Stories From Main Street: Westchester Teen Starts Business, Pays To Educate Girls In Africa

HARRISON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — At 17, Mary Grace Henry is already an entrepreneur and a philanthropist.

The Harrison teen makes and sells hair accessories to help pay to educate young girls in Africa.

“Right now, we’re in my basement, which was my play room and has now transformed into my work room,” Henry described to WCBS 880’s Sean Adams. “All around us is a bunch of ribbon and bins full of bows and hair accessories.”

hairbands Stories From Main Street: Westchester Teen Starts Business, Pays To Educate Girls In Africa


“I wanted to help one girl go to school for four years,” she said. “I didn’t want to rely on my parents and their friends for money. So I decided just to start my own business.”

Henry makes colorful, reversible headbands and monogrammed hair bows.

At 12, Henry asked her parents multiple times for a sewing machine.

“Finally, I asked a third time, and my dad was like, ‘What can you possibly want this for? I don’t understand this.’” she said. “And I said, ‘I want to help a girl go to school,’ and that got their attention.”

Henry’s company, Reverse the Course, has sold nearly 12,000 hair accessories. Every penny goes toward tuition for girls in countries such as Uganda and Kenya.

“We’ve raised about 85,000 (dollars),” Henry said. “We’ve supported 45 girls.”

Community service at her Catholic school, the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Greenwich, Connecticut, planted the seed.

“I think I just feel that I have a small responsibility to do whatever I can to help someone else,” Henry said. “And initially, it was just the desire to have a connection with one girl halfway across the world.”

Henry’s goal now is to help 100 girls.

They often write to her.

“Every word, you can tell, is so genuine and appreciative and grateful,” Henry said. “These girls’ education will lift them out of poverty and help them get to a better place.”