Poor Economy Creates Win for Workers, Job Center and a Small Business in a Shrinking Industry

Good News in Tough Times. Pretty Brainy, a start-up in the shrinking apparel industry, was able to hire workers through a stimulus program that pays the wages. The employees are pursuing career dreams and their job center is fulfilling its mission.
June 14, 2010 - PRLog -- In its most recent report on unemployment, issued May 21, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, from coast to coast, the region with the highest jobless rate, at nearly 11 percent, is the West. At less than 9 percent, the Northeast has the lowest rate. To further put numbers to local economic conditions, approximately 58,000 fewer Coloradans are employed today than 1 year ago, the bureau reports. In an ironic twist, however, the struggling economy is the cause for recent gains for local workers, the job center that placed them, and a Colorado start-up determined to succeed.  

Just ask Ashley Swett, who found employment with a company committed to her career development. The company, Pretty Brainy, Inc., is a small business that, in turn, benefits from having Ms. Swett on staff to help it meet goals toward becoming a brand leader in the competitive world of ’tween girls’ apparel. Pretty Brainy further benefits because the Department of Labor is paying Ms. Swett’s wages.

Resources That Give Local Workers Jobs and Local Businesses Workers

“No smart entrepreneur does everything herself,” says Heidi Olinger, Pretty Brainy founder and CEO, “and thanks to the Department of Labor, Pretty Brainy can afford to augment its team in areas that are critical to growth.” The Fort Collins, Colorado-based designer of goods for ’tween girls says the program is one way her company can compensate for competition from cheap, overseas imports. “Women’s and girls’ apparel is a shrinking industry,” Olinger comments. “As a start-up and newcomer to the industry, we’ll take every advantage we can.”

The labor situation is sweetened by the fact that the funds that allow Ms. Swett to work at Pretty Brainy are due to the success of the Larimer County (Colorado) Workforce Center in creating a plan for applying the federal funds at the community level and quickly and effectively executing its plan. For its success, the workforce center has received two rounds of funding under the Hire Colorado program, a joint effort of the Departments of Human Services and Labor for the State of Colorado.

“This is good news in the world of employment,” says Melissa English, business services consultant with the workforce center. Ms. English emphasizes that Hire Colorado has reinforced the workforce’s mission of improving the quality of life for individuals, families and communities. Adam Crowe, Hire Colorado program coordinator, says, “The really big impact [of the program] is on people’s lives. There is the psychological effect of maintaining a more positive, healthy outlook” thanks to being employed. As Ms. English points out, “Unemployment drains on one’s self-esteem.”

Designing for Girls, Devoted to Employees’ Success
It is a situation in which everyone wins, says Pretty Brainy’s Ms. Olinger. “What emerged in Ashley [Swett]’s job interview is that she wants to be a professional photographer, not the administrative assistant she was applying to be. And Pretty Brainy is happy to walk its talk by giving Ashley the opportunity to develop her passion and put a foundation under her dream.”

In designing girls’ printed Ts for 7- to 14-year-olds, Pretty Brainy’s underlying goal is to help girls maintain their self-confidence and –esteem as they enter and navigate adolescence. “We believe in the genius in each girl,” says Ms. Olinger, “and we tell girls, ‘Go for your dreams. Whatever it takes, you can do it.’” By way of example, she points out that it is a myth that girls are not interested in or “can’t do” math and science.

“What I appreciate most about being on the team with Pretty Brainy is working with Heidi,” says Ms. Swett. She is an amazing woman with an amazing mission and she believes in me and my abilities to be a professional photographer.” Ms. Swett did her first photo shoot after one week on the job with the ’tween girls design company, which is online at http://prettybrainy.com.

Thanks to Hire Colorado, Pretty Brainy also hired Sandy Tanner, who now works with the company in marketing and brand communications. Surprised to find the right candidate during the first round of interviews, Olinger hired Ms. Tanner at the end of their initial meeting. Ms. Tanner says, “I appreciate the opportunity to learn how to market. What I have learned so far surpasses any previous knowledge I had of marketing.”

With regard to Hire Colorado Ms. Tanner says, “The impact for me to be a part of the program through the Larimer County Workforce Center is not only the opportunity to learn a variety of new skills, but it also helps me as an older, single parent to survive in a tough economy.”

Ms. Swett agrees. “The overall impact for me [is] being able to provide for my daughter financially.” She continues, “Learning the new skills I learned while being part of the workforce center has helped me grow as a person and a mom. I can teach my daughter the same things I learn.” Ms. Swett’s daughter, Nevaeh, is 16 months old.

“You and Your Fellow Employers Are Making It Work”

Approximately 70 businesses in Larimer County are participating in the program, says the workforce center’s Mr. Crowe. He adds that the full economic ripple effect of the program in improving lives and stimulating the economy will be felt 2 years from now.

But some gains are immediate. “For each person we put to work [through Hire Colorado], almost one-half have gone on to permanent employment,” says Crowe. “In the past, only about 10 percent of our interns received permanent employment.”

Hire Colorado will end in September, however Crowe is enthusiastic about seeing the program’s statistics maintained: 40 percent more workers securing permanent employment. “You and your fellow employers are making it work,” he tells Pretty Brainy’s Ms. Olinger.

But Olinger says Pretty Brainy is just one-third of the solution. “Tough times can be the catalyst for goods things to come forth,” she says. “I knew within a short time that I could invest our new team members with core responsibilities, and they are doing great work. Everyone here is giving 110 percent.” She enthuses, “Everyone gives and everyone benefits. The situation goes beyond a win-win. It’s a triple win.”

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Launched in December 2008 during the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, Pretty Brainy designs ’tween girls’ apparel and accessories, or Smart Goods for Smart Girls.™ The company’s mission is to elevate and expand the perception and expectations of what girls are capable of in the world — both the world’s perception of girls and girls’ perception of themselves.

Pretty Brainy is on the web at http://prettybrainy.com. The site includes the Girls’ Clothing Boutique, resources for parents titled “Parents Only,” and “Stuff for Smart Girls,” including recommended books, activities and parent-approved downloads.

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In Larimer County, Colorado, Melissa English emphasizes, Hire Colorado funds have been fully applied. She emphasizes that the workforce center has accepted the maximum number of interns for the program and the program will end in September.

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Pretty Brainy, incorporated in October 2008, designs apparel and accessories expressly for girls 7 to 14 years old, or 'tweens. The company's mission is to elevate the perception and expectations of what girls are capable of in the world. The medium for transformation: 'tween fashion.
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