Andrea Minnillo has always supported women’s empowerment. But, it wasn’t until she had children of her own that she realized how early on in a child’s life gender stereotypes are perpetuated. When Minnillo went shopping for her son and two daughters, the contrast between the clothing items offered couldn’t be more obvious. For her son, Minnillo could choose from a variety of action-packed sports designs, but for her daughters, she could only choose from a handful of princess-inspired items.
“I want my girls to kick butt and take names [too],” Minnillo says. “To me, the whole concept of just sitting around and being pretty is ridiculous.”
Rather than simply complain about the inequality, Minnillo decided to set an example for her daughters by creating change herself. Last December Minnillo launched The Girl Republic, an online “apparel brand for girls and women who are passionate about breaking gender barriers.”
Self-described as “subtly feminine,” The Girl Republic offers clothing and accessories designed by Minnillo that are intended to inspire girls to live active and bold lifestyles. With sizes ranging from infant to adult, this mission is instilled into girls from a very young age. From T-shirts prompting the importance of voting and stickers boasting the phrase Prove Them Wrong, The Girl Republic encourages women of all ages to live their lives freely and with confidence.
“[I want to] show girls that they don’t have to [only] be princesses,” Minnillo says. “We’ve come so far, but you still see all of this stuff [in stores] saying what women can or can’t do. So, there’s still much further to go.”
The Cleveland native launched her brand after her family’s move from California to Cincinnati and says she has already found immense support within the Cincinnati community. As an online boutique, Minnillo makes an effort to create in-person connections at local fairs and markets, like The City Flea, which The Girl Republic participated in this August. Minnillo hopes to eventually expand to markets in Cleveland, offer her products through Amazon, and even open a brick and mortar storefront to provide the community with a tangible shopping experience.
As a female entrepreneur herself, Minnillo knows how difficult it can be to build something from the ground up, but she encourages girls to not let that stop them from pursuing their dreams. Already, her daughters are learning how rewarding hard work can be by selling their own crocheted items alongside their mom at flea markets.
“You just have to start somewhere and make a plan,” Minnillo says. “Even with my girls, I said [to them], this is going to teach you skills … I was always so scared of rejection and all of that and you realize when you get older, Why not at least try?”