BU Student and Alum Make BostInno’s “25 Under 25” List
Sarika Ram and Sarah Greisdorf recognized for innovation and enterprise
Earlier this year, Sarika Ram launched Criminalized, a podcast that takes a deep dive into the American criminal justice system. It was just the tipping point of her determination to bring justice and dignity to those currently and formerly incarcerated. The podcast, and her subsequent work, is why Ram (CAS’21) was included as one of the young innovators on BostInno’s annual “25 Under 25” list, which honors “Boston teen and college-age technologists and entrepreneurs.”
“I was super surprised, because I didn’t know that I was nominated for it, and I appreciate the recognition,” Ram says. “There are so many amazing young people in Boston, so it’s a real honor to be on that list and to amplify social innovation.” As well as Criminalized, Ram was also recognized by BostInno for her involvement with Surge Employment Solutions, a start-up that strives to address the barriers formerly incarcerated people face finding jobs. Ram and cofounder Brooke Wages, an MIT and Harvard graduate student, participated in Innovate@BU’s Summer Accelerator in 2019 to start Surge Employment Solutions, then named Req Staffing.
Sarah Greisdorf (CAS’20) is another one of Boston’s “brightest young minds” on BostInno’s 2020 “25 Under 25” list. She was recognized as the founder, CEO, and “Hugger-in-Chief” of Holdette, a start-up that focuses on creating fashionable clothes for women with a much-needed abundance of pockets and that also empowers young women entering the workforce. “My dad and I for a long time have joked about me getting on the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list, so this felt like the first step,” Greisdorf says. “I’m not that good at bragging about my accomplishments, and seeing it publicly recognized is rewarding and satisfying.”
Ram has decided to shift her focus from continuing Criminalized as a podcast to being more hands-on and relationship-driven. “Criminalized is going to be on pause for now and will be for the future,” she says. “I am focused on developing relationships with community organizers, survivors of harm, and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people because that was my main criticism of the podcast. I just want to be more grounded in my relationships rather than have just a one- to two-hour conversation with folks.”
She is working with Surge Employment Solutions and hopes to build pilot programs to train formerly incarcerated people to be commercial truck drivers. “There’s a really high demand for them, particularly in the pandemic when there’s a big need for supplies,” Ram says, “so there’s a real opportunity to get people well-paying jobs that are in high demand.”
Pockets as a path to equality
The process of creating Holdette started when Greisdorf was at BU and realized that women’s clothing did not provide enough pockets to hold all of their necessities, a problem that is rare in men’s fashion. “At the forefront, Holdette makes professional workwear for women that has pockets, but we say that our mission as a company is to support women from the moment they get dressed.”
Greisdorf sees pockets in fashion as a path to equality. “The way I look at it, in a broad sense, we’re trying to have gender equality. So if men have pockets, women should have pockets too. If men can walk out of the house without having to carry a purse, women should be able to do that, too.”
Greisdorf first had the idea for Holdette during her senior year of high school, but did not have the experience or resources to start working on it until she came to BU. “I waited until I got to BU in the fall, and that February was when the Innovate@BU BUild Lab opened, and I was able to start getting Holdette off the ground,” she says, “first as a newsletter.” From there, she worked through the BUild Lab Summer Accelerator to turn Holdette into a website. During sophomore year, Greisdorf was planning on Holdette being an aggregate of clothing and stores that provided clothes with pockets for women. She took her idea to the BU Spark! Dolphin Tank, and one of the suggestions she got was that Holdette manufacture its own clothes.
Like with many companies, the spread of COVID-19 meant that Holdette has had to get creative about how the company is run. Greisdorf started Back Pocket, a membership community that helps young women who are in college or just entering the workforce by giving career advice, providing mentorship opportunities, and offering community-building activities. Back Pocket runs weekly workshops and holds mentorship programs.
Coronavirus-related delays have postponed the launch of Greisdorf’s Leslie Suit, which has eight pockets, to the new year. As for future products, she has plans for a jumpsuit and a dress and for widening the company’s outreach programs. She hopes that Holdette will become a go-to for young professional women just entering the workforce.
“If I can give one woman a place to hold her phone so that she doesn’t have to worry about it being in her hand or in her purse,” she says, “then maybe she can use more of her brainpower, and who knows which kind of an impact that could have?”