Caitlin Quirk, Founder of Bowfish Kids and Creator behind #GirlsGetReal
Caitlin Quirk is the definition of a super woman. This talented fashion designer is the owner of Bowfish Kids and Founder of Bowfish Studios. Since her day-to-day involves working with the younger generation, Caitlin was quick to notice how social media has taken a negative toll on their lives when it doesn’t have to. In response, Caitlin put on her cape and did something about it!
Read on to discover the details of her #100DaysOfEntreprenuership challenge and how she plans to switch gears into launching Ocean City NJ’s first and only community workspace. What will she do next?!
Caitlin, you are a fashion designer who started her own business straight out of school. What made you want to become an entrepreneur right away and why children’s wear?
Well, I didn’t exactly know what becoming an entrepreneur meant at the time, but I always knew I wanted to be my own boss. I also knew that the corporate world wasn’t for me, so I just went for it with the skills I've gained in fashion design. As far as choosing to open a children’s store, that was the result of my seeing an opportunity in my area, Ocean City, which is a summer resort town on the South Jersey Shore. And since I’ve worked a lot with kids, teaching ice skating when I was younger and a competitor myself, I really liked the idea of melding that experience with my fashion education to start a kids-focused business.
Through working with these young girls, you discovered that the world they live in is ruled by social media. Was this your ah-ha moment for creating #GirlsGetReal?
Not at first. #GirlsGetReal was hatched out of an experience that I had while in line at Wawa one morning recently. I was scrolling through Instagram and landed on picture of a customer of mine that I've known since she was five and who is now barley 14. She was posing in a way that objectified her body. It made me sad to see she was probably only doing this because she was mimicking influential Instagram models, and believed that poses like that generated a lot of "likes." I wanted to give her a better role model. So I set out on this 100 day challenge to give her, and other girls her age, something more positive to look up to. Leading up to day 50, I decided to take it a step further by sharing with everyone my motivation for starting the challenge, with the hope of starting a conversation about how mimicking these “models” can diminish the value that you put on yourself, and ultimately affect how people view you.
What about being a Flyer’s Skate Girl? Did this public, often overly sexualized role have an influence on creating this movement?
I’ve been pushing myself to understand why I started this whole challenge and why these young girls' pictures affect me so much, and I was able to boil it down to my own past experiences. My six years spent as a Flyers Ice Girl were filled with amazing memories, but when I look back at the moments when I wore two bras and painted on my abs so I’d look more attractive, I realized that by focusing solely on my looks and my body, that I was missing out on the best parts of me. I did that back then because I believed, like my 14-year-old customer believes now, that this was the behavior I had to mimic to gain the attention I thought I needed. You know, that same behavior teenie boppers mimic from Kylie Jenner’s latest sexualized posts. I did it because it garnered a large response on Instagram. If you look back on my pictures from that time period of my life, you'll see I got 300 likes a post, compared to the photos I post today, which get an average of around 75.
Those little hearts I'd get on my phone would fuel my desire to post more of the same images. And the more I posed in a sexual way, the more likes I’d get. I’ve since deleted most of those images, and now have committed to posting content that focused on my talents and not the way I look.
Through it all, what is the most special thing your followers have gotten out of this so far? What about YOU?
Well, really you’d have to ask my followers, but what I hope they get out of this is an awareness—that there are more positive things on Instagram that they can mimic than an empty, sexualized photo with no meaning behind it. And also, I'd love all of the Instagram celebrities out there to know that they are being watched carefully by the most impressionable humans… the term "influencer" has much more significant impact on the youngest in our society than people might realize. Me? Well, I’ve gotten a whole lot of encouragement to continue this conversation.
Sometimes when you start down a path that you have no idea where it leads, you might turn around out of fear of going the wrong direction… but having others encourage you along the way, keeps you going, and all those who have reached out to me keep me wanting to explore this issue that's totally worthing talking about.
After Day 100, whats next for you and the #GirlsGetReal movement?
Honestly, I’m not completely sure. I’m excited because of this experience, I started an internship program at my company to give young girls a place to build self confidence and be surrounded by positive role models. When I started day 1 of #100, I never even knew that I was going to open up about why I was doing a 100 day challenge! My goal was just to try and use social media in a way that was a better, more responsible — as a role model — because I knew the girls were watching me. I’m a jump first and assemble the parachute on the way down kind of person, so we’re just going to have to wait and see where it takes me.
To join the #GirlsGetReal movement, use the hashtag! To attend the #GirlGetsReal Rally, apply here. To learn more about Caitlin, you can follow her on instagram @toolsandtutus. To shop Caitlin’s children brand, visit @bowfishkids.
Interviewed by Emily