In TLC's latest reality show, Girl Starter, eight young women hoping to launch their own businesses compete for a deal that could change their lives. But as the contestants learn about entrepreneurship, so does the show's co-creator Jeannine Shao Collins.

"I'm riding the bicycle as we build it," says Collins, who describes Girl Starter as a mix of other reality business competitions like Shark Tank and Project Runway. "This is my first round as the entrepreneur and I'm learning along with the girls, which has been fun and challenging and scary and all the things that entrepreneurs go through."

The show, which premiered on Friday, is created by Collins and her husband, digital media sales pro Chris Collins, and TV writer Dani Davis. The program is part of a larger new media venture--also called Girl Starter--that aims to support and empower young female entrepreneurs while also featuring relevant content. The company launched their website on March 8, International Women's Day.

Collins got the idea from her daughter, who at the age of 16 expressed frustration over the gender equality issues. Collins wanted to help but knew that in order to effect change, they would have to reach beyond their circle in New York City and impact the lives of young women in places like Montana or Wyoming as well. She saw entertainment as a huge influencer for young people and the group decided that was their way in.

The show's winner will get $100,000 worth of cash and services to get their business off the ground. The program partnered with the production firm Al Roker Entertainment and the company received more than $3 million in ad commitments from marketers, including the show's presenting sponsor Staples.

"We wanted to show it doesn't matter your background, you can be successful by creating something," Collins says. "We want to democratize assets and mentorship and leadership skills--we believe women have to see it to start it."

Published on: May 1, 2017