Two Naperville residents are building a new business around the four traits they say it takes for girls to grow up strong: health, smarts, humor and beauty.
Stephanie Szewczyk and Kristen Hutchison are founders of STRONG Self(ie), which sends quarterly subscription boxes to tween and teen girls featuring trendy products and inspirational messages. The founders say everything in the boxes comes with a purpose of building confidence, strength and connections among girls.
"It's just not a box of stuff," Szewczyk said. "It's a box of inspiring, uplifting products that can help the girls grow up strong."
Motivated by their desires for their daughters -- Szewczyk has 10-year-old Scarlett and Hutchison has 7-year-old Stella -- the STRONG Self(ie) founders are preparing to send their third box in March to nearly 400 subscribers.
Each box features four to six items that support the categories of "self(ie) strength," which the founders call the four corners: "Health(ie), Smart(ie), Funn(ie) and Beaut(ie)." Hutchison said the items help parents discuss important growing-up topics, such as what it means to be healthy or beautiful, or what it takes to be kind and funny.
"It's a good reminder for parents to take that time and go over what's in the box," Hutchison said.
Each box also includes four "kindness cards," with a positive message on one side and space for girls to address the card to a friend on the other.
"That takes our mission beyond the box and really makes an impact for the girls," Hutchison said. "Strong girls lift up other girls."
A separate pack of kindness cards is designed for parents to give to their daughters when they need a boost. These cards are included in both the Bloom boxes, designed for ages 8 to 12, and the Burst boxes, for ages 13 to 17.
Inside the first two boxes for younger girls, sent last fall and in December, were things like journals, bracelets, hair ties, a water bottle, a pencil set and nail polish. A pencil pouch in the fall box said "Throw kindness around like confetti." And a pillow in the winter box said "i'm smart, i'm funny, i'm kind, i'm strong, i'm brave, i'm beautiful, i love myself."
"Girls don't realize the impact these products might have," Szewczyk said. "They might just think it's fun."
Boxes cost $59.95 each for subscribers, and a limited number each season are available for one-time purchasers at https://strongselfie.com/.
Soon, the founders plan to include the story of a girl doing good in each box as another way to show that "every average girl is amazing." Subscribers, who already come from the suburbs as well as California, Canada, Florida and Texas, can share their positive actions by filling out a questionnaire on the website.
"It doesn't stop once they get the box," Szewczyk said. "To us, that's the beginning."