Getting your nails done is more than just a pampering pick-me-up for recipients of the first initiative of On The Verj, Kristen Kenner’s new women’s empowerment brand.
Kenner, a 2013 Temple alumna, created On The Verj in her hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. The brand will embark on a series of initiatives to inspire and encourage young female students to pursue their dreams. The establishment of On The Verj is Kenner’s first entrepreneurial effort since her graduation from the School of Media and Communication.
“There are so many resources and so many opportunities and so many other women who are willing to serve as a mentor or guide and show you the ropes,” Kenner said. “Don’t think that just because you’re a girl, ‘Oh, I can’t be a CEO, I can’t run a Fortune 500 company, only men do that.’ I don’t ever want girls to think that.”
The name On The Verj, she said, is two-fold.
“It’s a play on the word ‘verge,’ but the ‘J’ comes from my best [friend’s name] in high school,” Kenner said.
Her friend passed away while the two were still in school, Kenner said. In order to commemorate her friend, Kenner wanted to create something that would help young women.
“[Her death] was really hard on me,” Kenner said. “I wanted to do something in her memory, so I named [my brand] ‘On The Verj.’”
After the initial desire to create the brand was sparked, Kenner recalled that in the spirit of her women’s support network, her friends encouraged her to start On The Verj.
“I think I am blessed to have the best, most [go-getter] friends ever,” she said. “Once they set their minds to do something, they do it. Seeing them do it makes me want to do it as well.”
The first initiative of her brand is based on nail polish, recently featured on MadameNoir.com. The effort, titled ‘The Polish Project,’ is targeted toward young women who are just graduating, getting a job or breaking into the corporate world. Bottles of nail polish will be mailed to young women with an attached handwritten note of encouragement “featuring quotes and anecdotes from inspirational women both past and present.”
“I know it’s kind of a trend now for women to start their own businesses and take the man’s place in corporate America, [to] have real careers and real jobs and do real things,” Kenner said. “I definitely want to keep that going and spread the word about that to the younger generation.”
The Polish Project, which is set to kick off in the midst of the upcoming prom season, will allow Kenner to target her brand toward female high school students in the Brooklyn area. On The Verj has paired with the Brooklyn chapter of Operation Prom to provide underprivileged young women with “spa-day services” prior to prom night.
Operation Prom, established in 2005, aims to help low-income students afford the often pricey occasion and rite of passage by providing dresses and tuxes, but has since expanded to collect clothing donations for homeless or sick students.
“I always wanted to have a charitable cause,” Kenner said. “I’m trying to raise awareness and at the same time congratulate these girls. I feel like girls especially go through a lot now. More so than just creating public awareness, I want to say, ‘Hey, you graduated [high school], you’re going to prom, congratulations, let me do this for you to make it a little bit easier.’”
Kenner said her goal is to make the nail polish affordable, at $6 maximum. She eventually wants to sell the polish in smaller consignment shops and boutiques after her efforts with Operation Prom have concluded.
“I’m trying to shy away from bigger stores,” Kenner said. “I’m trying to keep everything local so it can go right back into the community.”
Kenner’s friends agreed that her ultimate goal has always been to benefit the community.
“[Kenner] has a very ambitious and driven personality,” said high school friend Monique Hamler.
When Hamler had a vision of a community service project at their old high school, she said Kenner was the first person she had in mind to be her collaborator.
“She [is] all about giving back,” Hamler said. “Working with [Kenner] is always a pleasure because of her bubbly spirit and creative mindset.”
“She’s super aggressive and seeks out all avenues before making a huge decision,” said friend and fellow Temple alumna Amanda Winston. “She’s all about women-owned business.”
Kenner noted that none of her work in the name of female empowerment is meant to be critical of men and their contributions to society.
“Guys do great things all the time and I’m super happy for them,” Kenner said. “But helping girls is near and dear to my heart. I’m not against guys – I’ll give them some shine when they deserve it. This is about the girls this time. It’s about us.”
Danielle Hagerty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.