In Baton Rouge, our community thrives on empowering one another to create and share our love of our people. That’s what Sherin Dawud and Raina Vallot aimed to do when creating Power Pump Girls, Inc.
The two Louisiana natives fell in love with the Capital City after moving here to study at LSU, and upon meeting, they realized that their shared joy of helping people right here in Baton Rouge would bring their careers together. Eager to find a way to involve themselves and other women in bettering the city, they started Power Pump Girls. as a space for women to take action for the things that matter most to them and make an impact in the local community.
Now, Sherin and Raina are taking their community initiatives one step further by teaming up with us at Visit Baton Rouge. As hosts of our newest video series, Prepared for Company, they’re showing us how the love we share within our community, from arts and culture to small businesses, can impact the future of Baton Rouge. We’re excited to share the stories they’re telling about the people and places they adore, the social issues they’re engaging in and how they’re using connections to generate changes in this exciting, new series.
Keep reading to discover more about our hosts Sherin and Raina, their work with Power Pump Girls, and their involvement in Prepared for Company.
Visit Baton Rouge: How did you start Power Pump Girls, Inc.?
Raina Vallot: After graduating and meeting, we went through a series of entrepreneurial ventures, but along the way, we found common ground in loving community and loving people and trying to find ways to bring people together.
Sherin Dawud: The initial purpose of Power Pump Girls was to create a space for women like us to connect. One day, Raina was in line at Izzo’s and posted a picture of some pumps on Snapchat with “Power Pump Girl” on it. And at the time we had an event planning company, but we were looking for ways to give back to our community. So I asked her what it was about, if it was the name of the shoe, and she said “Oh it’s nothing.” I said “No, it’s something. Come over tonight, and we're going to figure out what this is!”
Raina Vallot: We ourselves were starting to make connections throughout the city, and we thought that if it’s working for us, it must be replicable. Other women need to meet up and see what’s possible when we connect. We knew that given the space something great could happen, so we started with events, and that just flourished as the years went on.
VBR: What does the Power Pump Girls organization do now?
SD: After the first year of PPG, we started exploring new ways to use the collective of women we brought together. We had been doing some mentorship in schools, so we were playing with the idea of becoming a nonprofit organization. We started researching and saw period equity work and combating period poverty trending, and we felt that was a good fit for PPG. We wanted to advocate for the issue, talk about it in Baton Rouge and find ways to buy products for those in need.
So in 2018, we launched the “secured.” program. It’s the main initiative we’re known for—combating the taboo and awkwardness around menstruation. Our organization is known to do product drives, educational resources and workshops. We talk about periods. We give women and girls period products. We partner with local organizations to distribute, and it has grown tremendously in past years.
VBR: What is it like participating in Visit Baton Rouge’s Prepared for Company series?
SD: Having this platform really provides a way for Raina and me to speak to other local business owners about what we’re doing and how they can be part of it. And we can get a better understanding of what other companies are doing for the community, and it really just opens up pathways for partnerships.
RV: Yeah, visibility is a big part of it. Visit Baton Rouge does a great job of highlighting events, partnerships and businesses in the city. The more you know, the more you can grow and connect and embed yourself in the community, so this platform is integral for people wanting to get involved.
And it’s funny because I’m from Lafayette, Sherin’s from Shreveport — we love to travel, we love to experience new things, we see ourselves as these big city girls… but we both have been in Baton Rouge for over 10 years. There’s something about this city that won’t let us go, so now to be able to talk about Baton Rouge through a new lens and on this platform, we’re like, “Yeah, this is our city.”
VBR: What is it like to act as the official tour guides of Baton Rouge?
RV: I used to be a tour guide at LSU and thoroughly enjoyed that job, mainly because I got to meet so many cool people and talk about something I love, so now that’s come full circle. We don’t really see ourselves as those people in the community, but it’s such an honor to be asked to do it.
SD: And it’s really cool because when people look at our social media, they always see Raina and I capturing content of all the fun and cool things we're doing here, but they can never figure out where these things are, or when they’re happening. So unofficially through our Instagram accounts, we’ve kind of been those people, but officially now we can offer a fresh pair of eyes, and share all these opportunities with the people who may have been born here.
VBR: What inspires you, and how do you encourage others to pursue their inspirations?
SD: The people that we meet—I’m truly inspired by the people I’m surrounded by. Our network alone is made of policymakers, chefs, artists, school teachers, basketball stars, all of these things, and they are all at the peak of their careers and lives where they can actually make a change, and they decided to make change.
RV: I echo that. Regardless of industry background, whether it is here or elsewhere, we are big into stories. We love hearing people's stories and finding out ways we can relate and grow together. Humanity is so inspiring, just the beautiful diversity of story and of thought is never not inspiring. Even the people that you’ve known and loved for years, you learn something new about them every day. You can never run out of places for inspiration in people.
SD: I truly believe you can build community anywhere. If you look at our makeup, we’re from different places, but we both call Baton Rouge home. It really is a true testimony that wherever you’re planted, that is your community. Should you choose to pour into it, it will pour back into you.
Join Sherin and Raina as they meet new talents and community leaders, discover hidden gems, and #ExploreBatonRouge together in the first episode of our new video series, Prepared for Company. And keep an eye out for more upcoming adventures with the Power Pump Girls.