Sarah Greisdorf: Founded on Grit and the Fight for Gender Equality

Despite her confinement to the small Zoom screen, Sarah Greisdorf is the epitome of professionalism. While many subvert to sweatpants and sadness in this era of largely online interaction, Greisdorf wore a white button-down shirt and a beaming smile with pride. Greisdorf, 21, only received her bachelor’s degree last May but bears the confidence and command of a Fortune 500 CEO. 

She may not be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company just yet, but Greisdorf has built her own fortune as the founder and CEO of Holdette, a workwear company geared towards women. Greisdorf first developed the idea for Holdette as a senior in high school, when she realized that her clothing often lacked pockets where she could hold her keys and wallet. Holdette Image Courtesy of Holdette

But her entrepreneurial spirit was lit aflame long before then. Greisdorf’s first business venture started in the fifth grade, where she sold baked goods to classmates. Despite expanding her enterprise to employ three of her peers, it was eventually shut down.

“I guess it was a liability for the school,” she said, laughing.

Greisdorf carried her ambitious nature through her school years until she landed at Boston University in 2017, where she studied computer science. About 18% of computer science majors are women, which Greisdorf says was “noticeable” in her classes and interactions with her peers at BU.

During Greisdorf’s very first computer science lab, she began talking to the student next to her as they worked on an assignment. As Greisdorf finished up, she asked him if he also completed the assignment. He said yes, then offered to explain the questions to her.

“Do I want you to explain to me what I just did? No, I think I’m good,” Greisdorf lamented, recoiling in disgust. Finals Siora Photography on Unsplash

Despite the circumstances, Greisdorf recalled an opportunity where she could make a difference in closing the gender gap in computer science. Throughout her senior year at BU, Greisdorf was the Director of BostonHacks, a 36-hour event where students from across Boston gather to collaborate on technological projects.

As the director, Greisdorf says she was given the chance to recruit new members, and “tried to bring as many women onto the team as possible.”

Entrepreneurship is also a male-dominated field, with only 40% of U.S. businesses owned by women. Greisdorf says that while growing Holdette, she had to prove herself far more than her male peers do. 

While pitching Holdette to investors, Greisdorf encountered many men not understanding the issue with women’s clothing lacking pockets. Yet Greisdorf finds that their female counterparts almost instantly recognize the problem she is trying to solve with Holdette.

“A good entrepreneur always demonstrates problem before solution,” Greisdorf said. “But when pitching to men, I have to demonstrate why it’s a problem not just that the problem exists.”

With the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to fill her seat, Greisdorf has heard more discussion about women’s rights in her circles. As the CEO of a company trying to tackle one form of gender inequality, she feels an obligation to help promote intersectional equality beyond workwear.

“Our mission is to support women from the moment they get dressed in the morning,” Greisdorf said.

Earlier this year, Greisdorf created Back Pocket, a community for women in the workforce. Back Pocket membership offers workshops, happy hour hangouts, mentorship and a book club— all of which are designed to empower career women just like Greisdorf. 

Ashley Olafsen, 23, was one of the first members of Back Pocket and lauds the community it brings to her life. She found it “very challenging” to make friends after graduation until she joined Back Pocket. Now, she describes texting other members and hanging out together outside of the scheduled Back Pocket events.

For Olafsen, one of the best parts of Back Pocket is how diverse the group is. She says Back Pocket’s membership stretches across an array of careers, interests, racial identities, and sexual orientations.

Olafsen attributes Back Pocket’s impact to Greisdorf, whom she describes as a “visionary who sincerely supports others in a way that is meaningful and inspiring."

Recently, Olafsen applied for a full-time job where Greisdorf coincidentally knew her interviewer. Unprompted, Greisdorf reached out to the interviewer and wrote a reference letter on Olafsen’s behalf.

Despite Greisdorf’s busy schedule, Olafsen says she always finds time to support other women. From the moment Greisdorf puts on her white button-down shirt, she is ready to fight for gender equality and uplift her girl gang.

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