For the singer-songwriter Starshell, a one-time protege of Mary J. Blige, success comes in many guises — and the latest is startup entrepreneur.
Her song “Birthday Girl“, resonated so strongly with fans, says the singer born LaNeah Menzies, that it became something of an anthem. And Menzies has turned that anthem into a business.
Her site, Birthday Girl World, saw 208,740 monthly visitors in January, according to the traffic monitoring service SimilarWeb — and has had over 250 million impressions since its launch three years ago, the singer said.
Now Birthday Girl World has raised $1 million in financing from Value Investment Group, an investment firm founded by Rashaun Williams (an ex-manager for Nasir Jones’ Queensbridge Venture Partners fund) and Steel Partners to expand.
For Menzies, the site isn’t just about selling birthday swag, but part of a larger mission that revolves around celebrating women and promoting mental health and wellness.
“For me, I happened to lose my sister to teenage suicide,” Menzies tells me. “I decided to build a platform about suicide and mental health and I created a song to back into the idea of loving yourself. I created the song so i could back into the conversation.”
The song was popular enough to be a minor hit, but Menzies wanted to take her message to a broader platform. “I feel like technology was the one way I could generate the most social impact,” she says. “Music was great, but it was just a song.”
The site began as a Kickstarter campaign to sell Birthday Girl merchandise, Menzies says as a form of celebration, and has now become a broader platform. “The content side is our strongest side. Part of the content we offer are purposeful practices… helping you find your purpose; helping you live your best life,” says Menzies. “On top of that we donate a portion of our proceeds to suicide prevention and mental health.”
Menzies is also working on a partnership with the Jed Foundation to expand the reach of her message. “It’s an easier way to talk about mental health because it’s about celebrating you, celebrating your life and how to self-care,” says Menzies. “I was aiming from a world where every woman loves and celebrates themselves.”
The capital Menzies raised has been used to bring on new staff and build out additional content to supplement the commercial arm of her Birthday Girl empire.
Key hires include Stanley Bastien, a former Goldman Sachs employee who has joined as chief operating officer; Jacob Perler, who has joined as the company’s chief strategy officer; and Thaddeus Lawrence as the brand officer and content manager.
“I started with a t-shirt and they wanted more,” says Menzies of the Birthday Girl consumers. “They wanted content, i gave them that and they wanted more so we gave them a community.”