Emily Smith and Whitney Royal were selected as finalists for the Sego Awards. The awards were announced May 11, 2018, with Emily Smith taking second place in the Student Founder category for her company Mentionables.
The Sego Awards
The Sego Awards were created by Allison Lew, founder of Braid, Trent Mano, co-founder of Convoi, Amy Stellhorn, founder and CEO of Big Monocle, and Ken Frei, co-founder of Convoi.
“The goal of the Sego Awards is to create visibility for female founders & CEOs,” the Sego Awards website reads. “Visibility is the key to attracting the community, mentors, funding, and environment that will help fuel success. We celebrate the bold and impactful female titans who have founded and are building great businesses.”
The Sego Awards gala, held on May 11 at Sundance Mountain Resort, was the first ever of its kind.
At the event, Lew said the Sego Awards was created to recognize the women who found and head companies in Utah, yet “are flying under the radar.”
“Utah women own and operate 84,000 businesses state-wide and are responsible for $14 billion worth of revenue,” Stellhorn said in a video on the Sego Awards website. “Yet we’ve found that only 10 percent of women receive recognition in local entrepreneurship awards.”
At the event, Lew explained that the co-founders chose the sego lily because it is the Utah state flower and because “it blooms despite the harsh conditions that it grows in, not unlike our female founders here in Utah.”
The Sego Awards included seven different award categories for female founders and CEOs: e-commerce, fastest growing company under five years, highest overall revenue, innovation in technology, social innovation, top social media influencer and student founder. An advocacy award was also given to a male or female who advocates for women founders and leaders.
“We wanted to make sure that the Sego Awards celebrates and recognizes women-led organizations of all types,” Mano said in the video on the Sego Awards website.
BYU student founders
Both Smith and Royal graduated from the BYU MBA program in April 2018.
Smith said she started her company Mentionables in March 2017 during her second semester in the MBA program. A guy in the MBA program introduced Smith to his wife, Emily Kelly. They had lunch together one day and Smith brought up the idea for this company, an idea similar to one Kelly had.
“We basically started Mentionables that day,” Kelly said, a 2013 BYU marketing alumna.
According to Smith, Mentionables is a lingerie company that is completely model free.
“There are no models on the website at all; there’s no skin on the website anywhere,” Smith said.
Smith said this provides a “safe place” to shop for lingerie without worrying about what is shown on the website.
Mentionables, according to Smith, breaks down barriers for people who didn’t know they wanted to buy lingerie or who couldn’t find a safe place to buy it.
“I felt like there was a lot of obstacles for people who wanted to buy something lacey and pretty for themselves,” Smith said. “Because shopping for lingerie online gets really scary really fast. … It’s a lot to look at if you are just wanting to buy something sweet for yourself or for someone that you love. (Mentionables) solves all of those problems.”
Smith said she and Kelly each borrowed $1,000 from their moms to buy inventory for their business. They put it on a website and said they hoped it would sell.
“When it sold out, we were like, ‘Oh, good. Let’s buy more,” Smith said.
After the business took off, Smith said they realized they needed a small loan to stay on top of their orders.
The name of their company, Mentionables, is a play on the term “unmentionables” referring to women’s underthings, according to Smith.
“I wanted to make it easier to talk about lingerie, easier to shop for lingerie, so there not ‘unmentionables,’ they’re mentionables,” Smith said. “It’s not something that’s forbidden; it’s not something that makes you feel dirty when you shop for it. It’s something beautiful that you want to buy for yourself.”
Smith said the name of the company has been a hit because people “don’t forget it.”
New products are also in the works for the company, according to Smith and Kelly.
“It’s not just a lingerie company. There are so many other things that I think that we can own in the bedroom space that make it approachable and follow the same branding that we’ve already built,” Smith said. “(Customers) trust us that we’re never going to show them anything they don’t want to see or position it in a way that they don’t want it to be.”
Kelly said she and her co-founder have different strengths, which has made them a “good team.” Kelly said there is nothing like their company out there because of the “safe and confidence-boosting environment” Mentionables provides for those shopping for lingerie.
Kelly said their goal for the company is to “make a difference in the lives of men and women.”
Whitney Royal, who also graduated from the BYU MBA program in April 2018, was a finalist for the Student Founder award.
Royal’s company — Quiet Riot — throws silent, headphone dance parties. Each attendee receives a pair of headphones to tune into stations with three different DJs.
Royal said this eliminates any dull moments in a dance party because people can change what station they are listening to if a song comes on they don’t like.
The headphones show what station the person is listening to based on the color on their headphones. It also shows what song is playing, so if a popular song pops up, Royal said suddenly all the headphones change colors as people tune into that station.
Royal said this creates a unique, dance-party environment.
“So if you and your friends want to dance to the same song, you can all see each other’s headphones,” Royal said.
Royal said Quiet Riot started hosting these silent dance parties in February 2018 after she went on a school trip and attended a similar event with some alumni. At first, Royal said they were skeptical about the idea but then ended up having a blast.
“We all said to each other, ‘This has to happen in Provo, like we can’t not do this again.’ So then we just brought it here.”
Quiet Riot breaks down people’s inhibitions with dancing and creates an escape, according to Royal.
Royal said her company hopes to broaden their demographics of who they throw these parties for to broaden who can experience these silent dance parties.
According to Smith, the Sego Awards is a “rewarding and exciting” event where female founders can meet others like them who understand exactly what they are going through in starting and running a business.
Winners of the Sego Awards gather for a retreat at Sundance Mountain Resort on May 12.