New TLC show “Girl Starter” aims to inspire young women to be gutsy

Summer TV is about to be… incredibly motivating and influential.

Not the words you were anticipating?

Shows like “Survivor” and “The Bachelor” have had their time in the sun. We admit, they’ve captivated us, too. But on Friday, April 28, TLC will premiere a show that entertains the audience for reasons completely unexpected. It will redefine reality TV’s cultural influence in the best possible way.

“Girl Starter” premiers at 7pm EDT on TLC. The show takes eight women, ages 18-24, with hopes of becoming entrepreneurs. As the women compete for $100,000 in seed funding and services, some of the country’s biggest corporations have signed on to coach them through ideation to pitching their business.

“We want to show that becoming a boss is as fun as being one, and that pivoting is part of the process,” Jeannine Shao Collins, the show’s creator, says.

Getting to women sooner

Collins, a former chief innovation officer at Meredith Corp., has an outstanding career in the advertising world. As former executive vice president and publisher of MORE magazine, she is a master at reaching young women with a message. And although she is married to a digital media expert and has partnered with a Broadway producer/TV writer for this show, she gives all the credit to her daughter for dreaming it up!

When her then-16-year-old daughter, Julia, was looking at colleges, Collins says a friend took her to a panel of business leaders talking about gender equality and women in business. Growing up with her mother’s influence, this conversation wasn’t new to Julia, but her reaction was a surprise.

“She came back to me saying, ‘I can’t take the whining anymore. We need to talk to women when they’re moldable, when they’re my age. This conversation happens too late.’”

That’s when Collins says her daughter wanted to do something about it. She wanted to empower women to be brave enough to pursue their dreams, to take the risks of starting their own businesses, and not to be held back by fear.

And so, a show was born.

“Girl Starter” speaks to those 62% of Gen Zers who, according to Deep Focus, would rather start their own company than work for one. For the millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers also watching, you’re bound to pick up some valuable advice and priceless perspective.

Energizing industry leaders

Parts of this show will be reminiscent of “Shark Tank,” “The Apprentice,” and “Project Runway.” But unlike those reality competitions, Collins says the major corporations that have offered mentorships to the contestants have done so because it aligns with their mission to empower girls.

With names like Staples, Visa, Microsoft and AT&T behind the effort, “Girl Starter” is poised to make a difference throughout the marketplace. That’s the goal for the show’s creators: “to spread the starter spirit.”

“Anyone who is for the advancement of women and girls is a Girl Starter. Mothers and fathers, bosses and colleagues, teachers and consumers can be Girl Starters.”

Collins promises an exciting premiere as viewers get to know the eight women who are hungry for success. She says their youth works to their advantage. They’re ambassadors of a generation that no longer subscribes to the traditional “climb the ladder” mentality. They want success and they want it now. Collins says that makes them natural risk-takers.

“They are all so filled with possibilities, they really have such drive and confidence.”

Bringing women together

What might strike you most about TLC’s new series is its ability to leave the superficial fighting at home.

“These girls, even though they were competing, were very supportive of each other. The drama of the show comes from the building of their business, not fighting with each other,” Collins says.

In other words, women have a real cause to fight for: opportunity. They can’t be wasting valuable time and energy picking worthless fights with each other.

In her own real world experience, Collins agrees that supporting each other goes farther than a cut-throat competitive approach. This coming from a woman who has been named Adweek’s 2010 “Publishing Executive of the Year” and “A Woman to Watch” by Advertising Age. She knows how to be competitive in an industry without stepping on her peers.

“We want this to be a celebration of the possibilities young women can achieve.”

All that’s left to find out is whether these women have what it takes to turn their dreams into reality.

We’ll be watching….

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