Member Spotlight: Meet Cari
- Name: Cari Sekendur
- Pronouns: she/her
- Founder of Butter Studio, a creative agency focused on amplifying women in sports.
- Sentiments to live by? Keep it movin’ and “You miss every shot you don’t take.”
What’s your favorite soccer memory?
It was in 1999 when I was at summer camp and our soccer coach let us skip practice to watch the FIFA Women’s World Cup final. This was a big deal—it was sleepaway camp, so TV wasn’t usually allowed. It was a really vivid memory for me, watching the match with all my friends; even as a kid, I was so gripped by how intense it was seeing the game go to extra time and a penalty shoot out!
I’ll bet, a Women’s World Cup penalty shootout—that’s edge of your seat stuff!
And there’s a follow-up to that story! So my best friend at sleepaway camp, who I hadn’t seen in twenty years, was in France for the 2019 World Cup. At the same time, I was also in France. She got in contact and basically said “Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket…do you want to come with me?”
Wow, that’s amazing!
I know, right? So twenty years later we were back together watching the Women’s World Cup final. Although this time, we were three rows from the pitch and not crowded around a camp TV.
Well, that was some reunion! What do you think is the greatest thing about women’s soccer?
For me personally, I think it’s how women’s soccer, especially in the U.S., has used its platform to push for positive social change.
Why do you think it’s important for women to design for sports?
I think it’s crucial that women design for women’s sports because the process precedes the results. Just as it’s important that we advocate for women on the field, it’s important that we advocate for women behind the scenes as well. I just learned yesterday that only 0.1% of creative agencies are founded by women, which is deplorable and speaks to the argument that empowerment comes from all aspects of a movement. If we’re talking women’s sports, design is a way to amplify the voices of everyone involved in the space, not just the players.
Do you see design as a way to impact and elevate sports culture?
Definitely! Design, branding, visuals, and all creative work really, is a language that shapes how people perceive things. People make decisions based on emotions and how they respond to aesthetic cues. Design is extremely powerful when it comes to shaping how an organization is perceived. Creative work has so much potential to elevate sports culture, especially in the way that design can express the messages and tone of the organization and captivate their audience.
What are some design projects that you’ve worked on which have impacted women in sport?
Well, designing Women in Soccer, obviously!
(Laughs) Phew, glad you didn’t miss that one!
Of course! It was so exciting to be a part of bringing WIS to life.
Another project I loved was a competition to have a design featured in Paris for the 2019 World Cup. The brief was: “Represent the diversity of women who play soccer.” Our campaign was selected and featured all over Paris, and FIFA had it displayed in the Paris fan zone. It even became an exhibition that traveled the world.
What an achievement!
Thank you! It was a really cool opportunity to reshape how people see women in soccer. It’s not monolithic. All types of women influence soccer culture; it’s not just that conventional image of a little girl with a ponytail.
What did it feel like for you as a creator to see your work exhibited out in the world like that?
It’s a really special feeling, seeing your work out in the world and knowing it’s helping shape how people think about things or encouraging them to challenge their previous perceptions. It’s a real privilege to know that through design I can help shape how people think about things. It’s something I take seriously and I think of it as a responsibility for enabling the change I also want to see in the world.
What inspires you even when things are tough?
Community is something that always inspires me. Of course, that’s been really difficult during COVID and I’ve not been able to go to soccer practice. It’s been tough going without that in-person soccer community of women, especially other queer people. Before the pandemic, I was playing with Dyke Soccer and always found that community so fun, encouraging, and supportive. Other places I get inspiration from are other strong female leaders. Can I add something that’s going to sound so silly?
(Laughs) Tell us!
After watching “The Crown,” I thought to myself, “Right, this is how the queen does it, so if we can all be as poised as her, maybe that could be good…”
I mean, yeah, that works! Did you know that Mary Queen of Scots used to watch soccer?
Yeah, it was a thing. What do you do when you don’t feel poised like royalty?
I do a lot of mindset work—one practice I do is called EFT or “tapping” and you tap on acupressure points while you run through positive affirmations. I’m going to give a “woo-woo” warning but here are some books I liked which are about breaking down negative thought patterns:
As a leader of your own business, what important wisdom can you share for other women hoping to turn their passion into a career?
Do your research before you dive into something. Speak to the people who are already succeeding at the thing you’re doing. And keep a note of your mindset, it’s easy to have a lot of self-doubt and imposter syndrome when you’re a woman starting out. Your business is only as successful as you are. There’s no business growth without personal growth so believe in yourself and seek support and advice from others along the way.
Thinking of the experience you now have, what aspects of the WIS network makes you excited to participate as an Expert Member?
I would love to advise and help women in the space who are curious about how branding and design could add value to their organization. Also, if there are any other designers in the space I’m happy to share my knowledge and be a resource for them. I’m also generally just excited to connect with other like-minded women and queer people who love soccer!
Thanks for the time Cari—you’re a game-changer!
Check out all the incredible work by Butter Studio here.
WIS member spotlights are conducted and written by our content producer Pip Penman.