On A Mission: theGIRLMOB Founder Yari Blanco

Photo by Derrell Smith
Interview by Thomas Agnew

Our 6th “On A Mission” feature is Founder of theGIRLMOB, Yari Blanco. This best way to describe Yari is a lively ball of spirited energy who’s focused on unifying women and utilizing her platform to uplift women of color through culture and pleasing experiences. Below we talk how her passion of styling, wanting to work with positive women in some capacity, and having continued faith in her vision has led to many successes for her business.

Before stepping into the realm of entrepreneurship, what did life consist of for Yari?

I have been in Marketing for over 10 years, doing my first and only internship at the age of 19. So before starting my own brand, I worked for big companies like NBC Universal and Viacom. My life consisted of work, travel for work, creating presentation for pitches, working with the creative teams and hustling really. Wherever I’ve worked I’ve infiltrated the departments or people I wanted to learn from and work with. Outside of work I volunteered with NY Cares and kept a busy social calendar. New York City allows you to be as social as you want to be.

What ideas did you have swirling around before finally landing on creating GirlGangNYC?

I actually had my own styling business, it was called Fifty4Flavors (my birthday is 5/4 and flavors being the many tastes and colors style can take on) and the idea was to do it on a budget. So I had clients who’d be like I have $300 and need to update my wardrobe, and I’d help them do that. I offered those services online as well. I barely charged anything. It was fun and I loved it until someone didn’t pay me $100 after working eight hours on a project for them. I was like, “I’m good.” Styling is an art and I was disenchanted when that happened. However, I do style now and still find joy in it!

Outside of that, I always dreamed in color and wanted to do something with women. So GGNYC was in my head for over a year before I even started it.

Forming a team to push efforts forward with unity is important. What qualities were a must to grab the right individuals?

I needed women that owned their space, had a good opinion on things, and most importantly were not petty. What I mean by that, is that I wanted women on my team who are for other women. Who aren’t riddled with jealousy and don’t know how to collaborate. I don’t do drama. I’m an honest person and tend to be a straight shooter, so I wanted women in my team who at the very least have no issue with owning things and speaking to me when something goes south. Starting a business is HARD AF. So having a team that has your back and believes in the bigger picture is key. I also wanted women with a good sense of humor, because laughter can take you far when you’re jumping through hoops to make something.

What effort/event/conversation let you know that theGIRLMOB was headed in the right direction?

When we launched in August, we changed the name and re-branded, I pressed the LIVE button and I got tons of texts, tweets and private messages saying “THIS looks great” that’s when I was like OK! we’re sailing in the right direction. The next thing was AfroPunk, where that same August we did our first “activation” and women got to “touch and feel” the brand. Seeing how excited they were to meet us and how willing they were to take a photo on our custom wall, that was bomb. It was a lot of hard work to put that together, down to Chardae (our resident Interior Designer) and myself going to Home Depot to buy the things to make the wall which was made of very heavy wood. So to see the reaction and the love from our fellow WOC was a sign that this was going to resonate well with the community we are trying to serve.

What does theGIRLMOB deliver to WOC content wise that you weren’t seeing from media?

I think our content is special for a few reasons:
-The women that write and we feature all look different. They come from different corners of the country. Have different cultures and experiences. They’re different ages and have different POV’s.

-I don’t tell them what to write, they don’t have to pitch to me what they want to write. We have a monthly theme and they usually follow that, but aren’t required to. So creatively- sky’s the limit.

-Our content is intersectional. Our writers proudly claim their cultures, sexual preferences and religions without me censoring them. I don’t think that really exists anywhere else. Where you can see the POV of a Dominican woman and that of a Filipina in the same space. Or maybe it does exist and I just haven’t seen it blatantly shown.

Throughout all of the work and success, what did you come to learn about yourself?

I think for a long time I ran away from the idea of being a leader, and partly for these two reasons: being a leader requires taking on a large public responsibility which can be hard on a person’s spirit AND I don’t ever want to come off as being more important or larger than someone else. But, I’m learning that I can step into the role of leader and show those around me that a leader isn’t above anyone else, I can lead and show you that we are equals. When I think of the best leaders I’ve had in my life, and even in pop culture, I think of people that are amicable, that respect and care about others. I think of people who want to see others shine and aren’t hogging the spotlight. So that’s the kind of leader I want to be. And in regards to the responsibility, I’m working on that as things come up. I’m thankful I have a decade of experience in the corporate world and great intuition when needing guidance- not to mention that I know God is watching over me. I’m learning how much faith I have in my vision and myself.

Visit Yari’s website, theGIRLMOB.com, and follow her on Instagram at Instagram.com/theyariblanco.

Written by Thomas Agnew