Tope Mitchell is Co-Founder and CEO of Reflekt Me, an enterprise solution enabling ecommerce companies to provide personalized content that reflects the diversity of their customers. Project W became acquainted with Tope when she participated in 2021's inaugural Tech Equity Hub and recently caught up with her to discuss the genesis of her startup and how her company's success is improving the commercial benefits of an inclusive shopping experience.
Tope Mitchell's inspiration for the name of her startup, Reflekt Me, came from a moment in the bathroom as she witnessed the pure love her toddler daughter showed for her own reflection when learning to wash her hands. 'I was teaching my toddler how to wash her hands and she kept getting distracted by her image in the mirror—she was in love with looking at herself and was just beaming with confidence,' recalled Tope. 'It was then that I realized how current images and media have really stolen the natural love we all have for ourselves. I chose to name our company Reflekt Me, as a call to action for brands and retailers. It is time for them to speak to, amplify, and empower their consumers.'
Reflekt Me works with retailers and brands to provide a tool for their ecommerce websites that matches images, models, and content with a shopper's characteristics like size, skin tone and hair texture. 'We're supposed to love ourselves the way we are, but we're constantly given images that don't look anything like us. And often the images don't even look like the people the pictures were taken of, because they're airbrushed and photoshopped,' said Tope.
So, why should retailers care? Consumer demand, for starters. The body positivity movement got jumpstarted about ten years ago and has since gone mainstream. And designers have taken note. Brands focused exclusively on plus-sizes have proliferated, and conventional brands have expanded into plus-size offerings. According to Tope, '70% of women are a size 14 and up. And during the pandemic 40% of women reported that their clothing size changed! Therefore, showing one or two sizes of models, if you are lucky, does not meet the needs of most women.'
Even more compelling is the growing awareness of how the focus on conventional standards of beauty can generate anxiety around body image and deflate self-confidence. Recent studies have proven that social media has harmful effects on the body image and self-esteem of teenage girls and minorities. 'Social media has been glamorizing and promoting certain standards of traditional beauty that are unrealistic and toxic,' said Tope. Socially responsible retailers want to be part of the solution, not the problem.
That's where tools like Reflekt Me come in. Reflekt Me is a catalyst for representation, diversity and inclusion within ecommerce and fashion. And Tope has demonstrated that embracing those values pays off. Retailers using Reflekt Me benefit from increased user engagement and profits. In one case study, Reflekt Me found that retailers using their tool experienced a 133% increase in the time consumers spent on their sites. Tope summed up her mission this way: 'With Reflekt Me, online shoppers have the images and information that they need to feel confident in their purchase decision when they shop online. People across demographics have reservations about online shopping because they can't see themselves in the clothing. Our tool solves that problem. My hope is that people will be able to shop online and feel confident that they understand how things will look and fit on them because the shopping experience will be more reflective of their authentic selves.'