I first heard of FITE when I purchased one of my Dermalogica products some time ago and immediately noticed the bright green branding of the organisation. As an entrepreneur, this organisation immediately resonated with me. FITE stands for “Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship” and provides groundbreaking support for women who dream of owning a salon or spa business.
The trailblazer heading up the “FITE” for female entrepreneurs is Natalie Byrne, Director of Global Impact for Dermalogica. I recently caught up with her to find out why she FITEs.
Roxy: Natalie, How did you come to be involved with FITE?
Natalie: I came on to FITE three years ago when Dermalogica was thinking of next steps with the foundation after their initial partnership with Kiva had been successful and wanted to grow the program. We expanded the initiative to include access to capital, education, vocational training and leadership skills and have now reached over 60,000 women in 70 countries.
Roxy: Why is this cause important to you? That being, the inequalities in education and struggles faced by women?
Natalie: In 2015 it is inexcusable that women are treated as second class citizens in their countries, communities and families. Too many parts of the world do not value women and depending on where you grow up in some places, girls literally don’t count. They don’t get a birth certificate; they can’t take out a bank loan, can’t drive a car, must drop out of school to take care of household needs and even placed into young arranged marriages. At the same time empowering women and girls is the solution to so many of our most pressing social issues. A woman invests 90% of her income back into her family, making education a priority, sending her daughters and sons to school and in turn alleviating generational poverty. A more educated and job ready workforce; the ripple effect impacts the local economy and communities thrive.
Roxy: Have you in your capacity ever experienced #everydaysexism?
Natalie: Yes, gender inequality is so ingrained in culture it often goes unnoticed. We see this far too much in professional environments, I have been told in the past to be more in the background and despite my work being top notch to let others (which happen to be men) lead on the efforts. Even here in the US, a progressive and prosperous nation, we still haven’t made it illegal to pay women less for the same job as a man. Equal pay is just one small example of the institutionalized gender inequalities that we are facing today in society and public policy.
Roxy: Could you share one women’s story with us and how FITE changed her life?
Natalie: FITE has that magic to inspire people to make a difference for the women and girls in their own lives. I recently met one of our salon owners Razia who is based in the UK, an incredible women entrepreneur and business owner, who also works on the ground, traveling into dangerous refugee camps around Syria to do anything she can to help the women who are escaping with only their lives. This is what FITE is, a way for all of us to inspire and make change every day.
Roxy: Other than buying Dermalogica products, are there any other ways for us to get involved with FITE?
Natalie: On joinfite.org we are gathering inspiring stories of change, and would love for you to meet some of the women and girls we have worked with and learn about more how to support our partners on the ground. Stories from supporting a scholarship for the young girl in Rwanda who begs her parents to let her go to school, to follow her dreams to start her own business to the single mother who is struggling to take care of her kids, working day and evening shifts to put food on the table. FITE is a movement that connects not only our whole tribe of women entrepreneurs in the salon industry but women and girls all over the world that dream of a better future.
Roxy: Entrepreneurship is another element to FITE – could you please tell us about this arm of the organization?
Natalie: Entrepreneurship is centered on risk taking, creativity, problem solving, leadership, and embodies what we need most in our society to drive business, create jobs and stimulate the economy, and it’s the fastest way to lift someone out of poverty. By learning a skill or trade, a person can start their own business, support their family and bring value to their community.
Roxy: How could women apply to be a part of FITE?
Natalie: FITE works with regional non-profit organizations that act as our eyes and ears on the ground and who find the potential candidates and FITE scholars we support. Visit our partner page on joinfite and learn more how you can get involved too.
Roxy: How can we keep in touch with FITE?
Natalie: Yes! Follow us on social media @joinfite and please join the conversation, we want to hear from you, what you are doing and #whyyoufite
Roxy: Any last words of encouragement for women who may be in tough situations struggling to overcome their circumstance?
Natalie: We can no longer just wait for gender equity to happen, the key to creating a more peaceful, thriving world, every person must do their part. There has never been a better time in history to come together, reach beyond existing barriers and help lift women and girls up, giving them the opportunity to fulfil their potential, even if it’s doing something small for a young girl in your life that you believe in. And don’t forget to shine bright and share your story, what obstacles and challenges you have overcome, what dreams you are going after… these stories are what connects us, inspires change and encourages the next generation.
You can follow Natalie on Twitter here.