Sit still, look pretty: Nothing ‘still’ about Emily Smith’s focus on ‘pretty’


Emily Smith has a common name but an uncommon ability to start and grow businesses. As one of the Sego Award winners in the student division, Emily has gained confidence and experience by launching multiple brands — so far all in the clothing space, including Tanlines Swimwear, Mentionables and Modest Goddess. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV Mag)

Female Power Anthem of Choice: ‘Sit Still, Look Pretty’ by Daya

It has always been in her DNA. Emily Smith’s grandmother started Challenger Schools back in the 1960s. Her other grandma was the first female student body president at the University of Utah. Both of Emily’s parents earned MBAs and have started and run businesses.

“I knew I wanted an MBA, even though I didn’t necessarily need one to be an entrepreneur,” says Emily, who graduated from BYU with her MBA this spring. She won second place in the student founder category of the Sego Awards, which honored female CEOs and leaders at a Sundance black-tie gala in May.

This 28-year-old’s education started long before she sat on the front row in the Tanner Building. As a high schooler, she moved from Utah to the Bay Area with her dad who had been hired as head of strategy at PayPal. Emily’s task was to get a storefront and warehouse ready for her mom, who had started Scholar Wear.

“I arrived at a warehouse full of boxes straight from China, and I started organizing everything by size,” Emily says.

While she waited for her mom and siblings to move to California, she worked full-time and all-the-time in the warehouse — even napping on shelves when she ran out of steam. But when the time came, Emily was ready to ship orders out early, and the storefront opened in time for educators and parents to buy uniforms before school started.


Favorite Lyrics

“Oh, I don’t know what you’ve been told,
But this girl right here’s gonna rule the world.
Yeah, that is where I’m gonna be
Because I wanna be.
No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty.
You get off on your nine-to-five,
Dream of picket fences and trophy wives.
But no, I’m never gonna be
‘Cause I don’t wanna be.
No, I don’t wanna sit still, look pretty.”


This stick-to-it-iveness stuck to Emily as she has started several of her own businesses. Mentionables, which is the brand for which she won the Sego Award, is a lingerie line with model-free photos as its distinguishing characteristic. Emily recently exited that business but is still growing Tanlines, her swimwear company, and Modest Goddess, where she shares outfit ideas and modesty hacks.

“Even though I’ve created businesses around fashion, I grew up going to private schools where I didn’t have choices of what to wear,” she says. “And then on my LDS mission to Guatemala, we had strict rules. My mom and I bought skirts at thrift stores and filled in the slits with pleats. Creativity thrives within constraints.”

Emily’s confidence led her to a top eight finish in the Miller New Venture Challenge — where she was the only woman entrant.

“As a business student, I wish more females would enter the competitions,” she says. “Sometimes the wording turns women off because many women start lifestyle companies instead of tech. Utah is good at tech, but our business community is also really awesome at consumer goods — and I love and respect both.”

As the wife of a high school football coach, Emily loves supporting his Xs and Os while he cheers on her dollars and sense. Her ventures include creating the StarterUpper Newsletter (a term she uses to describe herself). She’s also involved in the founder’s chapter at Silicon Slopes.

During her BYU education, Emily did a project for Microsoft about hiring women. Her finding was that women need to be invited to apply and they need to see women in upper management above them.

“Women self-disqualify from a job posting if they don’t know think they know enough,” Emily says. “I want all women to feel invited to start a business, to attend a networking event, to apply for a job, or simply to cheer each other on.”

Sego My Ego 

1. Buffy Bandley, Agnes & Dora
2. Vanessa Quigley, Chatbooks

Top Overall Revenue
1. Teresa Whitehead,
Citywide Homeloans
2. Shauna Smith, Four Foods Group

Social Media Influencer
1. Rachel Parcell, @rachparcell
2. Shea McGee, @studiomcgee

Fastest-Growing Company
Under 5 Years
1. Jenny Wecker, Fawn Design
2. Rachel Nilsson, Rags

Innovation In Technology
1. Sunny Washington, Because Learning
2. Ayde Soto, Simple Citizen

Social Innovation
1. Sara Day, Even Stevens
2. Neylan McBaine, Better Days 2020

Student Founder
1. Marissa Barlow, Nani
2. Emily Smith, Mentionables

MALE Jeremy Andrus, Traeger Grills
FEMALE Sara Jones,
Women Tech Council


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