When it comes to fashion, consider the question: What should Christians do?
Emilee Burroughs, a student at Berry College in Rome, Ga., is exploring the answer.
Her Christian fashion magazine "Anointed" won praise (but, alas, no seed money) at a "Shark Tank"-like entrepreneurship conference at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last week.
Students there made pitches, competing before judges for a $2,000 seed grant to help their businesses succeed. Burroughs was pitching her print and e-publication that will feature articles with titles such as, "Applying Scripture to Your Daily Beauty Routine."
"The judges gave us positive feedback, and one judge said that our magazine is a needed product," Burroughs
said. "Overall, it was a really good experience, and I was able to network and get the word out."
All three judges suggested that Burroughs and her partner, Rob Himmelwright, spend more time developing their business plan.
Burroughs said that most of today's teen fashion magazines push norms that many young women find unrealistic, even harmful.
"There are quizzes that put you in a box, articles about sex," she said. "I wanted a magazine that builds girls up, not tears them down.
"A lot of the headlines are about how to lose weight, how to be a good kisser. Ridiculous."
Burroughs is part of an innovative class at Berry College that teaches entrepreneurship. It piggybacks on a national trend toward training college kids to be business owners, not just cogs in a management machine. Even students in other disciplines take the class to learn to monetize their skills. For example, Burroughs is a communications major.
Paula Englis, professor of management at Berry, says that since joining the faculty in 1999 her entrepreneurship class has helped a number of students to start their own micro-businesses — 25 percent of which survived past the end of class, she said.
"I give them $100 in class [from a donor seed fund] and challenge them to start a business in that semester," she said, noting that the fund is supported by Berry alumni.
Burroughs believes her idea for a Christian teen fashion magazine — she already has a prototype — still has legs. She says teens who don't follow a secular lifestyle still want to share information about how to look nice.
"They [national magazines] are always talking about partying," she said. "The only parties I went to were [church] youth groups."
Burroughs and Himmelwright began their partnership with an online version of "Anointed," but were urged by Berry graduates to launch a print magazine to help attract advertisers. That's what her readers were saying, too.
"Everyone was saying, 'I want a magazine,'" she said. "We tried to sell subscriptions. But now we are going to be selling advertising to businesses and making the magazine free."
She said she intends to recruit Christian businesses as advertisers and to target 13- to 18-year-old readers, she said.
Meanwhile, content is king, and Burroughs says she is trying to photograph girls for the magazine who look normal, not the rail-thin waifs you often see modeling clothes in national magazines.
"We are very much promoting having a positive self-image and loving who you are," she said.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645.