Activewear for the office gets a turn on ‘Runway’

<b>Jess Garbarino</b>
<b>Jess Garbarino</b> Chris Morris for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

As a publicist for Fama PR, which handles the accounts for several Boston tech companies, Jess Garbarino (right) saw her share of entrepreneurs making investor pitches. She didn’t imagine that she’d someday make one of her own, never mind the fact that it would end up on television.

Last year, Garbarino left the publicity game to launch her Boston fashion company, Brunswick Park. With her cofounder, Alex Weaver, the lifestyle editor for BostInno, she raised over $80,000 on Kickstarter to launch a line of blazers, hoodies, and bomber jackets.

On Thursday night, Garbarino will make her pitch for even more funding on “Project Runway: Fashion Startup,” a spinoff of the Heidi Klum-helmed fashion show that incorporates a “Shark Tank”-like panel of investors as judges. (Her husband, BostInno cofounder Chase Garbarino, was also on hand for the pitchfest.)


Garbarino said her entrepreneurial switch was inspired, in part, by her struggles finding workwear that took her “from alarm clock to last call.”

“I was trying to get away with activewear in agency life,” she said. “But you can’t wear Lululemon pants when a client comes in.” The fabrics in her activewear were both comfortable and easy to care for. Could that same innovation be applied to something suitable for the office? That question led her to Hong Kong, where she found a manufacturer who develops performance fabrics you might expect to find in workout gear. Using the company’s innovation lab, they developed a merino blend that’s machine washable and iron-free. (The fabric looks a bit like neoprene.)

While she can’t yet reveal the outcome of the program, she did say it was intimidating pitching fashion icons like Rebecca Minkoff and Birchbox founder and CEO Katia Beauchamp.

Her takeaway: Both the tech and fashion industries can be brutally honest in their assessments. “You go in with an ask and they can decide if they want to give you funding or if they’ll tear you apart,” she said. “You put yourself out there and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart.” — JANELLE NANOS


Women’s conference

If you happen to see Brandeis professor Anita Hill hanging around South Boston with Spanx founder Sara Blakely or “Shark Tank” judge Kevin O’Leary (he’s the bald white guy) on Thursday, here’s why: They are among the keynote speakers at the Massachusetts Conference for Women, an annual day of networking and professional development for women being held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

The event has become the largest women’s conference in the country, selling out 11,000 tickets in a matter of hours, according to conference director Laurie Dalton White.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Hill’s testimony detailing sexual harassment committed against her by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, and organizers wanted to highlight her role in shining a light on the issue.

Another women’s rights pioneer on the speaking roster is Annie Clark, cofounder of the advocacy group End Rape on Campus, who is featured in the 2015 documentary “The Hunting Ground.”

Other high-powered featured speakers include Oprah pal and “CBS This Morning” cohost Gayle King and Morgan Stanley executive Carla Harris.

The event kicked off Wednesday night with a speech by Glennon Doyle Melton, the memoirist who struggled with bulimia and addiction before becoming a blogger, nonprofit founder, and best-selling author.


Nervous nonprofits

Donald Trump’s tough talk about immigrants has unnerved many nonprofits that work with immigrant populations.

So the Philanthropy Connection, a group of Boston-area women who pool their money to make charitable grants, is trying to calm those frayed nerves by connecting its grantees with lawyers from the Political Asylum/ Immigration Representation Project.

Headed by Anita Sharma, the Boston organization provides pro bono immigration services and conducts “Know Your Rights” workshops about immigration policies.

“We have no idea what’s going to happen” during Trump’s presidency, said Philanthropy Connection cofounder Marla Felcher.

“But what we need to do now is organize and collaborate so that after Jan. 20 [Inauguration Day] we’re ready to act.”

In that spirit of collaboration, several nonprofit leaders gathered this week at Felcher’s home to share their concerns. Among them:

Katherine Asuncion of Student Immigration Movement, Ben Clark of Enroot (formerly Cambridge Community Services), Jessica Drench of 826 Boston, Toni Elka of Future Chefs, Phuong Luong of Compass Working Capital, and Colby Swettberg of Silver Lining Mentoring.

Also, there was Aixa Beauchamp, cofounder of Boston’s Latino Legacy Fund, which supports Latino-focused nonprofits.

She and Felcher want to strategize with other local groups that support women and minorities, including the Hestia Fund and Black Philanthropy Fund.

“These issues,” Beauchamp said, “are near and dear to us.”

Can we quote you on that?

Nutter McClennen & Fish partner Paul Ayoub has always been a sucker for a good quote, a trait inherited by daughter Lizzie Ayoub. Now, they have taken their shared love of inspirational phrases to a new level by writing a book entitled “Inspire Me!” with more than 600 of their favorite quotations.


For more than two years, Ayoub steadily added to his collection with the book project in mind, asking business people for words of wisdom as he met with them on other matters.

Ayoub and his daughter ended up citing advice from a long list of familiar sages, from Albert Einstein to Yogi Berra. There are previously unpublished quotes in the book, as well, from business leaders who move in Ayoub’s numerous circles — people such as Putnam Investments CEO Bob Reynolds, Prime Motor Group chief executive David Rosenberg, and Intercontinental Real Estate Corp. chief financial officer Paul Nasser.

The book was published by Humble Hues, a boutique Boston firm that specializes in philanthropic projects. All profits will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. (Ayoub chairs the organization that raises money and awareness for the Memphis hospital.) — JON CHESTO

Can’t keep a secret? Tell us. E-mail Bold Types at boldtypes@globe.com.