Getting Social: Q&A with CEO Marissa Jennings
By SGZ Staff
She always wondered where girls who looked like her were. An active girl, Marissa Jennings grew up involved in many activities – tennis, pottery, violin lessons, Saturday math and science school, church youth groups and Girl Scouts. She even attended a month-long YWCA camp in Massachusetts. Yet while she enjoyed the camp, she always came home with the question: “Where was the camp for girls like me?”
The Los Angeles native found a way to support girls like her. She started Socialgrlz LLC, a mobile and Web publishing company that utilizes innovative applications for social interaction in a way that improves the quality of life for African-American girls. After reviewing her research, Jennings immediately realized that girls still use their phones to socialize. A strong advocate for girls, especially girls of color, Jennings felt it was time for them to have a place of their own in the virtual world, and with her starting lineup of teammates and experts, she is making what started as a college project a bona fide reality.
Question: Do you think this product would be beneficial to young girls? How?
Answer: Yes. Socialgrlz LLC is the FIRST mobile web application designed for African-American girls! Unfortunately, African-American girls are not represented in modern technology in a positive light. If you type in just the words black girls on Google, three out of the top 10 websites for the words black girls are positive, however, all the other websites are Black Girls Gone Wild, Hot Black Girls and the second listing says Black Girls Are Easy. It is so sad. I often think if this is how we are represented on the Web, where no one can defend these sites or articles, what are people actually thinking about our BLACK GIRLS?
SGZ will give girls the opportunity to have real conversations with girls and experts who look like them and come from their backgrounds.
Q: What are some of the coolest things featured on the site?
A: Girls can FINALLY see images of other girls that are POSITIVE. Also, the site is accessible through their phones, computers and iPads. I also think the coolest feature is adding your voice to the SGZ Textbook. Providing girls the opportunity to give their opinion, and actually knowing that their opinion is respected and appreciated means more than you know.
Q: There are a lot of sites available to young girls, what makes Socialgrlz different?
A: Our site speaks to issues that they can relate to and our site seeks participation. We want girls to tell us what they want, and that’s what makes us different. We are considering the girl who has been overlooked for years. Anyone can use the site and participate. We are not excluding anyone but we are totally INCLUDING the girl who cannot relate to other Web and mobile applications. We want to encourage the African-American girl and remind her that she is important.
Q: Was developing your own mobile site a huge challenge?
A: Starting your own business can be very challenging and can become overwhelming. When starting your own business you have to wear so many hats – creative, business, finance, provide leadership – and know that things may change at any moment. But the excitement of knowing I am reaching a girl who looks like me brings me joy!
Q: How do you see your business running two years from now?
A: Two years from now I would like to reach 1.35 million African-American girls through modern technology. I would like to have an office, an assistant and revenue that will afford me to strictly work for SGZ. I have a great support system. I have people around me who will tell me the TRUTH and I have family who have taught me that I can do ANYTHING I want and to keep going no matter what.
Want to know more about Marissa Jennings, click here