Each month we have the honor of interviewing Women Who Inspire Us. This month we talked to Eva Parth dos Santos, the Founder of Mint Girls. Being a mother of 3 daughters, Eva is on a mission to empower girls with a choice and show them that everything is possible. Read on to learn how Eva finds her inspiration through kids and community, wears many different hats as a CEO, and surrounds herself with strong role models.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am Eva Parth dos Santos, I am Austrian and I like to travel around the world. I am the founder of Mint Girls – a clothes brand for girls (from 2 to 12 years old) who love spaceships, trucks and robots. My goal is to show little girls that anything is possible, that nothing is out of their reach and that they can choose their own future.
How did you start Mint Girls?
I wanted to do something that I am passionate about and that can make a change and move something. Thus, I quit my safe corporate job, and even if my education has nothing to do with fashion, I started my own company during the pandemic.
I jumped into this journey, without knowing anything about clothing, production, or shipping. And as I learned over the fist couple of weeks, Switzerland has a lot of particularities with export and import since it’s not part of the European Union.
The main motivation for me were always my daughters. One of them is all about pink and princesses, while my other daughter loves astronauts and everything that is blue, and does not want any pink in her life. The third one is happy for me to pick her clothes – for now ;-).
As you can imagine, my oldest daughter from early on she wanted to wear something to represent her interests. And that was very different from the market. I could find only a few companies in the US that offer clothing for girls who are interested in space and robotics. That is how the idea of Mint Girls was born. My passion is to give my girls, and all girls in general, a choice that will allow them to see that it is not only princesses and unicorns that they can wear.
I am a strong believer that if we want to increase the number of women in STEM professions, we have to start with our girls. And that is why I believe that Girls in Tech is a great initiative, as you show girls and women that there are many different paths into tech.
I am a strong believer that if we want to increase the number of women in STEM professions, we have to start with our girls.
Mint Girls is partnering with an NGO, can you tell us a bit about this initiative?
The organization is called Education:Access and their mission is to empower and educate girls in India. There are three volunteers running this NGO and they have a very high impact. The money we donate goes to scholarships and to the girls directly. It is a little effort for us, but it makes a huge difference in the life of girls.
What’s your favorite part of being a founder?
Running a company means that you are wearing a lot of different hats at the same time, especially at the beginning. There are many things you have to figure out along the way, such as legal, finance, or marketing. And you do not always enjoy them. What I really enjoy though is numbers. I always liked having spreadsheets and analyzing what will lead to success in my business.
How do you find inspiration and validate designs of the Mint Girls’ collections?
I love to ask my daughters what they think of the upcoming designs. For example, there are dragons on one of my last designs, but at first all dragons had their eyes drawn as a single line. And it is only thanks to my kids’ feedback, I realized that kids might think that the dragons looked like they are sleeping. So we changed it. In general, the girls get very excited about the motifs on their clothes, and I love seeing how their eyes light up.
I also have a WhatsApp group with friends whose kids are between 2 and 12 years old and every time before I start a design, I do a poll to see what topics they are interested in. I show them some early designs, and try to get their kids’ opinions as well. For example, in autumn there will be a collection with robots and numbers and I am very excited about it.
Running a company means that you are wearing a lot of different hats at the same time.
What motivates you at work?
The impact I can have on girls. When I see that girls know there are many different role models, clothes, toys and books out there. It’s important for me that they know they have a choice and that everything is possible – that is what makes my day. It is a small step but in the right direction and I can participate in it.
What has been the toughest challenge you faced? What did you learn from it?
A startup is always a rollercoaster where every day is different. One day it is going well, the next day you feel like you will never make it. This process is a challenge by itself, but if I were to choose one, I would say the biggest challenge was last autumn.
Fashion business lives very much in the moment, where your loyal customers always want new collections. Last spring I had my third daughter and was also planning the autumn collection. Due to some challenges in the production process, the collection wasn’t produced in the end which meant that my customers didn’t have a new collection to choose from. This is something you feel very strongly.It took me a couple of weeks to get over it. But I had customers reaching out to me showing their support and that motivated me to keep going. I told myself: “It is what it is, let’s focus on the future. It is not always easy, but it is part of the journey.”
By talking to other people I realized that I already have come so far, and now my motivation is back.
Can you tell us about one of your proudest moments?
It was at the beginning of the journey. I did a Kickstarter campaign to analyze the market and see if people are willing to buy my clothes. To set up a successful campaign it takes more or less half a year full time to prepare. Knowing that over 60% of campaigns are not successful, I really wanted to be prepared. So there was a lot of work put into it. Once it was live, there were so many people who supported me even if they did not know me personally. They were passionate and they believed in the idea and in myself, and that was incredible!
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
I would like to grow Mint Girls to a brand that is known all over Switzerland. I am very passionate about the mission of empowering girls and do not want it to be only about clothes. There is so much more that can and should be done. For example, books, toys or robotic courses could be a growth potential. There are many local initiatives in these areas, and I believe if we bring them together, we can achieve much more.
The more diversity you have in the team, the easier it is to move things forward. It allows different opinions to be heard and as a result makes things easier.
Why do you think diversity and inclusion in tech are important?
It is important to have diversity in every area. It is not just about gender, it is also about opinions and background. If your team is diverse, you can come up with better solutions.
Inclusion is the other part. If you are diverse but not inclusive, it will not work. I come from the insurance industry, where I was working as a project manager in male-dominated teams. If you are a minority and you want to pursue something you need to be very strong. The more diversity you have in the team, the easier it is to move things forward. It makes different opinions being heard and as a result makes things easier.
If you are a woman in a tech job, you need to be very strong not only in terms of technical skills but also personality. A woman that is only good technically, might still struggle because she is part of a minority. That is why it is crucial for companies and society to foster diversity.
Have you heard any advice or role models that impacted your career?
I am not a person who has a single advice or sentence that I stick to. I am a visual learner, and I think it is important to have many role models. I look at people and take in what I see. There are a lot of people whom I admire and learned from. I had great teachers at school and amazing bosses at companies. And learned so much by looking at how they deal with certain situations.
For example, one of my bosses led a huge team. I have never seen him stressed or unhappy and he was always able to take a step back and look at things from a different angle. He empowered people by being very calm but at the same time very strong in decision making. I was very junior compared to him. He would give me a task, for example, to prepare a presentation, and he would never redo what I have done.
He would empower me and let me be the one who needs to get it right, with no one there to check or change every single detail. Being junior and being trusted – these are the small things that are very powerful, they set the great dynamic and mentality in the team.
You can always learn something from people, even from things that you do not agree with.
Are there any readings, podcasts or other resources that you enjoy or recommend?
I love reading books about successful entrepreneurs and hearing about their stories. It is always inspiring to learn that most of the people who are successful today, at one point had a period where it all went down. It is encouraging to see how they reached success to then find your own way.
For example, I like a book about Elon Musk. He is very controversial, but his motivation and drive towards something are very inspiring. I believe you can always learn something from people, even from things that you do not agree with.
There is another book I keep quoting. It is written by the founder and CEO of Netflix and an external journalist and it is called No rules rules. The book explains how a no rule policy was implemented at Netflix – from the view point of the CEO but also by others via the journalist. It is fascinating to see how cultural change can be lead.
There are also a couple of books written by female writers that I can recommend. One is Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I have a funny story: I was finishing reading this book on a train and once I was done, a young girl who was sitting nearby asked how the book was. She said she would love to read it one day, so I just gave it to her. I loved how excited she was when hearing about the book and it showed to me that girls want to learn from women as well. There are fewer women who made it higher up and it is crucial to know their stories.
The second book is called How to Raise Happy and Successful People written by Esther Wojcicki, a mother of three very successful daughters in male-dominated industries. The key idea of the book is to install the right mindset in kids. Having the foundation in terms of qualities and skills that is what will help kids become whoever they want to be. Kids will guide you if you let them.
Do you have any last piece of advice that you would like to share with our community?
Tech is very broad and can be a black box. Thus, it is crucial that there are different people who can act as role models.
Also, as an entrepreneur, you should always look back, reflect what worked out and what did not. It is important to remember what has happened in the past, learn from mistakes but without letting them define you.
Last but not least, we need to get the stereotype that pink and dolls are the only things for girls out of our system. It is important but also very difficult. Sometimes I have to remind myself that we need to be careful with stereotypes. One of my daughters loves pink but at the same time she is very analytical and enjoys playing with Lego. Another one who loves blue and astronauts, also enjoys playing with dolls. From early on we need to give kids options, give them choices and do not limit them.