of nourishing and grooming my body hair helps me feel feminine and beautiful because of my natural body, not despite of it.

Harriette is arming women (myself included) with tools to push back against all the forces telling them they are dirty, ugly, and gross because of the hair that grows naturally on their body.   

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What readers can do to help you get to your next step or milestone?

  1. Join our mailing list at www.harriette.co
  2. Follow @harriette.dot.co on Instagram
  3. Like Harriette.Co on Facebook.
  4. Reach out to shop.harriette@gmail.com with any suggestions or feedback!

Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed once you’ve completed your two-year Fellowship. Our alumni have launched 41 companies that employ more than 195 people. Click here to find out how VFA can help you succeed.

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