Alright, Here We Go: Spire’s Next Chapter


spire-&-co-story

It was the first Sunday of April. I was a senior in high school. I had this idea for a platform called Smart Girls Group and from my kitchen counter, I published our first magazine.

“Alright, here we go,” I remember saying as I clicked the publish button.

It was created on Microsoft Publisher, designed during history class, and twenty pages long, filled with articles by nine high school girls. We had a logo I designed in Paint and I planned everything in a little notebook my mom bought me at TJ Maxx.

Exactly three years later, I found myself again at that same kitchen counter sending out our first offer letter to Hannah Ziegeler, who would become our first full time employee. At the time, I was a junior in college.

“Alright, here we go.”

In between clicking publish for the first time and sending that offer letter, a lot happened.

I went to college. Unlike my high school self’s life plan, I did not study chemistry in hopes of becoming an orthodontist nor did I devote my life to the varsity sailing team. I did not go to my dream school nor did I study abroad. In fact, I did the exact opposite of my high school plan.

When all was said and done with college acceptances, Smart Girls Group had published exactly one issue of our magazine. We were by no means profitable. We were not incorporated. There was no serious business plan. It was at best a hobby. But it felt like it was going to be something more.

That’s the funny thing about passion, though. It can come out of nowhere and then slowly but surely, the small decisions you make begin to add up into an entirely different lifestyle. Without noticing it, every choice I made for Smart Girls Group pointed me towards a new way of being that completely differed from the plan I had set out on as a high school student.

I chose to go to Fordham University in New York City, knowing that it was the best choice for both myself and my vision for what would become my company. I was admitted into their business school, ironically the only school out of the fifteen I applied to where I did not apply as a chemistry major–funny how things work out, isn’t it? And once I got there, Smart Girls Group was the first company admitted into their brand new small business incubator, the Fordham Foundry.

Spire & Co's Next Chapter

As freshman year began, there seemed to be signs everywhere that these next four years would not fall under the category of college experiences you read about in books or see in movies.

I’m not one to sugar coat things, so I’ll just be honest. My college experience was not normal. Smart Girls Group transformed from a hobby into a business, and consequently, my college life shifted.

I found myself saying no to things I once looked forward to saying yes to, whether it was on campus leadership opportunities or Friday night plans. I said no often. Not always, but often.

But by saying no to these things, I was saying yes to something else. There was such an indescribable feeling that came with building a business. It felt like every uncertainty I’ve ever had about who I am, what I want, and where I was going was completely eliminated. And in its place was this boundless energy to wake up at the crack of dawn and spend the day putting every ounce of myself into this mission.

And sure, there were days I felt drained. There were moments I questioned what on earth I had gotten myself into. There were months I found myself in serious ruts, feeling like a hamster running on a wheel that wasn’t moving forward. There were periods of time when I couldn’t help but regret my choices as I watched other people’s college stories be written in the same fashion I always imagined my own.

There has been a media surge in the last few years to talk about women entrepreneurs. They are writing books. They are on the cover of magazines. They are reaching celebrity status. And it’s awesome. The fact that we as a society are celebrating women turning passion into purpose is nothing short of fantastic and it is setting a strong foundation for the next generation of female innovators.

However, with this flood of support comes a new challenge: the highlight reel. Whether it’s an Instagram feed or a news feature, it is highlighting the entrepreneur’s shining moments, which often leaves the onlooker assuming that owning a business is glamorous.

If these last four years have taught me anything it is that owning a business is not always butterflies, rainbows, and sunshine. It’s tough. Like really, really tough. You make more sacrifices than you even notice until the moment has passed you by. You are exhausted but can’t stop because people are depending on you. You can never just leave the office because there is always more work you could do.

College Entrepreneur

With all of that considered, in my eyes, it’s still the best feeling in the world.

Waking up in the morning knowing that I get to choose how I will run my day is insanely energizing. Going into an office space I can call my own never gets old. Looking at a product and seeing its tangible impact on our community feeds my soul in a way I could never truly describe. And checking off everything on my to do list makes me feel like a straight up warrior.

My college experience was not normal but it was greater than anything I could have ever imagined.

There has been such an evolution in the last four years. High school student to college student. Hobby to business. Magazine to daily digital content. Smart Girls Group to Spire & Co.

Through it all, there have been so many people who walked with me. As a college student trying to understand what it actually means to be a leader and a CEO, every day came with its share of learning opportunities. I’m forever grateful for those who had patience as I attempted to figure this all out and guided me through the process. From one time writers to long term team members to advisors and supporters, every person who touched this brand played a part in its evolution and consequently, my own. Thank you for being a part of both of our stories.

This past weekend, I tossed my cap and said goodbye to life as a Fordham student. For the first time, there is no structured plan. There are no classes, semesters, scholarships, campus obligations, nothing. What I left campus with is exactly what I came with: my business. While many things changed the last four years, one goal did not. I wanted to be able to continue to building my business upon graduation. And fortunately, that is exactly what I will be doing.

College Entrepreneurship

So this is Spire’s Next Chapter

For the next 90 days, I will be moving up to Boston where I will be working out of a great office space and living with a friend of mine who happens to own a business as well. Once September rolls around, I’ll be moving back to New York. While Spire in many ways is second nature to me at this point, this new chapter will certainly be different. If you would like to follow along, add us on Snapchat at spirenco and check out my blog here on Spire’s site for updates on where we are and what we are working on.

Thank you for helping us write our story these past four years. Today is day one of the next chapter.

“Alright, here we go.”

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Emily Raleigh

Emily is the Founder & CEO of Spire & Co. Since starting the brand in high school, she has spearheaded business development, community development, and marketing. Emily is a senior at Fordham University, where she is studying marketing, communications & media management, and digital design. When not working on Spire & Co or in class, Emily can be found reading or on a bike–either finding her SOUL at SoulCycle or riding her rusty beach bike at her home on the Jersey Shore.

  • Abigail Slone

    Ahh I have such fond memories of the early days of SGG 🙂 Can’t wait to see what amazing things you will continue to do, Emily!

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