Clothing with a Cause
Location: Hynson Lounge
CHESTERTOWN, MD—As part of the Goldstein Program’s Young Alumni Speaker Series at Washington College, 2006 graduate Brenna Schneider will return to campus to share her experiences as the founder of an American manufacturing company. Her talk, “Made Here: Promoting Job Creation and Fighting Inequality,” will take place Monday, February 9, at 5:00 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall. It is free and open to the public.
Schneider is CEO of 99Degrees Custom, a made-to-order clothing manufacturing company based in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The young CEO is a strong advocate for “Made in the USA” manufacturing and for providing employees with a living wage and benefits. An important goal of 99Custom is to train workers well and give them the skills they will need to move on to higher paying positions in the clothing industry. Through her success, Schneider is helping revive the textile manufacturing industry in Lawrence, a town that played a prominent role in America’s Industrial Revolution. “We aim to demonstrate that business has an important role in tackling poverty in America for this and future generations,” the company website states.
While a student at Washington College, Schneider served as the president of the Model UN. In that role, she accompanied political science professor Christine Wade to Cuba to visit and work with women’s organizations. After graduating, she spent a year working in Bhuj, India as the recipient of a William J. Clinton Fellowship for Service from the American India Foundation. (The Foundation pairs promising young professionals with leading social enterprises and NGOs to design and work on projects that can be sustained and duplicated.)
Before founding 99Degrees Custom, Schneider was Vice President of Operations for American MoJo, an apparel manufacturer dedicated to creating more jobs for women, particularly single mothers. She had begun working at Mojo as a consultant while earning her MBA in Social Impact Management from the Heller School at Brandeis University. She joined the company full-time after graduation, working on inventory management and customized products.
American Mojo closed in late 2012, leaving Schneider with “a lot of questions about the market for U.S. apparel manufacturing and its ability (or inability) to generate the kinds of jobs that we need in post-industrial cities.” After months of research she founded 99Degrees Custom to provide quick turnaround on customized outerwear. The company won the Diamond Award ($100,000) at the 2013 MassChallenge Competition, and Boston Magazine called it one of the top 50 ideas “shaping the way we live, work, learn and play.”
At Washington College, Schneider majored in International Studies and Economics and received the George Washington Medal Award, given to the student who shows “the greatest promise of understanding and realizing in life and work the ideals of a liberal education.
Prior to her public talk on Feb. 9, Schneider will meet with Political Science and International Studies majors for a “Tea and Talk.” Her visit and talk are sponsored by the College’s Goldstein Program in Public Affairs with support from the C.V. Starr Center.
– Brian Klose ’17 and Kaitlyn Fowler ’17