Shine Theory: How to Run a Feminist Business
Shine Theory posits that another woman’s success does not undermine yours – we are not all competing for a drop of success from the diminishing success pool. Success is limitless. As the founder of a feminist clothing and art brand (Mude Threads), I want to share my experiences with Shine Theory – a phrase I only came across a few weeks ago, yet it is a way of doing business that I’ve followed for years – and how it has transformed my understanding the power of online and offline collaboration over competition! I can vouch that SHINE THEORY WORKS!
Being surrounded by successful women shouldn’t dim your success, instead other women’s achievements can make you shine brighter. Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow are the women behind the theory, who have built their friendship on the mutual celebration of each other’s successes. According to Friedman: “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better”…
My Experiences with Shine Theory and Business
I inadvertently founded Mude Threads on my Study Abroad year, when I picked up an embroidery needle and stitched a vivacious naked woman onto one of my sweaters. Initially, stitching nakedness onto clothing was a creative outlet to counteract the mundane business school course I was attending in France. Now, Mude Threads has amassed over 6,000 followers on Instagram and fuels a thriving community of like-minded women who are reclaiming their nudity. By wearing nakedness (even your own commissioned nude), we are carving out a new meaning of women’s bodies. Feel free to check out my website…*shameless plug, inserted with the confidence of a straight white male*.
Above: a beautiful customer wearing her Nude Commission proudly!
I recently graduated from the University of Leeds, with a degree in Management with Marketing. There’s something palpably ironic (and oxymoronic) about being a feminist business owner. I have become almost ashamed to disclose my degree title, as this qualification seems to be a one-way ticket into the patriarchal town of woman-crushing-capitalism. My initial understanding of business, prior to founding my brand, was that hostility, competition and selfishness were essential traits in an entrepreneur or CEO. As a woman socialised to be compassionate, sensitive and humble, I always had an inkling of imposter-syndrome when it came to putting on my business school bravado. I resented the persona that I had to play in order to be ‘successful’ in business. This resentment manifested itself as the way I run my business – I am not arrogant or competitive, I am compassionate and quietly humble. Throughout the last year and a half of running Mude Threads, I have unknowingly become an example of Shine Theory in action! My upbringing, my socialisation and my education have moulded me to become a Shine Theory advocate. I became tired of the media’s relentless pitting of women against each other, the sly comparisons people made of my twin and I, the representations of women in films as catty competitors vying for male attentions…there’s so much more to gain from other women, when we see each other as allies.
Above: my ‘flirty femme’ tee
Aminatou Sow, one of the captivating women behind Shine Theory, states that there are three pillars upholding this empowering theory:
- “Kiss down, not up”
- “Ask and offer”
- “Pass it on”
Kiss Down, Not Up
Create opportunities for those who need them. Kissing down is all about reaching down to those in less fortunate situations, and making room for them at your table. It is about using your privilege to amplify marginalised voices. Here’s my best examples of kissing down in action. I have always recognised the underrated talent of small-scale or new creatives on Instagram – I remember being in the underdog position (I still am by some scales!) when I launched my Instagram page with just 60 followers in the first month. I knew the power of wearing nakedness but I didn’t have the influence or voice on the platform to make people notice me. This helplessness halted my success and crushed my confidence…my business was merely a hobby, until the wonderful Liv Purvis mentioned my brand on her Instagram Story. She had purchased an embroidered cushion cover from me, and despite my meager following, she shared my name with her hundreds of thousands of followers. The effect was astounding and it really kick-started a domino effect of word-of-mouth and increased exposure for Mude Threads. This small act of ‘kissing down’ stayed with me – I have been rooting for the ‘underdogs and the underrateds’ ever since!
I use my (tiny!) influence to spotlight unknown female makers and creators by organising Bundle Giveaways, which OHNE were part of! Every beautiful brand sends me an item of their choice, of a worth relative to their scale. I painstakingly photograph each beautiful creation, which I then share on my page to my 6,000+ followers. It may sound counterintuitive to share ‘competitor’ products on the same platform that I sell my own creations, but the buzz from seeing these women’s pages pop with growing love and following is unrivalled. Everyone wins in the Bundle Giveaways – my followers learn about incredible women-led brands to support, and those brands get exposure on each others’ pages! I also reach out to small-scale bloggers and offer them discounts and freebies in return for interviews and exposure on their budding pages. Kiss down. You’ll feel the gratefulness.
Above: Bundle Giveaway featuring @fur_you’s beautiful gift-wrapped self-care set, with their famous oil for pubic hair 🙊 @jazmoodie‘s hand-embroidered nude tee, @gruechelle‘s screenprinted ‘bullshit bikini body’ vest and earrings, @lost.in.france.studio‘s floral resin ring and earrings, @kategwilliam’s hand-made sparkly avocado decoration, @thealeaney‘s delicate line drawings, @thefaketitfund‘s titty tote and pin, @ginibeanifairy vulva and boob patches, @im_ohne organic tampons, @goodbloodperiod badges, @staunchzine feminist zine, @_thepineneedleco‘s embroidered hoops and @eatmieliesweirdillustration‘s boobie socks, tote and funny cards!
Ask And Offer
When introducing yourself ask for one thing and offer a skill in return to create a problem solving network. I recently came across a beautiful brand called Dulce Embroidery, who are a duo of women embroidering delicate designs of the female form. In this sense, they are my direct competitors! However, I love their work so much that I shared it on my page! Again, counterintuitive? Not really when you consider that I offered exposure to this new brand, and a few days later I realised I could learn from them. I noticed they were using an embroidery method that would save me lots of time – so I approached them asking for advice. Since I had offered my help a few days earlier, the lovely gals behind the brand were more than happy to share their fountain of knowledge, advice and recommendations to make my life a little bit easier. We figured we were in the same boat, and both gained from the interaction! Boom. Women supporting women.
Pass It On
When an opportunity arises that may not suit you, or you don’t have the time for, pass it on! Pass it on to someone who will run with it. Their success in the opportunity should make you prouder, it should not make you feel weaker for passing it on. I naturally passed on an opportunity when an interview opportunity came my way about my experiences with contraception and menstruation. I did not feel comfortable amplifying my voice on this issue, as my experiences have been relatively struggle-free. However, I knew a woman who embroidered period-positive designs (@craftsandcramps), and passed on the details to her! I figured she would be a much more relevant voice for the project (@thewombroom)…passing on this opportunity did not diminish my success! Success is limitless!
It’s time to turn the expectations of being a woman on their head – whether that be in how you run your business or how you respond to your pal’s new job success…it’s time to lift each other up!
Header image: The stunning Isabella (@fauxnandes) radiating body confidence and celebrating her scarring, wearing my ‘Galspreading’ embroidered tee.
Artist and Founder of Mude Threads
Jazz Moodie is the founder and artist behind Mude Threads, an empowering clothing brand dedicated to celebrating the nude female form through embroidery, hand-painted garments, and sketches. You can find her stunning work here or follow her on Instagram @jazmoodie to see her put Shine Theory into action, everyday.
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