Get the Offer: Navigating an Uncertain Job Market like a Boss with Julian Parra

Career help is waiting for you.

Despite being so young, Julian Parra has a life’s worth of experience learning about how to discover your passion, navigate the job market, and land your dream job. 

Screen Shot 2021-04-30 at 8.44.58 AMBorn and raised in Hawthorne, New Jersey, Julian attended Babson College in 2016, where he quickly became interested in career development, when he became a career ambassador for the college’s Center for Career Development (CCD). As a career ambassador, Julian met with hundreds of undergraduate students a semester to help them with anything and everything career related. Julian’s experience working at CCD helped to shape his own career path as well, as he learned an incredible amount from mentoring others as well as interacting with the career advisors within the office. 

Julian’s first internship was with Ernst and Young, where he interned within the tax and audit department. Through this experience, Julian learned that he was more interested in finance than accounting, yet he used this newfound knowledge to pivot, taking more finance classes the semester after. In doing so, however, Julian found that he compared himself to the other finance students in his classes, who were more passionate than he was. That same semester, Julian was also living in Babson’s computer science and coding community, which got him interested in working within business and tech. 

The next summer, Julian had the opportunity to be a part of Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, a program that helps minorities connect with fortune 500 companies. Through this program, Julian was able to connect with IBM and got offered an internship working for their enterprise performance management team. After his internship, Julian was offered a full time position and gladly accepted. 

Screen Shot 2021-04-30 at 9.06.55 AMDuring quarantine last year, Julian found himself with a bit of free time between graduation and starting his full-time job. This time got him to reflect on the skills and knowledge that he learned both at CCD and through his job search. During quarantine is also when the popular social media and content creation app TikTok began to flourish. Julian has always been interested in content creation, having started a YouTube channel and Instagram account in which he provided professional advice and motivational content before. What captured Julian’s attention about the algorithm being used by TikTok is that anyone can have a piece of content go viral as long as they optimize watch time and shares, among many other tactics. Soon, Julian’s TikTok account @youknowitjulian, offering professional advice to young adults, was formed within a perfect storm. 

Julian quickly started noticing his videos and TikTok content going viral, confirming his hypothesis that there was a real need for an end-to-end resource for navigating the job market that was digestible and provided advice on a high level. Julian recently formalized this content into a course that takes individuals through every phase of the job search process, from realizing their passion to salary negotiation. Julian took inspiration from his own experiences as well as his TikTok and Instagram audiences when developing the program. 

Julian notes that young professionals, current college students, or even those who recently graduated and are interested in landing their first job or internship are perfect candidates for the course. Julian also sees those who are feeling lost, especially in terms of how to navigate the uncertain job market, or those whose employment status has been affected by COVID-19, really benefiting from his program. 

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When making this course, Julian emphasized his desire to be value-first in the course, highlighting only the useful facts, as well as making the content interactive. For example, Julian hosts a resume walkthrough, getting specific with what should go in each section and how this information should be formatted to maximize efficiency and readability. Julian does the same with both cover letters and your LinkedIn profile. Additionally, taking a popular segment from his TikTok channel, Julian has an interview role playing segment where students can get practice answering tough job interview questions. 

In paying for the course, job seekers also gain access to resume, cover letter, and email response templates- really everything you need to network and nail an interview. Through the program, members even get access to an exclusive professional community, which Julian is also an active participant of, to debrief any content from the course or answer any questions members might have. 

When asked about what his favorite aspects of the program are, Julian responded that it was hard to pick just one, but, if he had to, it would be the personal branding section. Julian views personal branding as being an important step to establishing your own personal identity that sets you apart from others in the job market. It is also an opportunity to be creative.

“You just need one person to look at your content to give you the opportunity of a lifetime,” says Julian. 

When asked why should someone take this course and what Julian hopes his students will walk away with? Julian noted that he hopes his program will help job seekers view the employment process as not being as overwhelming and as intimidating as it often does. Julian hopes that those who take his course are able to navigate the market with ease and have an open space to have their questions answered. The overarching goals is to inspire confidence and better clarity on where seekers see their career trajectory going.

Whether it be related to their career, goals, or life aspirations, the world is any job seeker’s oyster and Julian’s program is the sand that generates the pearl!


Where to Find Julian:

Career Course (Enroll today!)

Website

Instagram


 

Company to Watch: Amina Muaddi

I’ll take one in every color!

There is so much to take away from the fashion success story of Amina Muaddi– 33 year old entrepreneur and fashion label under the same name- making it a perfect addition to my Company to Watch series. The accessory designer grew up between Jordan, Romania and Italy, and cites her mother as fostering her love of fashion at a young age. In a recent Vogue article, Muaddi mentions her mother in setting the ground work for her interest in the fashion world, “I would try on [my mother’s] shoes even when I could barely walk in them. She always took care of herself and took such care in the way she dressed, so she was my introduction to this world and led to my passions.”

After studying at the European Institute of Design in Milan, Muaddi worked as a stylist for L’Uomo Vogue and GQ US, yet quickly found her passion was in design and the craftsmanship of accessories. This motivated her to dedicate a lot of time learning about the intense shoe manufacturing process in Riviera del Brenta, Italy’s famous shoe-making district. In observing the lack of technical knowledge her peers had in regards to shoe design, during a course she attended in college, Muaddi regarded this hands-on learning in the factory as extremely important. This experience quickly paid off when she created her own brand and produced her eclectic, complex heels, which are composed of 40 to 50 pieces each and deemed an incredibly comfortable shoe despite their height! 

It was early on in her career that Muaddi partnered with a friend to start her first shoe brand called Oscar Tiye. Despite having promising beginnings, the brand wasn’t a success and soon closed up shop. However, Muaddi was persistent and launched her second label in 2018 under her own name. Since the launch, Muaddi has had the opportunity to collaborate with French couturier Alexandre Vauthier on the launch of his shoe line as well as design the footwear for Rihanna’s LVMH-owned FENTY line, which launched in July 2020 and from which Muaddi won the Collaborator of the Year award at the FN Achievement Awards

Muaddi is unique to the industry in myriad of ways. Firstly, in her brand’s style. Her shoes, which were deemed as “pandemic proof” in the fashion editorial world, are about as sophisticated and eccentric as it gets- somehow expertly balancing the two. Muaddi’s shoe designs are instantly recognizable and a cult favorite with celebrities and influencers a like- Kim Kardashian West, Bella Hadid, and Irina Shayk to name drop. The shoes have edgy, yet tasteful signature styles, such as a square bottom heel, rhinestone embellishments, and a square toe. There is no question who the creator is when you spot the shoes, you just know it has to be Muaddi. Bottom line, they are eye-catching and splashy, making them perfect for capture on Instagram… if you have a cool $1,300. 

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Her business model also isn’t defined by standard fashion norms. When Muaddi first started her Amina Muaddi brand, she knew that she wanted to launch a see now, buy now product through wholesale, which has kept interest very high. She didn’t want to appear in fashion week months ahead of the pieces’s sale date, despite being advised against it, noting in Vogue Arabia “my customer never gets bored of my product before it even hit the stores”. Muaddi also only designs two collections a year, which can only be found in high end, third-party retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Mytheresa, and Ssense. Beautiful shoes with a secretive and anticipated release = fashion gold. 

Yet, it’s her vulnerability in sharing how failure, patience, and persistence are part of the process that make her truly one of a kind. Although we like to think that she was, Muaddi was no overnight success. “[I]t took me 8 years to get to where I am today. And I failed before with my first brand, so I’m not scared of that,” Muaddi notes in a sit down with Business of Fashion. Muaddi has stuck to her gut instincts all along and its gotten her so far. Persistence has paid off. 

I know I am on my tippy toes waiting to see what else this fashion maven has up her sleeve next, no not because I have a pair of Amin Mauddi’s myself… not just yet. 

CEO Sit Down: Misha Lau and Rebecca Jiang on Unspoken Words

Helping to make unspoken words, spoken again.

Currently, Seniors at Babson College, Misha Lau and Rebecca Jiang are Southern Californians of Asian American descent, ready to take on the world of gaming. 

Misha and Rebecca are two dynamic women that, combined, have a wealth of professional knowledge and life experiences that have set them up for business success. Misha works in marketing at a tech start-up and enjoys cooking and learning how to play the ukelele, while Rebecca is looking to pursue a career in the hospitality industry and hikes and thrifts in her free time. 

The idea for their card game Unspoken Words was dreamt up during a gap semester from college the two took in the Fall of 2020. To maximize their gap semester, Misha and Rebecca decided that they wanted to start a business and gain real-world experience of what the process of starting a company is really like. The two went back and forth on what idea that they wanted to pursue, yet always came back to a common theme- both women being Asian American and descendants of immigrant parents. The duo recognized some challenges that came along with being raised in their culture, the biggest one being how distant they often felt from their parents. Misha and Rebecca wanted to open the discussion around difficult familial conversations and needed an ice breaker, hence… 

Unspoken Words was born. 

Unspoken Words is a card game that is meant to facilitate conversation in a low-stakes environment, meant for players to have fun and grow closer. We’re Not Really Strangers, served as an inspiration to the founders, who liked the concept of a game focused on creating connections and changing one’s perspective. 

Screen_Shot_2021-03-16_at_1.03.52_PM-removebg-previewTo play the game, a player chooses a card and reads the question provided out loud, with everyone participating being encouraged to respond. A question falls under one of the five categories within the game that is dedicated to the immigrant experience, being: Culture & Immigration, Relationship, Childhood, Reflection, Identity. There are also 20 action cards incorporated into the deck that add a fun element of action to the game. Some of Misha and Rebecca’s favorite cards from the game include: 

“What did you do for a living before you immigrated?”

“What was it like growing up as the youngest, middle, or oldest child?”

Misha and Rebecca have poured their heart and soul into the game, fine-tuning the card prompts by playing the game with their own families. In doing so, the two have learned so much about their families that they didn’t know before, which has helped to form closer familial bonds. 

Rebecca, whose family is from mainland China, learned that her mother lived through the Tangshan earthquake in 1976. Rebecca’s mother lived in a neighboring town from where the earthquake hit the hardest and victims of the quake were being sent for medical treatment. Similarly, Misha learned that her father grew up relatively poor and, in order to pay for college, worked multiple part-time jobs and slept in his car just to get by.

Unspoken Words symbolizes the unspoken words that exist within relationships.

For Misha and Rebecca, this came in the form of “I am proud of you and I love you”. Throughout this game, however, the two realized that those unspoken words were tangible and put into action rather than said out loud. 

For Misha and Rebecca, the process of creating this game has been more about the cathartic journey than the destination, some of the most rewarding aspects of starting their business being speaking to individuals within the board game industry as well as their prospective customers. The individuals that they have met within their industry have been so willing to share advice with them and connect them to others in their network. 

“We really came into this experience wanting to learn and we have learned more than we ever thought that we would”, says Rebecca. 

While Misha mentions the fact that she got to talk with a counselor who deals specifically with immigrant families and usually uses vague question cards for families to help them work through issues that they might be facing and is extremely excited about the game and its ability to help her therapy practice. Similarly, in speaking with over 30 children of immigrants, who have struggled with similar relationship challenges to Rebecca and Misha, the founders have felt encouraged to make their game into a reality. 

When asked about what Misha and Rebecca hope their players will take away from the game, the two responded that they want those who play their game to learn at least one thing new about their family they didn’t know before. They also hope that the game sparks future conversations and that those who play will feel more comfortable to ask questions. The two mentioned the fact that it took a lot of courage for them to play the game with their parents, yet it allowed for incredible vulnerability and has established the groundwork for more open conversations.

What about the future excites the She-EOs?

The launch of their Kickstarter in May, an exciting milestone that the two have thought about since the very beginning. Misha and Rebecca are also so excited for the day that they receive their prototype and are able to play their game with the signature Unspoken Words cards. 

Can’t wait to get my cards in the mail very soon the two of you! *wink, wink*


Contact Misha and Rebecca:

Instagram

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Sean Holland on Working at Deloitte in Government and Public Sector Consulting

If you give a student an avocado, there’s no telling what they will do with it!

Sean Holland is someone with a great passion for public service, which began at a very young age. Since second grade, Sean believed that he would go to law school and become a lawyer or diplomat. This interest manifested itself in participating in Model United Nations when Sean was in high school and attending George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs in 2016, majoring in Political Science. After Freshman year, however, Sean discovered his love for economics and statistics and their application to real world problems. 

Returning from his study abroad in Vienna his Junior year, Sean decided to apply for management consulting internships, as he knew many friends who were interested in the same field and felt that this unique opportunity could challenge and excite him. Sean did alright during the behavioral interview portion of his management consulting interviews, but fell short during the case interview process and did not receive an offer that summer. Going into Junior year with no summer internship, Sean knew that he would have to be productive somehow and took the summer to explore his interests and write about them. Sean learned how to code in R and wrote articles for Medium focused on statistics and analytics. Sean further differentiated himself by adding a comical undertone within his writings. Over the summer, Sean even had one of his articles on forecasting avocado prices published on Medium’s Towards Data Science site, which gained an incredible readership.

Armed with a summer of self-study and a portfolio of impressive research, Sean went through the Fall recruiting process his Senior year, and landed a Business Analyst position at Deloitte Consulting, specializing in government and public sector work. Sean credits landing the job to owning some of the best advice he received from his career counselor. Sean’s counselor told him to never underplay his achievements and to always convey his experiences in a positive light. To go into his interviews not with the perspective of having a summer with no internship, but a summer filled with enriched learning. 

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Sean adeptly describes a consultant’s role as providing subject matter expertise and a specific know-how to provide solutions to problems. Government consulting, specifically, aims to help a government agency create a vision for where they want their agency to be and works to create a roadmap for how the agency can achieve this. Although government agencies might have an in-house IT shop or finance department, these agencies often don’t have specific strategic departments that have a broad overview of all departments. As a consultant coming in, they would have the comparative advantage of working across multiple divisions and having a particular expertise that is missing. Government engagements also tend to be longer than commercial ones — often lasting several years — as consultants help along the journey from formulating strategies to advising on implementation. 

Sean’s current project involves transforming budget management processes and best practices in a new defense agency. His day-to-day, like every consultant, varies greatly. On any particular Monday morning, Sean sits in on a “Stand Up” call with task leads to go over project details and developments. Afterward, he might meet with his team’s client to review some data that he has analyzed in a deck, take notes during a team brief, or help his team and project leads keep track of a lot of moving pieces related to the project. Sean would describe his work as a balance between both project management and strategy work for his team. As an analyst, his role is to mainly observe and support the vision Deloitte aims to create. Sean makes a point of mentioning that, although consulting can be high stress, he feels reassured that his work doesn’t have to be perfect the first time, but he has to show signs of improvement in what he does- advice every perfectionist should take to heart. 

Sean notes that the most compelling part of his work is getting to interact with people who are on top of their game in terms of expertise. He goes further by mentioning that consulting attracts people who are used to working in teams and comfortable with hard work- those who are smart and comfortable working in teams naturally gravitating to the work. At Deloitte, Sean has met consultants who come from every background, from MBA grads to mathematicians to even former WNBA players.

In relation to challenges, Sean admits that consulting in the virtual world can be difficult in terms of feeling like you belong with a team you have never met before. Additionally, the learning curve can be pretty steep in terms of creating decks or analyzing data with expert precision. It is easy to get overwhelmed, yet the remedy for this is to realize that everyone has been in the same position at some point and that it is expected that you will need some time to learn; the benefits of hiring someone young is in being able to shape that person’s development to fill a special skill. 

Looking towards the future, Sean is excited by the prospect of employing rigorous statistical methods to solve policy questions and aid in better decision-making within his work. Sean believes that work similar to this is the next frontier for consulting, where data is the most critical driver in supporting decision making. 

For Sean, it seems that personal future possibilities are endless, as he continues to become persuaded by a variety of opportunities. Looking into the distance, Sean can see his life going in many different directions including attending law school and fulfilling his childhood dream, getting his MBA and working at Google, or maybe even staying at Deloitte forever!

“There are so many experiences to be had and so many opportunities out there. It’s hard to say what the future really holds.” 

 

Aline Kolankowski on Working at Accenture in Management Consulting

Learn all about work in the Talent and Organization / Human Potential practice.

Aline Kolankowski is a woman of many talents and persuasions. She is a hot sauce and pickle maker as well as a Peloton rider in her spare time and, from a work perspective, a management consultant at Accenture. Needless to say, Aline succeeds at whatever she puts her mind to. 

Aline graduated from Gettysburg College with a concentration in computer science and a major in biology, yet entered the workforce working as a systems manager at American Express, where she worked for 13 years. From there, Aline worked at both Honeywell and CBS in Human Resources, before getting let go from her job in 2009.

Aline took this time to step back and re-evaluate her life trajectory – she even had a brief stint as a realtor, yet quickly realized this wasn’t a good fit. It was during this period that Aline pivoted to doing contract consulting and instantly fell in love with the type of work. After blindly applying online through Accenture’s job portal, she landed a job there as a management consultant manager working within the Talent and Organization / Human Potential practice. Through her work at Accenture, Aline has learned an incredible amount, including everything from cyber security and Salesforce to what the workforce of the future will look like. 

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Aline describes her work as building and managing relationships with her clients, vendors, and team in order to facilitate achieving goals. A day of work for Aline is dynamic- right now she is working through “hyper care” or post go-live support for her project at a large pharmaceutical company. Her objective is to ensure that their client hits all of their targets and she ensures this by having regular calls with them to go through open issues to get things resolved. Aline also meets with her business and technical teams, developing business requirements and solutions for her clients. Overall, Aline works to manage risks and juggle priorities, all while updating her clients on all of the above. When there is even a brief period in her day, Aline tries to fit in training and skill-building to keep herself sharp. Accenture consultants are encouraged to work on “plus one” projects that can help them gain experience and exposure to the extensive Accenture network. 

Aline notes that the most compelling aspect of her work is the relationships she is able to build with her clients and team. She mentions a specific change management project she worked on with a Mid-Western technology company. Through this project, Aline was personally able to widen the depth and breadth of her knowledge, while making a significant impact on the company she was working with. She learned how to get employees engaged and involved as well as how to motivate people to see a different perspective through communication, tools, training, and interventions. Achieving the outcome doesn’t always come easy, however. Relationship building and aligning everyone in the right direction are some of the biggest challenges that Aline faces in her work, especially when she feels that everything is moving in the right direction until everything quickly begins to unravel again. Nevertheless, getting to see the outcome of her work – changing the way people do things – is what fascinates Aline and keeps her motivated in what she does. 

Not only her clients do her clients motivate her, but the opportunity to step into a senior management position is also what engages Aline, as she is excited by the prospect of being able to lead more projects and take on more responsibility.

When asked about the best professional advice someone has ever given to her, Aline recalls a time when she had to speak to all of her American Express HR colleagues, yet was anxious to do so. Aline remembers one of her colleagues reassuring her not to be nervous because she was the only person in the room that knew what she was talking about at the level of expertise.

Her biggest takeaway- be confident in your own knowledge.

Aline’s advice for those looking to pursue a profession in consulting is to realize that it often seems glamorous, however, it’s much more work than glamour overall. Yet, despite the sleepless nights, there are so many opportunities to learn and grow, that if it’s something you are interested in, go for it and try it out. When it really comes down to it, finding meaningful work is about finding good people that you trust and value around you. Aline is eager to return to those people she has found at Accenture very soon, once face-to-face interactions and in-person client meetings are back on. In the meantime, she knows that those she needs are just a phone call away. 



Company to Watch: Saks Potts

Fur, glitz, and glam.

And we’re back for another episode of Company to Watch! Last year, I reviewed the inspiring accessory retailer Ubuntu Life and this year I am bringing back the blog series more regularly, taking a deep dive into companies that are shaking up the retail industry, Saks Potts being one of them.

Screen Shot 2021-02-17 at 9.44.07 PMThis Danish clothing company was started by Copenhagen natives Catherine Saks and Barbara Potts in 2014, who felt motivated to create beautiful and fun statement coats for Copenhagen’s cold winters. Despite having no fashion training, Saks and Potts have built an incredibly successful brand off of the notion that a coat is a statement piece that deserves statement treatment, adding pops color to Copenhagen’s muted palette with their splashy and candy colored coats- most notably in orange, blue, and green. “A coat is the first thing you see when you meet someone. It’s such an important statement of your personality,” Saks mentions in an interview with Harvey Nichols. But fun coats are where Saks Potts begin, not where they end.

Although, Saks Pots had humble beginnings, handing out their coats to women they admired outside Hôtel Costes during Paris Fashion Week, the fashion house continued to stay relevant by incorporating everything from glittery twin sets to swimsuits among their signature colorful fur trimmed coats. The collections are inspired by empowered and fierce women, like Princess Diana and Dolly Parton, who balance fun and feminine nature with serious boldness and power- a message that has clearly resonated with women. The company has won three Elle Style Awards, being Unavoidable of the Year in 2015, Brand of the Year award in 2018, and Show of the Year in 2019. It’s no wonder that Catherine and Barbara named the company after themselves, they are on to something quite special here. 

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Much of the company’s success, however, is a testament to the entrepreneurial nature of the two founders, who have displayed their business chops by having learned the ins and outs of the Copenhagen fur trade and attaining an 80-100% sell through rate in all of their collections, as cited by Business of Fashion. Saks Potts has also done a recent collaboration with vintage car dealer L’Art de l’Automobile, which has allowed the company to gain a greater exposure to different markets. A slew of celebrities who love and wear the brand, such as Kylie and Kendall Jenner, Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Selena Gomez, and Rihanna, have also helped to skyrocket the retailer to stardom. 

I can’t help but think that the innate splashiness of some of the pieces Saks Potts creates has something to do with their virality. The pieces are catchy, focused, and instantly recognizable as being from Saks Potts, a testament to true brand unity. The founders have recognized that their clothes have this “see it, want it, have to have it” effect on consumers, which may be changing their business model in the future. Over the course of the pandemic, the company spoke about deciding between dropping clothes every three to four times a year or doing more consistent drops that they feel confident in during the year instead. “When we see something on a catwalk or at a presentation or on some girl on Instagram, we just really want to buy it in the moment. So I think right now is an especially good time to adopt the see-now-buy-now model,” Saks mentions in an interview with Vogue back in August.

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As Danish fashion continues to infiltrate the American fashion scene, I anticipate seeing furry cuffs and candy colored coats walking the streets of New York and LA in the future. Who knows, maybe I’ll invest in some Saks Potts candy too down the road. Who am I kidding, I’m obsessed! #bossbabe CEOs for the win.

My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part II)

My retail rundown.

Part two, here we go! Last Friday we talked about experiential moving online, video tutorials, brick and mortar closures, supporting small business, and the end of scheduled collection releases. This week, I am bringing you five more retail predictions to look out for in 2021! A few parting words- make sure to support local businesses, research the companies that you buy your products from, and be bold with your purchases! That feather dress and glittery bowtie is all you!

Online Retail Consulting 

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Because we aren’t able to have in-person shopping consultations, these experiences are moving online to help shoppers get that personal touch from the comfort of their own homes. The well-known Korean skincare company innisfree is one retailer that offers free one-on-one skincare consultations with one of their Korean skincare experts. I foresee many businesses providing similar services in the future, whether it be personal shopping consultations or virtual product walk-throughs. These virtual experiences are being explored now for definite utilization in the future. 

Global Online Discovery and Purchasing

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 3.13.02 PMAs a result of more people shopping online than in store, consumers will have a greater likelihood of discovering international brands with an e-commerce presence than ever before. Popular brands such as Australian e-commerce swimsuit retailer TRIANGL and France’s first online-only retailer Sézane, allow you to import the fashions and trends you love from across the globe. Opportunities to purchase clothing from niche retailers abroad has also allowed for less regionalization and more globalization when it comes to fashion, yet another example of how our world is becoming increasingly interconnected. 

 

Blurred Lines Between Social Media and Buying 

Instagram has done it with their shopping feature, Pinterest has done the same with the way in which you can purchase items tagged in photos, so what’s next? Shopping and media often go hand-in-hand, which is why it is my opinion that other platforms such as TikTok and Youtube- who knows maybe even Twitter- will soon be integrating certain buying features in their technology. When Gen Z-ers see something that they really like, they instantly need to know where to find it and how to buy it. Keeping this in mind, in addition to the fact that social media platforms thrive on ad revenue, it’s hard to see how this won’t be the future. 

Increased Reliance on Consumer Reviews

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Lately, I’ve seen an increase reliance on consumer reviews, reviews done by unbiased third parties such as Consumer Reports, or even unpaid promotions by social media influencers for customers to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Buying a product, testing it out, and then having to return it can be a big hassle for some, who often buy online just to reduce said hassle. These hyper specific reviews and comments can be an extreme benefit to companies too, who have a loyal and engaged following that is willing to evangelize to others of their excitement for products. Glossier is one company that has thrived because of its consumer reviews and has a detailed approach as to how they capture review data that is worth taking a look at if you, yourself are looking to sell products online.  

Sustainable, Ethical, and Value Driven Brands

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Although this trend has been coming down the pipeline for some time now, ethical and value driven brands will never go out of style in the U.S., as sustainability and the environment have become an increasing concern within the fashion industry. Brands such as Everlane, Parade, and Biossance have all sought a niche place within their market on the basis of being more sustainable than their competitors. Sustainability reports are even becoming more popular for brands to disclose, a write up on their sustainability efforts and performance. Companies that are reporting on this are only putting more pressure on others to conform to higher ethical and environmental standards. Let’s keep it up retail!

My Retail Predictions for 2021 (Part I)

My retail rundown.

Retail is an ever-changing game. One day, critics say that shopping malls are dead, the next they are saying that in-person shopping experiences are paramount of importance, the next that consignment is the new method of purchase. There are a million opinions about what the future of retail will look like. This year, I thought I would take a stab at some trends that I see blossoming over the course of this year. Don’t forget to sign up for my weekly newsletter that comes out every Sunday to stay updated for when Part II comes out next week!

Experiential Moving Online

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I think that everyone would agree that shopping is meant to be all about the experience. Touching the clothes, wearing the clothes, interacting with the sales people, and purchasing the items- maybe even doing a little twirl in the dressing room? But, when company’s retail storefronts are forced to close down, much of the experience that consumers get purchasing, has gone away. Consequently, companies have been striving to find innovative methods to recreate unique experiences for customers. Some ways that retailers have started to do so is through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. AR is one compelling way that furniture retailer Wayfair, for example, has been engaging it customers through almost exclusive e-commerce selling. Through AR, Wayfair app users have been able to see what Wayfair items would look like in their house, whether it be couches, rugs, or anything in between. This is a truly innovative solution that the company is exploring in order to further engage the consumer and allow them to explore different opportunities with the touch of a button. It also allows purchasers to feel more comfortable with their buying decisions, given that they have already had the opportunity to “try out” the items in their own home. Similarly, AR and VR company Obsess has been building these tech experiences for companies such as Tommy Hilfiger, Christian Dior, Coach, Ulta Beauty, and Ralph Lauren. Obsess has created virtual stores and buying experiences for 5 years, increasing the return on investment for retail stores by setting up a virtual sales channel. This is truly the wave of the future.

Product Pages with Videos and Tutorials

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As a result of in-person buying being put on hold due to the pandemic, more companies have and will start incorporating videos reviews and tutorials into their product pages in order for the consumer to get a better idea of what they are purchasing. Because buyers aren’t able to touch, try on, and experience products in stores, online retailers should be more motivated to put up dynamic content in order to best inform the consumer on the products they are interested in. ASOS does a good job of including videos of models in the clothing that they sell, giving the consumer a better idea of the fit, movement, and texture of the clothing- aspects that they might not be able to detect from just a photo. Beauty products are especially difficult for consumers to buy online because they tend to require testing within the consumer journey. Customers buying an eyeshadow, for instance, in stores, would often be able to test a sample to examine many aspects of the product- texture, color, contrast with skin tone, and scent. Understanding this obstacle, Sephora has begun to incorporate short videos and tutorials into their product pages, such as this one, which showcases what the product looks like on a range of skin tones as well as a brief glimpse of how the application works. The more information that buyers have, the more equipped to make a purchase. Dynamic content remains king. 

Brick and Mortar Closures, Except for Big Box

Café Congreso in the Phillipines - inspired by Wes Anderson films

This comes as a shock to no one, but it appears that more brick and mortar closures are in the cards for small to medium size businesses. The return on your investment for retail storefronts, especially during the pandemic, have become smaller and smaller, as consumers have found online shopping more popular and safe than venturing into brick and mortar shops. E-commerce companies, who can leverage online marketing to their advantage, can see profits well above their counterparts, who are spending thousands of dollars on shops to gain recognition and hopefully pull some passersby in off the street. I can definitely foresee popular online retailers opening up shop in the future, but only after having establishing intense brand loyalty and a steady stream of sales. I also imagine pop up stores becoming more popular, as retailers are able to test the market on whether or not there is a consistent customer base in a specific location as a proof of concept.

The End of Scheduled Collection Releases

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There was once a time, long, long ago, when designers showed their latest collections during Fashion Week. Due to the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic, many designers have had to reschedule or even cancel shows. However, this has allowed for fashion houses to reevaluate their participation in such prescribed events. Michael Kors even moved his Spring 2021 presentation from September to October 15th in 2020. “I have for a long time thought that the fashion calendar needs to change,” he said in a statement. “It’s exciting for me to see the open dialogue within the fashion community about the calendar—from Giorgio Armani to Dries Van Noten to Gucci to YSL to major retailers around the globe—about ways in which we can slow down the process and improve the way we work,” Kors comments. The pandemic has allowed for designers to rethink many aspects of tradition within the industry, set seasons being one that has created more cohesion for some and stress for others. In the future, I see designers favoring their own pace over industry convention. 

Supporting Small Business 

Why Kamala Harris's Outfit Made a Striking Statement at the InaugurationSmall business owners will continue to challenge major players in the retail space this year, including everyone from trendy Esty candle and acrylic coaster makers to young, emerging fashion designers. We saw it at the presidential inauguration and will be seeing it a lot more in 2021. Vice President Kamala Harris chose to wear a purple coat and dress designed by up and coming African American designer Christopher John Rogers, a Louisiana native. Similarly, First Lady Jill Biden wore a blue ensemble by emerging designer Alexandra O’Neill, who is originally from rural Colorado. Although outfits worn during this prestigious event are traditionally made by U.S. companies, both women went out of their way this year to support individuals lesser known in the industry.

Likewise, there has been a continual push for consumers to eat and shop more locally, supporting businesses that have been hit hard due to the pandemic. Buying from American owned businesses has also become a priority in attempting to boost the local economy as opposed to purchasing products from abroad. This movement has shown a heavy spotlight on new faces within the industry- a true breath of fresh air. I have also witnessed social media, such as TikTok, play a large role in increasing exposure for small businesses, like instant acrylic nail company Klaw Beauty, sustainable clothing company STAN, and candle company ember candles, to name a few.

The way that we shop in 2021 is shifting and I hope and pray it is here to stay!


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Jenna Sweeney on Tips for Branding your Business

Go brand yourself!

Brand (/brand/). Definition: The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products. For some businesses brand identity can make or break a company. It can be the difference between recognizing a company from another and forgetting it altogether. Some brands take years to find their distinctive voice, others naturally pick up a tone during a company’s inception. Brands can be tricky to handle and can be easily tarnished, which is why many businesses spend a significant amount of money on retaining a good brand image. Jenna Sweeney is someone who is passionate about brands and their connection to our society and culture, which is why she is the perfect person to give us her tips on branding your business. Jenna, the floor is yours!

Tell us a little bit about yourself Jenna!

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I’m a recent graduate of Babson College who’s fascinated by the ways brands connect with their audience and as a result, influence culture. I’ve been working with eco-conscious start-ups in Los Angeles, CA since July under my brand strategy consultancy, Freedom Machine. I feel so grateful to be working towards a better Earth while exploring new markets and collaborating on exciting projects—getting to flex different creative muscles— it’s really my dream come true! 

In your opinion, what makes a good brand?

What makes a good brand to me is a distinct perspective. Brands which have a unique look, feel, and voice that all work together to tell a compelling story are typically the brands that rise to the top. I like to think that every brand has its own personality in what they value and how they show up. Every sale is a social interaction first and foremost, even within e-commerce. 

What are the most common challenges that the companies you help face?

Nowadays, in every sector, there are brands with an outstanding visual identity, stellar product, and great intentions. I think the most common challenge is finding a way to creatively compel your audience and distinguish your company from the inevitable competition while following best practices. 

What are some steps that companies can take in order to begin to develop their own brand strategy? 

I think asking yourself or your team how the brand would show up in the world as a person is a great exercise to reimagine the way your brand functions. Looking beyond target customer, to ask:

Who is your brand? What do they stand for? How do they treat their competition, customers, and team?

I think bringing attention to those traits of the business can really help to hone in on the nuance that helps a brand to resonate with its audience. 

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From a marketing perspective, what are some suggestions you would give to companies that have struggled during the pandemic?

My advice would be to get creative! Systems in our world are being rebuilt and part of that process is making way for a new mode of commerce to emerge. I see a lot of great, new companies finding a niche demand that is more unique to this moment in history. In America, most people have been spending most time at home in this past year– but that has made space for subscription-based goods and services to come back in style, for example. I think it’s just about recognizing the opportunities in enhancing our new ways of living. 

If a company wants to branch out into utilizing social media, what is some advice you would give them to figure out which platforms would be best for their business?

I’d say it definitely depends on what the product is– A B2B for example may only need a landing page and a LinkedIn, whereas direct-to consumer would want to be active on Instagram first, then Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, etc. as they’re applicable. The best way to find your audience is to start creating on different platforms and prioritize the platform where you get the most user/audience interaction. 

What are some company brands that you admire? 

I’m loving Seed, Ghia, Topo Chico, The Elder Statesman, Paloma Wool, Bode, Suprstructur, and Older Brother

What excites you about the future of the marketing and branding space?

I’m excited about new perspectives in the marketing field that will change how an audience resonates with a brand’s content and challenge existing social norms. I’m also excited by the market’s high standards for companies to use sustainable practices and conscientious employee relations. Quality of life and product is more important now than ever. 

How can someone looking for your services get in contact with you?!

www.freedommachine.space 

Or send me an email at jenna.sweeney3@gmail.com

CEO Sit Down: Sara Ferrer on Zoey Koko

Inspiring girls everywhere to prioritize self-care with whimsical body products.

Sara Ferrer always knew that entrepreneurship was her destiny. Going to Babson further instilled in Sara an eagerness to build something of her own that embodied her true passion. Nearing graduation, however, Sara had encountered a fork in the road. She wanted to explore her entrepreneurial bug, but also needed real-world job experience. Sara decided to start a job at TJX as an analyst. The long days behind a computer screen, coupled with a lack of passion, made her realize that after 2 years, the corporate grind simply wasn’t for her.

Screen Shot 2021-01-01 at 8.46.24 PMSara had always loved makeup, skincare, and beauty. She researched the spa industry and found a local 1200 hour esthetics program that would allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a medical esthetician. Sara’s day went from desk work at TJX to performing chemical peels, facials and waxing in a more social and dynamic atmosphere. When making the career change, Sara looked to her mom for inspiration. At 49 years old, her mom had transitioned from her 25 year corporate career to her dream job of becoming a high school Spanish teacher. Sara felt that her career change was a similar leap into the unknown and her mom’s journey was motivation to push forward.  

As a medical esthetician, Sara felt that she had fully tapped into her desire to make people feel good with her treatments. However, as time progressed, Sara noticed an alarming trend in the industry.  As beauty treatments promised faster and more dramatic results, women were fed media messages that created a “quick fix” beauty culture.  This, in turn, created rampant negative self-talk amongst her female clients. Sara started to question her role in providing help for these women, asking herself questions like “am I creating more goodness or darkness in the world by doing these procedures?” and “where is the point at which women go from feeling unstoppable to being incredibly insecure?” More importantly, Sara noted that many of her clients were mothers to young girls who were also starting to experience self-doubt and insecurities. This vicious cycle worried Sara.

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Sara was then thrust towards another fork in the road. She could either continue to develop professionally and expand her medical skin treatment offerings or she could venture into the unknown once again. 

In thinking more about the root cause of the insecurities that she and her clients experienced, Sara realized that developing a positive self-image starts at a young age. During the tween years and younger, girls experience lighting fast social, emotional, mental, and physical changes. This can be a vulnerable time where self doubt starts to creep in. This is also a time when girls are introduced to the concept of self-care. Sara observed through her research that “For a girl, self-care is about social bonding, sleepovers with giggles, smelling lotions, and testing out nail colors- figuring out your own tastes, preferences, and uniqueness”. Sara noticed that there were exciting products for this age range on the market, but they had horrible, synthetic ingredients. She paired her knowledge of skincare chemistry with her passion for the healthy social and emotional development of girls and decided to start her own company, Zoey Koko.  Her business would specialize in tween bath and body products that are made in the USA, formulated with clean ingredients for sensitive skin, fun to use and featured uplifting messaging on all of their packaging. Who wouldn’t want to buy a body lotion for their daughter that is “infused with girl power” or a bio-glitter sparkle gel that is “infused with imagination”, as the label states?

Sara tested her products with hundreds of girls, showing her products at gymnastics events and girl scout spa events. Wherever she could get a trusted girl’s or mother’s opinion, Sara found the opportunity to refine and perfect her products. With a tried and tested product line, Sara had the confidence to drive to 50 retail stores around the Boston area to pitch her products, bringing her best selling unicorn body butter and a positive attitude. Can’t believe it? Sara did all of this, while still working full-time at the spa. 

From there, Sara continued to grow Zoey Koko by hosting mobile spa birthday parties for girls ages  6 to 12 year olds that centered around  spa day activities, such as facials, manicures, pedicures and a DIY craft. Sara’s mission was to sell her products, but also to provide an opportunity for young girls to foster happy memories around beauty, self-care and bonding. 

 

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Although she has not been able to host any product parties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sara is optimistic in her business surviving great adversity, as she has surmounted great obstacles in every year of her business. 

“My first year of business was all about figuring out what I was doing. My second year was about honing in on my pitch and getting my products into retail stores. This year, my third year, has been all about expanding my e-commerce business,” Sara mentions. 

Just this past year, Sara has hired a new website designer to streamline the ZoeyKoko.com user experience, continued to test the market for future product releases, and looked to expand her products into more retail stores with the help of a toy sales group. And all of this hard work has paid off, as Zoey Koko landed a new deal with luxury children’s boutique Maisonette, and  tripled holiday sales projections. Add on to this the partnership opportunity Zoey Koko has with the e-commerce platform CityHome, as well as the cult following her shop has on Etsy and things are running full steam ahead. Her company has also made a significant impact in their contribution to the Big Sister Associate of Greater Boston, as a  percentage of the company’s profits are donated to this charity that Sara is incredibly passionate about.

For Zoey Koko, the future looks glittery, whimsy, and bright. And for the future of young girls? Things look optimistic, as Zoey Koko inspires imagination, confidence and positivity through the whimsical self-care products they provide. The brand’s mission of having girls everywhere “feel smiley in their skin” has only just begun.