Even as a young girl, Donna Haghighat was the leader of the girls battling the boys at recess for ownership of a hill at her elementary school in Trumbull. Years later at Trinity College, she would minor in women’s studies while majoring in economics and creating a spoof of beauty pageants called The Mr. Student Body Contest.
Following graduation from the UConn School of Law, she served as the executive director of the Aurora Women and Girls Foundation and today works as grants and program manager of the Women’s Education and Leadership Fund at the University of Hartford.
Now her passion for advancing women in society has led her to launch a new website, called Shoptimize.org. The site allows shoppers to buy products from female-run companies.
“It’s like a mini-Amazon.com, but with a lens on promoting women,” explained Haghighat, 45, who runs the business from her West Hartford home.
She developed the idea for the website after attending a Women’s Funding Network conference. There she learned that only 14 percent of large businesses in the U.S. are run by women, despite the fact that 80 percent of the purchases in the U.S. are made by women customers.
"I just couldn’t believe that women are making the buying decisions at the store, but on the corporate side, the majority of the time women have no voice in senior leadership,” said Haghighat, who launched her website in April.
At the moment, Haghighat’s website features 11 women-led companies, including organic beauty and body products from Ada Rois, who resides in Burlington.There are items listed under the categories of accessories, apparel, at home, bags and totes, beauty and body, eco-friendly, active wear, garden, and technology.
Because she passionately believes in helping women who are improving the world, the mission-driven entrepreneur sells products like those made by San Francisco-based jewelry designer Joy Opfer, the founder of Kyler by Joy O. Also for sale on the website are “SimplePeace totes,” sustainable tote bags made by Moroccan women villagers. Soon, the website will offer Lusso handbags made by women survivors of human trafficking in India. The Shoptimize.org website explains that Opfer “finds inspiration in the ecological alternatives that can help to make fashion a carbon neutral industry.”
Haghighat will donate at least 1 percent of her after-tax profits to non-profits dedicated to advancing women.
The strategic plan, said Haghighat, is to develop a platform for launching and growing smaller women-led businesses. Haghighat even sought out a female-run website development firm, Sisarina, to launch her Shoptimize site. She uses a women-run graphics company in Hartford, called AlphaGraphics. Even Shoptimize’s recycled shipping boxes are from women-led companies.
Recently, the married mother of two Conard High School teens won the University of Hartford Barney School of Business International Business Plan Competition for her business plan for Shoptimize.org.
Visit www.shoptimize.org for more information.