Emma Butler '16

Describe your path since graduating from Portsmouth Abbey School.

After graduating from Portsmouth Abbey in 2016, I started my studies at Brown University. At Brown, I continued my passion for painting that I developed in Mr. Calisto’s Advanced Art course, a course I took senior year. I am now majoring in visual arts; I’ve walked two fashion collections at the Brown fashion show, taken courses at RISD, and had the opportunity to study painting in Paris at the Sorbonne for a semester. I also became very interested in tech while at Brown and took some computer science courses and classes in entrepreneurship at the engineering school. This led me to an internship at a startup at Y Combinator (the tech accelerator that produced Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit). So in the summer of 2019, I found myself in the heart of Silicon Valley working on a software start-up. 
 
I decided to start my own venture, one that felt more meaningful and close to home than a corporate software company. Intimately.co, my small startup, is an online retailer that sells undergarments for women with disabilities. Women with disabilities need different types of underwear because of their lack of mobility; bras and underwear are so hard to get on for many women and current designs of undergarments can be super uncomfortable especially for these women. But the underwear Intimately.co sells allows women to get dressed by themselves and is functional for their needs.
 
Intimately.co has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, the Today Show blog, and Thrive Global. I’ve had amazing mentors, one being Genevieve Gralton, Portsmouth Abbey class of 2009, who started her own undergarment company too. We were able to connect over our Portsmouth Abbey experience and she gave me exceptional advice about my company. I have a Kickstarter campaign currently running that ends January 15. This campaign will allow Intimately.co to reach and serve more and more women.
  

How did your experience at Portsmouth Abbey School help you become the person and professional you are today?  

When I was a sophomore at the abbey, I went with Dr. Billings to Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage to help the sick and disabled. We dressed, fed, bathed, and befriended folks with illnesses and body differences; it especially opened my eyes to how hard it was for many of the patients to get dressed. 
 
I often reflect on this trip and think about the impact it’s had on my life and ultimately my venture. Intimately.co embodies a lot of what I learned at the Abbey through its Catholic values: including those who are marginalized, loving your neighbor like yourself (no matter their abilities or differences) and of course like the Bible says "I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me" (Matthew 25:36). 
 
But the Abbey also taught me to think critically and challenge the world around me, especially in the infamous sophomore Humanities course. Although I’m not reading Alexis De Tocqueville or Dante in my everyday work with my venture, the writing skills, critical thinking and analyzing skills that I developed in Humanities allow me to continue question myself and my venture, which ultimately helps Intimately.co grow. The papers, readings, and plenaries at the time seemed tedious-- but these skills allowed me to recognize a problem, offer a solution, iterate, and eventually create Intimately.co.


What is the best advice you could give to a current student?

You have so many tools at your fingertips that few have. After leaving the Abbey you’ll have an exceptional skill set that you can do anything with. Look at your classmates and roommates, and think about how together you could make a small impact on the world. I’m so fortunate for my Portsmouth Abbey friends, like Genevieve, for help and advice with Intimately.co so I can make a difference. As anthropologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed individuals can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has."