Juliette Brindak Dishes On Miss O & Friends!
Juliette Brindak wasn't even in high school when she co-founded Miss O & Friends, a social site just for girls. We chatted with her about how she came up with the idea, and how her company has grown since!
Miss O & Friends was first inspired by drawings Juliette created when she was 10. Juliette had created cartoon versions of herself and her little sister, Olivia.
Juliette's graphic designer mom, Hermine, took her drawings and brought them to life on the computer and for years, the three played with the characters in this virtual world.
"For Olivia's 8th birthday party (I was 13), my mom made 'Miss O-like' characters for my sister and her friends, making them almost life size for them to see when they came in the house," Juliette explained. "Her friends absolutely loved them and kept saying how the girls were just like them!"
Olivia and her friends were quickly approaching middle school. After the party, Juliette was inspired to create something to help the girls deal with the difficulties of 7th and 8th grade.
Juliette didn't think a magazine was the right way to appeal to tween and young teen girls.
"A website would be the best method to actually connect with the girls," Juliette said.
With the help of her parents, Juliette launched a website in April of 2005. Miss O & Friends was born.
At that time, Miss O & Friends was mostly about the characters, games, an advice column, scrapbooking, and a secret diary feature. Over time, these features grew to accommodate girls.
"The tween years are a crucial age for girls because a lot of what happens during this time sets the stage for the rest of a girl's life," Juliette said. "Girls go through A LOT during these years; boys start to come into the picture, their bodies are changing, cliques begin to form, bullying increases, school becomes more serious, and girls struggle with self-esteem and the pressure to fit in."
Miss O & Friends allows girls to learn about all of these big changes taking place as they also express themselves in a safe environment. Girls can ask for advice as well as give it out while still having fun.
"I think it's so important for girls to have a place where they can ask those uncomfortable questions and feel supported by their peers, instead of intimated or bullied," she said. "Girls always feel like they are alone in whatever they're going through and that no one has ever experienced what is happening to them."
The site helps girls understand they aren't alone, and build confidence to overcome obstacles.
The website benefitted from the backgrounds of Juliette's parents. Her father's work in marketing allowed him to link the site up with technology-savvy workers to get the website up and running.
"It was really about partnering and finding the right people to help build our vision and who believed in the potential of Miss O," Juliette explained.
Juliette's parents invested some of their savings to get the project off the ground.
"We also made a decision together to invest my college funds that my parents had been saving since I was born," Juliette said. "It was a big decision, but that's how much we all believed in Miss O even in the very beginning."
In 2008, The Proctor & Gamble Company also invested in Miss O & Friends.
In the beginning, Juliette wasn't setting out to build a company. She just wanted to make a safe and fun place online where her sister and her friends could play.
"Over time, we've been able to create new things on the site and really grow into this safe socialization brand," she said.
When she attended college at Washington University, she sought out an academic path that would benefit Miss O.
"I was all over the place with choosing a major," Juliette said.
She changed her major about five times before finally settling on anthropology.
"I just absolutely loved it and everything it stood for," she said. " All of my professors were amazing and I found every class so interesting. Anthropology is the study of people and I was able to learn about people and cultures all over the world."
She picked public health as her second major, taking many classes that emphasized the issues of women's health. She realized she could really help girls by combining these two majors.
"I see this becoming more than just a website, more than just a tween brand, but a worldwide lifestyle movement that encourages and empowers girls to build their own confidence and do what they love," she said.
Today, Miss O tries not to force their message on girls, but just to help girls feel great about themselves.
"The messages that we get from both girls and parents just makes me know that I am changing lives and at the end of the day, that is all I want to do," she said.
In the future, Juliette plans to grow Miss O even further, and is even considering a TV show or online episodes!
"I'd love to see the Miss O characters come to life," she said.
If you're curious about Miss O & Friends, check out the site here, and for moms, just click here!
If you're passionate about empowering girls, also be sure to create a free account at Sweety High here!