The Star: A look to the sky for inspiration & creativity.
The Moon: Our femininity.
The Crown: A reminder that we are queens of our own destiny.
The Spiral: The energy to nurture our dreams.
During the summer of 1989, two women artists visited the Experimental Aircraft Association fly-in and convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They were disappointed that in all of the celebration of the history and future of aviation, there was no mention of women’s roles.
So in 1990 they decided to try an experiment.
They created a t-shirt design featuring a woman pilot from the 1930’s emblazoned with Women Fly, and returned to Oshkosh. The message was simple, the response overwhelming. Women Fly was more than a t-shirt. It was a platform to encourage women and girls to follow their dreams. The Women Fly project became a collection of provocative visual images and text to inspire storytelling, rally like minds and spark conversations. Growth over the next 8 years was slow, but steady. An organic network of word-of-mouth customers, both retail and wholesale began to develop. With little formal advertising, no business plan and just a small investment in computers, inventory and shelving, the Women Fly project became a fledgling business.
Each year, the women would return to Oshkosh and expand the sales from their booth, creating a loyal and ever larger following in the aviation community. As word spread, customers from other venues started popping up. Bookstores, museum stores, airports and colleges started buying Women Fly products.
In 1997, the website: www.womenfly.com was launched. Typically underfunded, it had no online ordering. One had to print an order form and mail it in with a check. Still, orders flowed in. The website and regular catalog mailings garnered letters of appreciation and encouragement from the faithful.
By 1998, though, the founders were tired. As artists, they never imagined they would be running an actual business; they had neither the will nor the interest. Both were ready to return to more purely artistic pursuits.
At Oshkosh ‘99, they posted a farewell to their loyal customers. Their plan was simple: sell the rest of the inventory, put the designs on the shelf, and move on with their lives.
But one loyal customer had a different idea. Cindy Rousseau had been a devotee for years, always visiting the Women Fly booth first at Oshkosh each year. With plenty of real-world business experience, years of experience in the printing business, and a passion for aviation, she knew that she could continue the project. She went home from Oshkosh with a plan: convince them that she could move the Women Fly project forward. During that fall, she researched the screen printing business, opened a dialog and began to put together the money needed to purchase the designs and operate the company. By December 1, a deal was struck, papers were signed and the moving truck was on its way from Wisconsin to Maryland.
For Cindy and her husband George this was a real labor of love and the Oshkosh trips continued, but it's hard to run a small business and the money one makes never offsets the time one puts in. So in 2014 they had both taken jobs with Southwest and figured it was time to close the business.
Fortunately, once again someone stepped forward to save the Women Fly brand. Steve Howland at Pilotwear (www.Pilotweard.com) had carried the line for many years in his shop and approached Cindy and George about buying the rights to the designs and logo and the remaining inventory and Cindy and George were happy to pass the torch to Steve. Women Fly is saved once again.
The series continues to honor great pilots and other extraordinary women. We are dedicated to creating and sharing messages infused with passion, intelligence and humor. It is our hope that this work will spark conversation, create interaction and ignite change. We look to the future, inspired by the pioneers of our past, and know the only limits we may encounter are those we impose upon ourselves. Through these stories of courage and determination, we explore themes central to the human spirit and encourage all people to live life to the fullest.
The Women Fly message is beginning to resonate with people outside the circle of aviation. As the project has evolved, we’ve been exploring issues germane to personal growth through designs that consider the importance of self-esteem, overcoming fear and encouraging vision. By addressing the personal challenges we all must face, the Women Fly message becomes universally accessible, trancending traditional boundaries and appealing to a wide array of potential customers.
Thanks for your feedback and enthusiasm,