Karlie Kloss has a “day job.” At least, that’s what she calls her job in fashion. She’s one of the most familiar faces in modeling, hosting Project Runway, posing in Vogue and walking in countless fashion weeks and the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. But she wants to do even more.
Speaking to PEOPLE at the American Express Toast to 10 Event, which celebrates the company’s 10th year of Small Business Saturday (coming up Saturday, Nov. 30), Kloss — in a very appropriately colored trench (“I didn’t want to match the backdrop, but I also was very excited,” she admits) — sported a huge smile. Why is the supermodel so excited for an event about small business? Not only is small business in her blood, she’s also a business owner herself, as the founder of Kode with Klossy, a free coding camp for young girls.
“My life has taken such paths I never thought I would be on. I thought that I would be a kindergarten teacher or an emergency room doctor like my dad,” Kloss explains. “I knew that whatever I did in my life, I wanted to be doing something that was positively impacting others.” So while she was (and still continues to be) busy with her “day job,” she also wants to build on her education and make a difference. That’s where coding comes in.
Through her own education — the model started at New York University in 2015 — Kloss realized that coding, while difficult, was also totally accessible, and that got her thinking.
“I saw coding as a language and I also saw this disconnect between young women having access to those skills and not having enough access to the skills,” Kloss says. “So I bridged the gap and I started Kode with Klossy to create access to learning opportunities.” And with that, the 27-year-old started using her day job to influence young women to start coding. The camps recently wrapped up their fifth year and are now branching out to start educating teachers as well as young women.
Where did Karlie get this badass businesswoman mentality? She can attribute some of it to her roots: “My grandmother really worked with my grandfather to run a small furniture restoration business in St. Louis,” she explains. “My whole family was involved in it and watching the way that my grandma supported my granddad, but also played a crucial role in running and operating this business — she worked tirelessly as a mother, a grandmother, but also as an entrepreneur — and I saw the work ethic that she had.”
As for non-familial inspirations? Kloss can instantly rattle off a list of women that include names like Natalie Massenet, Willow Bay, Diane von Furstenberg and Emily Weiss. She says, “Along my path of building my career, I’ve been able to meet and learn from a lot of brilliant women including entrepreneurs I’m meeting constantly,” adding, “I think I’m just kind of inspired by women doing extraordinary things of all ages.”
American Express is celebrating its 10th year of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 30, urging card members and shoppers to support their local small businesses while holiday shopping.