Libby Ludlow's social purpose corporation, Z Girls, won the $13,220 second place prize and the $2,500 "Best Idea" prize for service/retail in this year's UW Business Plan Competition. Z Girls delivers a sports-based curriculum that gives girls ages 11-14 the opportunity to develop skills like goal-setting, positive self-image, and healthy nutrition habits through team programs and summer camps.
Ludlow knows how important sports can be for girls and young women. An Olympic skier who spent ten years on the U.S. Ski Team, she learned mental and emotional skills that improved not only her athletic performance, but also her perspective on life. Since studies show that girls who participate in sports during adolescence do better in school and areless likely to engage in at-risk behaviors, Z Girls helps girls optimize their performance and maximize their enjoyment in sports, so that more girls stay in sports. The curriculum teaches practical skills such as goal-setting, positive self-talk, body image, communication, support networks, building confidence, and having healthy nutrition habits.
"It was such an honor to just be a finalist in the Business Plan Competition, let alone win second place," writes Ludlow in an email. "It is really encouraging for a social venture like Z Girls to receive validation in a competition that usually favors high tech companies."
Founded in July of 2012, Ludlow has been running Z Girls with her business partner, Jilyne Higgins, while completing her degree at UW Law. She has spent her 3L year participating in the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, a program at UW Law that pairs law and business students with pro bono attorneys and business advisors to aid entrepreneurs with legal and business counseling.
"I have a passion for entrepreneurship and I wanted to get 'real-world' experience providing legal counsel to startups," says Ludlow. "Through the ELC, I learned things that you just can't learn reading out of a book or get from a lecture. Advising clients through the ELC has helped me to better understand the legal landscape of my own business."
Community entrepreneurs can apply to be a client of the ELC to gain pro-bono legal guidance in starting their businesses. Ludlow applied for Z Girls, and was accepted, but Ludlow, as a student of the ELC, could not work on the project herself.
When Ludlow founded Z Girls she didn't expect it to develop into a job. "I started Z Girls because, after retiring from the U.S. Ski Team, I was looking for a way to give back to the community," she says. "I recognized that young female athletes could really benefit from some of the mental skills that I had learned over the course of my professional athletic career, not only to improve their performance, but perhaps more importantly, to enjoy themselves more in sports and thrive in life off the field or court." Z Girls has received so much positive feedback that, after graduating from law school, she will focus on the business full-time.
"Z Girls is already making a positive impact on girls lives here in Seattle, but we genuinely want to expand Z Girls into a nationally recognized program," says Ludlow. "The prize money and connections we've made through the Business Plan Competition will really help us build some momentum and start to grow."