20 under 20 | Crain’s New York Business

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Photo Credit: Buck Ennis

Mary Grace Henry

18 | Reverse the Course, Harrison, N.Y., Founder

“I didn’t even know the garment district existed before I began all this,” said college freshman Mary Grace Henry. What she did know—thanks to the curriculum in her Catholic grade school—was that girls in Kenya and Uganda had far less access to education. And so, Mary Grace set out to change that.

At age 12, she taught herself to sew. Then she holed up in the basement of her Westchester home, fashioning reversible headbands and monogrammed hair bows from bolts of cloth she procured in the garment district. “It was there that I learned how to bargain for the best product at the right price,” she said.

Six years and 15,000 sales later, her Reverse the Course Foundation has bestowed 164 years’ worth of tuition on 79 girls in Africa, donating all the profit from those $7 to $32 accessories. In 2013 alone, it gave away $45,000.

Before enrolling at Notre Dame this year, Mary Grace spent the summer working on a transition plan: She’s not stepping down—she just wants to do more selling online while she’s away from home. “The hardest part of my job,” she said, “is picking which girls get a chance to dream and be what they want to be.” How do you solve that problem? Raise more money, of course.
-Chris Raymond