August 7, 2017

Charleston Entrepreneur Launches Women’s Social Network

Ashley Fletcher Frampton  /  Charleston Digital News
MarilynMarilyn's Secret Founder, Patrice Drayton
MarilynMarilyn's Secret Founder, Patrice Drayton

Sometimes a photo or experience feels "Facebook worthy."

You want to share it with friends, family, colleagues and anyone else who will take time to look, read and perhaps comment.

But other times, you might want to share things anonymously, without worrying what the people you know will think, says Patrice Drayton, a Charleston entrepreneur who has created a social networking application where women can do just that.

Through her app, called Marilyn's Secret, Drayton is focused on creating a community where women have the freedom to express themselves without judgment from parents, employers, friends and others.

"Being a woman, we always have to have our hats on," Drayton said. "Every day, we put on this face and we get made up, and we present ourselves to the world in the way that they want us to be presented. And it's a heavy burden."

Drayton compares her social network to therapy, without the associated cost.

"Talking about things is very therapeutic," she said. "Sometimes all you need is for someone to listen. And here at Marilyn's Secret, there are other women who will listen, and who will give you advice without shaming you."

Drayton gives the example of someone whose parents do not approve of the demographic she chooses to date. On Marilyn's Secret, she can discuss a dating relationship and receive feedback, encouragement and insight from other women without drawing negative attention from family members, who might follow her on other social networks.

One reviewer of Marilyn's Secret in the App Store compares the network to an earlier mode of online connecting: "It reminded me of the old AOL chat room days."

The app which launched in May, and is now available in both the Apple and Google app stores, had about 100 users by mid-July, Drayton said. 

Drayton has raised more than $150,000 from an angel investor and some additional funds through an Indiegogo campaign. She is seeking venture capital investment.

On Marilyn's Secret, users create a profile that could feature their own name and photo – but it doesn't have to.

That's an important difference from participating in a private group or setting privacy features on other social networks, including Instagram and Facebook, Drayton said. On those platforms, participants' profiles are still searchable and accessible through back-end routes, such as hashtags and common friends, she said.

Marilyn's Secret users go through an authentication process via Facebook to confirm they are a female.

Drayton was inspired to create the network because, having moved around throughout her life, she never stayed in one place long enough to get to know people well enough to confide in them, she said. But she longed for a community of women with whom she could be herself.

"Talking about my feelings and expressing the things that I wanted to express has really helped me become a better version of me," Drayton said.

At the same time, she heard frustrations from women around her about getting unwanted blowback from their social media posts.

Drayton said she could not find an existing app that provided the online experience she sought, so she decided to build it.

Drayton started working on Marilyn's Secret two years ago while earning her bachelor's degree in business at the College of Charleston. She worked with a development team to create the app.

The name of the app comes from actress Marilyn Monroe, whose pictures hang above Drayton's desk in a space at the Charleston Digital Corridor's Flagship building.

"Everyone knows how iconic Marilyn was and how tumultuous her life was because of the secrets she had," Drayton said. "Some of her secrets were exposed, but for the most part, I feel that women are notorious for keeping secrets, and we do that well. Sometimes too well. "

"Those secrets can hurt us and they can kill us. I honestly believe that Marilyn's secrets led her to her demise. No woman should feel the weight of those secrets on her shoulders."