Dillard University Alumni Family please read the article and vote on the website to support our sister in her quest to achieve her dreams.
As a student at Dillard University, Charlotte Henry spent her free time making jeans, skirts and shorts for friends. But it wasn’t until she reached graduate school for psychology that she realized she was born to design things.
“This little light went off,” said Henry, who is 37 and grew up in New Orleans. “I knew it was what I needed to do with my life.”
She got a degree in industrial design. After a few years in Washington, D.C., where she worked for a prisoner re-entry program, she decided to create Charlotte Aquarius.
The company creates fashionable bags and accessories whose materials are intended to reflect the resilience and idiosyncratic style of New Orleans. By making them by hand in New Orleans, Henry said, she wants to remind people of the adversity the city overcame after Hurricane Katrina.
Her psychology training did not go to waste. Inside each bag, Henry inserts inspirational quotes and messages, intended to inspire women to be their best selves and to live their purpose in life, she said.
“Women today are constantly being told what’s beautiful, who they should be, where to look for inspiration,” she said. “One goal of making these bags is to allow women to inspire themselves.”
As a budding entrepreneur, Henry said, she takes inspiration from the phrase “Failure is not an option.” Having served in the Navy before college, she enrolled in Vetlaunch, a nine-week business accelerator program developed with the Idea Village, in 2014. With support from mentors and other entrepreneurs in the program, she is now developing a business plan and marketing the brand through her website and social media.
She has already designed her first handbag line. What remains is getting the materials, hiring seamstresses, and producing a limited run of 2,250 bags to be sold online and in local boutiques.
To afford it all, Henry is competing in The Big Idea pitch contest for the chance to win $25,000.
“In the design world, access to capital can make or break you in the beginning,” she said. “Right now, Charlotte Aquarius is just me. That kind of money could mean everything.”
NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune is the official voting platform for The Big Idea pitch competition, New Orleans Entrepreneur Week’s culminating event, with online polling that runs Tuesday, Feb. 24 through Monday, March 23. Cast your vote below.