Cover Stories

Monica Karst

MonicaKarstCOVYou get your first job, and then realize you have no idea how to file your taxes. You blow a tire on Highway 17 and haven’t a clue how to change it. You try to make your first pot of pasta (it’s the easiest food to make, they say) and boiling water floods the kitchen floor.

These are situations that everyone faces when they make that critical leap into “the real world,” and teaching kids to handle them is what Monica Karst’s Sprouting Hope Project is all about.

Still in its fledgling phase, Sprouting Hope will offer a mix of mentoring and skills-building to teach teenage girls what they aren’t taught in schools, says Karst. Building on Karst’s other brainchild, Santa Cruz Socialites—a networking and support website for women—the community has already stepped up, says Karst.

“Everyone is willing to join forces so that we can create the next leaders of Santa Cruz—to empower them and have them know that just because they’re girls doesn’t mean that they can’t do whatever they want to,” says Karst.

Local businesswomen have already begun mentoring, says Karst, and classes will teach everything from balancing a budget and changing a car tire to social media presentation and cooking.

Karst is the type of woman who does everything at once; during the day she works for Scotts Valley-based Catbird, and at night she works on building Santa Cruz Socialites and Sprouting Hope—ideas that burgeoned around the same time.

Back in 2011, Karst was facing the realities of owning a small business—handling everything from bookkeeping to janitorial duties. Her downtown storefront, Baby Shoppe Santa Cruz, was struggling and she found herself in the middle of a divorce; she worried her three teenage daughters would fall through the cracks. Karst knew that other women were in similar situations, so she decided to create one place to find all the answers: Santa Cruz Socialites.

“I realized I needed support, not competition—which we usually do as women,” says Karst. “I thought: We need a network of women to watch over our girls and to teach them.”monica 3

On the phone from Miami, Karst is finishing up odds and ends before flying back the next morning—it’s past 6 p.m., but the more she talks about her projects, the more animated she becomes:

“Now we are collaborating, women are working together more than ever before—we are wanting to lift each other up and in turn that is bringing us up and helping us,” she says.

The Santa Cruz Socialites website launched on May 9 and now serves as a place to find all sorts of services, from skincare to men’s health tips to image consulting and photography. Women can also post events that they’re hosting—currently you can find things like “Health & Lifestyle Expo for Women” and “Grand Opening American Hat Makers.”

It’s kind of like the 411 for local women, says Karst. People call her up all the time asking for recommendations on this and that, and she always finds an answer.

And she’s not going to apologize for the name, either.

“A socialite is a woman who supports and celebrates her community—we’re not Paris Hilton, we’re creating a new name,” says Karst. “I envision a community of collaboration and connection so grand that no one is going to feel left out, everyone is going to want to be a part of it, and everyone will be accepted and embraced.” 

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