Uplifting Women Through Vending Machines: Speaking With Gender Vender Co-Founder, Leah Shin

   

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Leah Shin

Many people will think of a giant steel box filled with snacks – mostly unhealthy-junk food and instant coffee – that can soothe our hungry stomach when it comes to vending machines. Leah Shin, a young entrepreneur, tries to overturn these vending machines' stereotypes while empowering female entrepreneurs through her business that she co-owns, Gender Vender. 

Gender Vender is a project to install vending machines that sell products by local women entrepreneurs in the Seattle area and a "by women, for women" project donating 100% of its profit to local women organizations. - The project is currently operating by order delivery service of box packages with assorted products made by Seattle's female entrepreneurs due to the stay-home policies amid COVID-19. 

Gender Vender began in 2018 as part of Leah's graduation project from the University of Washington Bothell Interactive Media Design (IMD) Program. To raise awareness of female entrepreneurs in Seattle and their business, she and her team associated a vending machine that is easily accessible and "out-of-the-box" for everyone. It is a combination of vending machines and stories of products by women. "We wanted to bring this experience to people to raise awareness, and also tap into this opportunity to help small businesses have experimental and interactive marketing," explained Leah.

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Gender Vender

All the products sold on Gender Vender's vending machines and the boxes sold online are 100% of women-made products, and 100% of box sales are donated to the Pacific Science Center Girls and Women in STEM initiative. That is, it is a virtuous cycle project that the profits from products made by women are used to promote, support, and uplift other women.

Gender Vender, however, is not just a project to sell products of female business but also a web content series with stories and videos featuring female entrepreneurs. It is an extension of the interactive in-person experience through vending machines for customers to understand what they've gone through to achieve their business and products. "Gender Vender sparks that conversation about shattering the norms with the vending machine, with the boxes, with the stories to influence change in conversation," Leah added.

         

Image Credit: Photo Courtesy of Gender Vender

For Leah, to initiate the Gender Vender project was not smooth. As a Korean-American, Leah grew up in an Asian-American culture where personal success and honor prioritize social good. "Me pursuing this project to give back isn't as talked about as an acceptable thing for an Asian-American, Korean-American standpoint," said Leah. Nevertheless, the sense of mission to empower women has always been in the corner of Leah's heart. "I think it's just really breaking out of the shell to be more risk, to take more risk and be less risk-averse if I'm passionate about social impact."

Leah doesn't have a clear answer on what Gender Vender will look like in the future. Nonetheless, her goal is clear. As a local female entrepreneur, it is to bring up to our society a dialogue about the representation of female entrepreneurs to have more diverse voices and perspectives. "The idea of being able to show people that representation matters from a local stance hopefully influences how we view other women, different types of conversations, and other aspects of the world."


Check out Gender Vender’s unique box packages of 100% women-made products and female entrepreneurs’ stories on its website , Facebook, and Instagram

This story was created as part of Remmie Health’s partnership with Gender Vender.

 

Editor: Yijin Kim