Kicking off our new blog series focusing on the great humans behind brands, part of our continuous campaign for #consciousmarketing, we caught up with #megaboss Charlotte Bax, who founded Mars Needs Women to promote gender equality in STEM. With a career background spanning from USA to UK, and from GAP Inc, to TrendAnalytics, Charlotte is perfectly positioned to start a seriously thoughtful brand. There’s a lot to learn from this one about how to inspire change.
Hi Charlotte! Please introduce yourself!
Hello! My name is Charlotte and I’m the founder of Mars Needs Women, an apparel brand that donates directly to programs supporting young women in STEM. I’m currently based in London but spent the past 5 years in San Francisco and New York, working for Gap Inc and most recently the software company Trendalytics.
When did you set up Mars Needs Women?
I started the company (somewhat accidentally) in the fall of 2017.
Love 'accidentally'! What’s the story behind your brand?
During my time at Trendalytics, a lot our focus was on recruiting and building the right team. A crucial lesson at any early stage startup. It was through that experience that I saw firsthand the issue wasn’t attracting female talent - it was finding a diversity of talent amongst all roles, and most notably on our engineering and data science teams. The idea for Mars Needs Women was born out of this realization that we need to start supporting women at the very beginning stages of their careers so they are empowered to go into technical roles. In order to do this, I used my background in merchandising to design a line of sweatshirts with a charitable element built into the business model. With each sale the customer chooses how much they want to pay and donate directly to programs supporting women in STEM.
How are you using social media to help you spread the word? Which platforms & how helpful are they?
My brand was born on social media first. Well, originally it was organic social media - i.e. word of mouth from my colleagues wearing sweatshirts around our WeWork office. I then started on Instagram and slowly built out a tech stack as needed when the business started to grow. For example, choosing Shopify to take payments, building a site, and relying solely on Instagram to promote the mission of the brand. I have yet to test the reach on Facebook, but Twitter is next on my list.
We are huge fans of your Instagram page - do you have any tips for people looking to post engaging content on social media?
If it doesn’t resonate with you, then don’t expect a reaction from others. That speaks to the “authenticity” buzzword of the moment.
Mix it up with the form of content - short frame videos, photos, carousels - so your audience doesn’t have a chance to expect something of you. Keep them guessing so they stay interested.
Reach out. Thus far all of my marketing has been directly through messaging potential partners or brand ambassadors through Instagram. Hit on the right (i.e mutually beneficial) partnership and it can have a snowball effect.
We love that you’re supporting the next generation of girls in STEM – can you tell us a little bit about your pricing model?
The idea behind my pricing model is make a deeper connection with each customer so that they want to find out more about the programs we donate to. In other words, to encourage lasting and active participation. This is why I give each customer a choice between 3 prices, each with a different level of donation, and each quarter we introduce a new program to donate to. In the future we may evolve this to allow customers to select the program they want to contribute to.
How can other brands inspire social change?
Not all brands need to adopt a charitable donation model in order to have a social impact. Inspiring social change can come from simply promoting marginalized groups or causes in your marketing. A great example of this right now is brands promoting body positivity and inclusive sizing. While some may be involved more directly with charities or community groups, others choose to make small changes to the imagery they are using, runway models and influencers they employ, and their brand voice in marketing. On the other hand, if a brand’s goal is to make a real impact on a social, environmental, economic, etc. issues then this tends to work best when it’s in their brand DNA from the start. So they build a connection with customers with a consistent message from the start. I’m an advocate of picking a very targeted cause in order to have the greatest impact possible.
What do you expect from the brands you buy from?
Because of my experience at Gap Inc working with our supply chain teams in the US, Asia, and Europe, I definitely expect ethical manufacturing practices. I’d rather pay a premium for this than getting an impossible deal. Also I look for brands that have some connection to the community or source of their goods. One of the biggest trends in food right now is transparent sourcing - people want to know the name of the farmer who grew their vegetables. I’d like a similar movement to happen in retail so people start to understand the environmental impact of how their clothes are made.
Are there any brands or businesses whose values & ethos you’re really impressed by?
Currently on my radar: Bombas, United by Blue, Everlane, Aday, & Mamoq
Any other tips you’d like to share?
Use your talents to your advantage when promoting a social cause. You can donate your time, resources, or voice to a cause and all are equally valuable!