Welcome to our second edition of #SummerSearcherMade -- a blog series to lift up our Summer Search students and alumni who are business-owners, leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, and creatives!
Last week, Maddie Lam shared her personal and professional journey of radical healing. Today, we're shining the light on another Summer Search alumna who turned a side hustle into a full-time outlet for self expression, love, and empowerment.
Shakya Geiger: Purveyor of Empowering Crown-Wear
Sometimes the path to finding your purpose isn't a straight line.
In 2017, Summer Search Philadelphia's Shakya Geiger graduated top of her high school class. After being accepted to 20 different schools, she chose to attend Kutztown University on a full ride. While Shakya was not yet sure on what major to pursue, she knew she wanted to study Spanish (because she was good at it in high school) and she knew she wanted to help people.
Inspired by her two empowering summer experiences during high school (to Arizona and Costa Rica), Shakya decided to participate in a study abroad program in Ecuador.
"Summer Search put that travel bug in me," she says. "I chose Ecuador for the language and the culture."
This semester abroad came "during a time when I struggled to find worth, love, and beauty in my crown," Shakya explains. She was dealing with depression, in part due to the archaic and toxic pressures around physical appearance, and especially with hair, that American society places on Women, particularly Women of Color. Wrestling with these insecurities would lead to some profound revelations for Shakya, about life, happiness, and self-love.
"As an Afro-Latina woman, I used to struggle with recognizing and appreciating the beauty within my crown because of the constant distractions of European standards of beauty and the absent representation of Black and Brown people."
"In Ecuador," she continues, "I couldn't bring all my usual hair styling equipment, so I had to let it go natural. I didn't feel beautiful. But no one judged me for my hair or how I looked.
The locals loved my natural hair and continuously reminded me of the beauty that I kept hidden. That introduced me to self-love."
These revelations sparked the idea for what would become Shakya's passion project.
"Although I was using wraps as a way to cover my natural hair, the locals were so amazed at how it complimented my hair and skin tone, and how uniquely I put it together. The locals referred to me as morenita which means little brown girl in the Spanish language. That term and those memories stuck with me forever and they had convinced me to see a beauty in myself and in my culture that I had chosen to ignore for so long."
The Morenita Collection
When Shakya returned to Philadelphia, she took a semester off to reflect and reassess.
"I thought about how head wraps have empowered me," she said. "What I once used to hide my crown out of embarrassment, discomfort, and insecurity can now be used to encourage and promote self love and individual beauty."
The Morenita Collection -- Shakya's own brand of hand-crafted satin head wraps, bonnets, do-rags, and headbands -- was born!
Starting as a side hustle, in between working a full-time job, Shakya was stitching everything herself, attending vending events, setting up her table where she could, and building a following. "I was getting great word of mouth promotion," she explains. She also reached out to her entrepreneur orbit for advice and questions about running her own business.
But this is more than just a business, it's a beautiful reflection of Shakya's engaging and welcoming personality. As anyone can see scrolling through her Instagram and Twitter accounts, you'll see many smiling faces, colorful headwear, inspiring affirmations, and creative tutorials (often incorporating American Sign Language, in honor of Shakya's mother).
The Morenita Collection represents self love, protection of divine energy, empowerment, strength, philanthropy, beauty of all forms, and intersectional feminism. This collection holds space for each and every human regardless of walk of life, racial/ethnic background, religion, gender/gender expression, age, disability, or citizenship status."
Just this past year, after many ups and downs, Shakya decided to quit her full-time job to focus on the Morenita Collection, full-time! Looking back to 2017, she might not have pictured herself as a purveyor of empowering crown-wear, but today she is incredibly proud of the chance she's taking on herself and what she has built.
"I want do the opposite of what society wants us to do," she states emphatically. "
I took a semester off, I h
ad my back against the wall. But
I found empowerment in my decision.
It is going to work.
I can't stop here."
And she is helping people. One crown at a time.
Stay tuned for more #SummerSearcherMade stories, including another Summer Search Alumna with healing at the center of her personal and professional journey.