COO Sit Down: Ryan Laverty on Arist

The first text message learning platform that helps to rapidly train employees in a scalable way.

Ryan Laverty graduated from Babson College in May and has been working as the Chief Operating Officer for Arist, a company that he co-founded and began working on for 2 years now. Ryan has a passion for digital marketing, writing, and public speaking, which he has utilized in a Digital Marketing Internship at IBM and in coaching public speaking under his organization Learn to SpeakOut. Ryan has a passion for all things “start-up” and even was the President of eTower, a living learning community for student entrepreneurs at Babson. Fun facts about Ryan include that he is learning to play the piano, he is from Rhode Island, and he is a triplet!

So, what is Arist all about?

Arist is the first text message learning platform that helps to rapidly train employees in a scalable way. The company was named one of FastCo’s 2019 World-Changing Ideas and was a recent participant in Y Combinator’s Summer accelerator.

Just recently, Arist has raised a hefty $1.9 million dollars in funding and is continuing to grow within the new digital landscape. 

Michael Loffe, the co-founder and CEO of Arist first came up with the idea while doing non-profit work in a Yemen war zone. Michael brought his idea for Arist to Ryan, who was running the entrepreneurship community at the time. The two of them put their heads together in thinking about how learning could be done via text messaging. Through iterating upon their idea, the founders saw traction in corporate learning and training, especially for front line workers. Michael and Ryan found that corporate training involved a lot of passive video based learning, which required a considerable amount of work on behalf of the educator and employee. Arist simplified this system dramatically, disrupting convention entirely.  

All of these insights, however, did not come without much time and effort on the founders’ part. Ryan notes that one of the company’s greatest challenges was figuring out who to serve within their market. It seemed to professors and academics that this method of learning just didn’t appeal. This stumbling block allowed the company to figure out how much they would allow the product to adapt to the user or the user adapt to the product. After one year of hard work, the team decided that out of the creators, teachers, and corporations that were using the technology, to go all in on focusing on partnering with corporations. 

In order to prove their concept and to get investors on board, Ryan notes that his team worked with a software engineer to have a very basic version of the platform in order to test demand. The company was able to get by for an entire year with scrappiness and innovative thinking, integrating already existing platforms into one system to save time and money. After the company saw proof that people wanted to learn over text, the risk for investors was lessened and more people were more open to get on board- like Y Combinator! 

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Ryan mentions that being in Y Combinator’s Accelerator over this past Summer has been an incredible experience. Ryan stresses that he saw a lot of value in the accelerator’s emphasis on focus and clarity of thought as well as goal setting and holding your company to a higher standard. Y Combinator has an incredible set of mentors and resources for businesses that is unparalleled, a definite victory for the company being accepted into the program as a whole.

Another victory of Arist you might ask? Getting the first 5 customers, mentions Ryan, which were a few enterprise organizations. There was a lot of persistence in getting them on board and even getting that first conversation, Ryan cites. Having no previous experience in enterprise sales, Ryan mentions that there was a bit of a learning curve for him at the beginning- but all that learning definitely paid off. 

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In wrapping up our conversation, I got to ask Ryan what he envisions the future of Arist to look like? He mentioned that the company’s focus was primarily on continuing to streamline the product experience on the learner’s side as well as scalability and being able to continue to deliver with simplicity. Arist is spending a lot of time and effort on how to create courses better and faster, which may end up incorporating artificial intelligence at some point. All that being said, Arist’s main goal is to continue to focus on being a tool that empowers learning leaders first and foremost. 

Ryan is most excited to see what impact Arist has on the world and continuing to find and work with amazing people as their team grows. Providing opportunities for personal growth is extremely rewarding for Ryan and I have no doubt that the company will be able to influence great change as our world becomes both more digital and complex in the years to come. 

Joe Conforti on Life as an Artist, Activist, and Creator

When life throws you lemons, make art.

Joe Conforti originally dreamt of being an art teacher, initially majoring in art and education at the University of Richmond in Virginia. However, Joe changed his major to marketing and public relations, when he saw others becoming interested in the exciting world of business in the early 1980s. After graduating, Joe worked in advertising, one of his projects being designing toys for fast food restaurants. Life turned upside down for Joe in 1992, when he was diagnosed with the AIDS virus and was told that he only had 18 months to live. Quitting the corporate world, Joe knew that he needed to return to what he loves: art. After his partner gifted him a class at a local ceramic studio, Joe realized this was the push that he needed in order to start creating his own art again. 

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Joe frequently gave his art as gifts to friends, which even caught the eye of designer Donna Karan, who reached out to Joe to create pieces for her new home collection. Joe’s pieces were soon seen all over Barneys and Bendels in New York City- an artist’s dream I think! Keeping up with demand, Joe quickly got an art studio in SoHo and even began experimenting with wall mounted ceramics. Joe used the traditional Japanese Raku style in his ceramics, showcasing organic textures and colorful tones. Joe mentions that much of his art is inspired by the hectic pace and colorful landscape of New York City, a city he loves to call home. At the same time he was pursuing his art, Joe became heavily involved in the ACT UP movement, an AIDs activist group, as a street activist and cites the rapid improvement in the effectiveness of AIDs medications in helping him to continue to live and focus on his art. 

Joe’s art practice has changed dramatically over the course of his art career, the most significant change being in his medium, as he transitioned from ceramic to painting. Joe notes that he was gentrified out of his ceramic studio, as it was made into office spaces, and, shortly after, took a hiatus from his art to take a screenwriting class. Despite writing two screen plays, Joe missed the fine arts too much and enrolled in painting classes at the New School. Joe hadn’t turned from paints since, until this summer. 

Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 7.00.12 PMMy favorite paintings from Joe’s Color, Order, and Choas collection 

In the earlier part of the year, Joe had planned on having a show called Color, Order, and Chaos and found a gallery that was going to show his latest collection in May. This collection of 14 paintings was inspired by today’s political climate in The United States, the textures and bright colors captured in his ceramics carrying over into these paintings. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in Joe’s husband losing his job, the pair packed up their New York City apartment and moved to Fire Island, a small island just off the coast of Long Island. In Fire Island, Joe and his partner sought some much needed space from crowded New York, but, unfortunately, Joe couldn’t fit his paints and canvases into the packing. Nevertheless, Joe found a new creative outlet- sculpture. Joe spent his quarantine building a 40 foot long beach sculpture out of driftwood he calls Serenity, which helped to bring Joe an incredible amount of peace during such a challenging time. On the island, Joe also held a gallery opening for his loyal followers, during which he sold almost all of his pieces from his Color, Order, and Chaos collection. 

When asked about the best piece of professional advice someone has given to him, Joe recalled the comment of a fellow marketer, who told him early on in his career to bring something physical for his audience to touch and see when giving a pitch. Joe credits much of his experience in marketing and sales to helping him tremendously in his art career, especially when it comes to selling his art. Joe mentions that the most important thing an emerging artist can do is just get their art out into the world in any way possible. When Joe worked out of his studio, among a community of artists, he sold significantly more than all of the art students in the lofts. Joe says that the difference between himself and them was that he was not afraid to go to the local coffee shop and give them pieces on consignment or even give his art away as gifts. Exposure for Joe was key to building a reputation in the New York art community and what he suggests other artists do in order to stand out.  

What about the future excites Joe? “Young people like you,” he says “the energy of young people to be able to change the world for the better excites me.” What excites me? The boldness and fearlessness of artists like Joe, who have chosen to pursue an unconventional path to paint the world a brighter place. 

Tom Carfora on Modern Retail Luxury

The new luxury shopping experience of 2020.

Tom Carfora has been in the luxury industry since 1990, starting off his career working at Bergdorf Goodman in New York City. Tom refers to his early career in catering to 5th Avenue’s matrons and socialites, a time when Bergdorfs was a hallmark institution for finding unique and special luxury goods for wealthy individuals. Over the course of five years, Tom would work in customer service, manage the shoe department, and work in personal shopping before he would leave Bergdorfs and transition into working at Cartier as the store manager in the Short Hills Mall for twelve years. After working in high end jewelry, Tom went to work for the luxury rifle company Beretta on Madison Avenue. At Baretta, he worked on developing a luxury clientele for their high end clothing line. Soon after, Tom would return to luxury jewelry in a new capacity at Chopard, working as the store’s assistant director. In his first two years, Tom has accumulated millions of dollars worth of sales, which he accredits to his passion for meeting new people and love for luxury jewelry. 

When asked about what he thought was the most important part of his job, Tom answers making people feel comfortable and not badgering the customer. His go to tactic is to let the customers know that if they have any questions he is there to answer them and not to be pushy or domineering. “Walking into a luxury store can be intimidating at times, but I try and not make it feel that way for my clients. I tell them all about the history of the company, offer them something to drink, and have them just look around.” For Tom, judging customers that walk through the door is off the table. A billionaire in ripped jeans could walk into any store, that’s just our culture nowadays. Casual is pretty universal, no matter what your socioeconomic status is. 

ezgif.com-video-to-gif (2)One change in the industry that Tom notes is the way in which consumers wear and purchase jewelry. In the early 90s, Tom cites that clients had extreme brand loyalty and would invest heavily in expensive, statement jewelry sets. Now, however, consumers are more willing to purchase a myriad of pieces from different companies. Tom mentions that he often sees American consumers, specifically, dawning a range of different brands on one wrist even, Cartier love bracelets and Hermés Clic H bracelets stacked side by side. That being said, Tom does mention that he has noticed more mature American buyers will tend to stick with their trusted brands and have more brand loyalty. Additionally, in the U.S., he has noticed that consumers purchase jewelry for everyday wear, the majority of it being delicate and small. Tom references how this might align with the more casual customs the U.S. has adopted over the years, where a dark denim might appear as “dressing up” and sweats are appropriate outerwear. Tom shared that the hot new jewelry designs coming from Rosanne Karmes’s company Sydney Evan are fun, edgy, and delicate, pieces that everyone is looking for nowadays. Apart from Sydney Evan, Tom has a tried and true love for Cartier and Chopard, especially Chopard’s Happy Diamonds collection. 

One of the toughest things about working in the luxury retail space now is low traffic and drawing people into stores to buy, Tom says. However, he does mention that e-commerce is blowing up. Surprisingly, many people will easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on jewelry online. Along with the hesitancy of going out in public spaces during the COVID-10 pandemic, Tom notes that such high levels of online jewelry buying may have something to do with the different policies companies have purchasing jewelry in-store versus online. Online at Chopard, for example, customers can get a full refund for a return, which is different from in-person store purchases. \When people do come into the Chopard store, however, Tom notes that they have already perused the company’s website, having done their research, and know exactly what they want to purchase. That being said, there is much less in-store exploration and moments of instant discovery. 

ezgif.com-crop (1)My last question for Tom was what he thought the future of the luxury industry will look like? Tom mentioned that, first and foremost, it would benefit luxury brands to stay true to themselves and what the brand’s history promises. Heavy discounting and coupon codes can dramatically hurt a brand’s image, especially a luxury one. If discounts can be avoided, they should be at all costs. Tom also notes that coupons and discounts within the luxury industry have contributed to buyers putting off their purchasing until the discounting occurs, which can have drastic implications. This is, especially, a popular practice for many department stores, like Neiman Marcus and Lord and Taylor, who are now seeing the effects of such regular product reductions- one of many factors of course. 

On the consumer side, Tom sees the modern buyer as a busy and fast-paced individual, who no longer has the time to meander into shops and browse. This consumer receives email promotions, online ads, and social media posts about products that lead the consumer into following the trail to their respective e-commerce marketplace. After a click of a button and oftentimes free shipping, in just a few days the customer finds their item right at their doorstep, never having to step foot outside their house. There just isn’t enough time in the day for most Americans to peruse, try on, feel, and experience. With fear around the pandemic contributing to the online shopping craze, it looks like this trend will follow into the future. 

Tom’s dream? To revert back to a time when there was more balance in work and life. Where people did make the time to dress up, take their time to shop, and immerse themselves in whatever they are doing. “People need to enjoy themselves more,” says Tom. To that, I couldn’t agree more. 

CEO Sit Down: Kai Han on Cardea

A company that is interrupting the traditional job search process one job at a time.

Finding a job is tough. Finding a job in today’s economy is even tougher. Cardea‘s entrance into the job search space couldn’t have been better timed, with new job seekers, like myself, eager to seek new and exciting opportunities. Having used many different job searching platforms, I consider Cardea to be one of my favorites, as the website’s user experience is incredibly intuitive and simple. I am so happy to have gotten the chance to interview Kai, Cardea’s CEO and a budding entrepreneur, on his new business and hope that you sign up to access the site too!


Kai! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Sure thing! I’m 22 years old, and recently graduated from the University of Oxford in June. I was born and raised in New York City, which unfortunately makes up about 55% of my entire personal identity. Besides my hometown, I also like talking about startups, sports, and anime.

What was the inspiration behind starting Cardea and tell us a little bit about the business?

I was looking for an internship last summer and found myself extremely frustrated with the process. I wanted to work in venture capital, and remember conducting an entire mini-research project just to find out where to apply. I often caught myself wishing that someone could just present me with a list of all the firms that were currently hiring interns in New York City. Talking to some of my friends, it seemed that everyone hated the process of finding the right places to apply to as well (particularly those who didn’t want to go the banking, big tech, consulting type of route).

Traditional job finding platforms really place the burden of discovery entirely on the user. You’re given a giant database of jobs and nothing but a search bar and some rudimentary filters to sift through all of those jobs. What ends up happening is an experience that feels extremely clunky, with low personalization and tons of irrelevant jobs being shown to users.

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Zooming out a bit, I’d say there are broadly two types of content platforms: Search (Amazon) and discovery (Spotify, Reddit, Twitter) based platforms. Search works really well when the user knows exactly what they’re looking for, whereas discovery is optimally suited when a user has a set of interests but doesn’t know the exact specific pieces of information they want. From that angle, jobs should really be discovery based, but they’ve been search products since Monster.com in the 90’s. We set out to build a jobs platform that prioritized highly curated discovery over anything else.

To do that, we curate Spotify-style “playlists” of jobs. These can center around anything, whether it’s something like “Fintech’s Top Startups”, “Breaking into Product Management” or even something like “Last minute internships for procrastinating students”. Users can explore our selection of playlists and follow the ones they like. Anytime a job is posted to one of their followed playlists it’s displayed in their stream tab, creating an intuitive and easy to navigate job finding experience. Once you’re set up with us, all you have  to do is occasionally check your stream, we’ll handle all the rest.

What do you believe the biggest challenge is in finding employment online?

I could write an entire essay on this question alone. There’s a lot of problems in a lot of different areas, but we’re focusing on the discoverability aspect of it. Studies have shown that over 40% of qualified applicants won’t apply to a job simply because they don’t ever see it. In this age of technologically connected societies, that’s a pretty jarring number.

How does Cardea stand out from competing platforms such as LinkedIn or Creatively?

At this current stage, we’re strictly focused on job discovery, rather than professional social networking. For both LinkedIn and Creatively, job search is a small part of their product, and it’s pretty easy to tell that from looking at their platforms (search bar, big database, low curation, bad filters). We think by directing our efforts to just one aspect of these types of larger horizontal platforms, we can deliver a superior experience that we can then be built further features off of.

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What has been one “high” and one “low” in starting Cardea?

Definitely a high was letting our first users onto the platform.  We’re still in the process of testing and building but that was the culmination of so much work and planning so that was a big moment. As far as lows, we initially had a solution for adding jobs to the platform that we quickly realized was impossible to scale, and that was definitely a tough pill to swallow. Thankfully, we were able to get our heads together and figure something out on the fly.

What are future goals or milestones you hope Cardea to achieve?

We’re viewing this next year as a “building” phase for us. We want to really build the best product possible without needing to rush that market. Thankfully we’ve generated enough user demand for us to continue to test and validate our ideas around. In that sense, I’d say our goals for the immediate future are making the people that do get access to our private beta extremely happy. To us, this looks like high engagement, high retention and positive word of mouth growth. While the initial signs have been encouraging, there’s a lot more we can do to get even better.

Cardea targets recent college graduates and junior level positions, why have you chosen this market?

It’s really a scaling issue. To handle the amount of content we’d need to pump out to service older candidates is something we can’t really do right now. That being said, I think the current model is well suited for anyone up until their 3rd or 4th job, at which point people are usually moving around strictly via word-of-mouth referral. We might actually be even better off for people a little later in their career, as they usually have slightly more market awareness and a better understanding of what they’re looking for in their next step. One thing I will say about the younger demographic is that our UX is something they’re extremely comfortable with. Our entire generation has become accustomed to the act of following niche content channels, then scrolling through a central feed that aggregates all of that content.

What features are you rolling out on the site in the near future that you are excited about?

We’re working on a lot of really exciting things. In the near term, we really want to beef up our core consumer offering. This means expanding into different industries, allowing users to favorite and save companies instead of just lists, bringing in a search aspect (that doesn’t take away from our core model), and revamping the entire design of the platform. In addition, we’re currently building a machine learning tool that should allow us to increase our volume of jobs by a significant margin.

What is your advice for recent graduates applying for jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Don’t be discouraged! COVID-19 has hit businesses hard, but there are still plenty of companies hiring out there and plenty of positions that need to be filled.

In terms of how to go about the search process, you should have a few companies you’re particularly excited about, and at least begin to think about what it is you want to do with your career. We spend arguably the most amount of time in our adult life doing things for our employers, so finding companies that align with your goals, values and interests is crucial. There are a ton of companies out there that are doing really amazing work, you just need to find them.

 

Jenna Willis on being a Personal Trainer to the Stars

From actor to personal trainer, Jenna keeps fit and her clients fitter in sunny California.

Jenna Willis is a Jersey girl, born and raised, who grew up with three older brothers. With familial competition running deep in her veins, Jenna notes that athleticism was not a choice for her. While attending college, Jenna was the shortest Division 1 collegiate volleyball player in the nation, a credit to her natural knack for sports. However, Jenna involved herself in competitive sports as much as in theater and dreamt of becoming an actor one day. Jenna’s pursuit of professional acting led her to ultimately move to California to chase her dreams. 

Working as an actress in Los Angeles, Jenna never abandoned exercise and used it as a coping mechanism to deal with stress and anxiety. She mentions that exercise was especially crucial for her when she was dealing with a difficult break up a few years ago. Jenna began exploring strength training and lifting more during this time, which helped to strengthen her body and clear her mind. As Jenna’s career took off and she was able to book more jobs in TV and modeling, she noticed that she was also attracting greater attention in the gym. On three separate occasions, Jenna had fellow gym-goers ask her for help with fitness techniques, using machines, and targeting parts of their body. Jenna took this as a sign that all of her dedication to fitness had led to a greater purpose: helping others achieve personal success in their health and wellness journeys. 

Jenna BandsImmediately, Jenna signed up for a course to become a certified personal trainer. Soon after, along with auditioning and booking acting jobs, Jenna started to train clients on the side in 2017, getting paid for what she loves to do. A win-win I would say! Jenna credits hard work and preparation in enabling her to be successful in her personal training business as well as the support she received from her friends. Since she started personal training, Jenna’s business has been growing tremendously, capturing the attention of celebrities like Tara Reid, Lala Kent, and Liza Koshy, all of whom she has trained.  

What differentiates Jenna from other personal trainers? Not many incorporate the mind, body, and spirit as she does, Jenna says. Jenna is adamant about the fact that what you see on the outside is only a fraction of what is important. The true magic is when the mind, body, and spirit are aligned in terms of healthy and holistic living. Jenna also wasn’t shy to mention that she is a natural goofball that isn’t afraid to show people who she truly is in front of her audience. Like all of us, she pokes fun at herself and embraces the awkwardness that can come along with working out. “We are all growing together. Fitness is not perfection” she states during our conversation, an important reminder for all of us to take to heart. 

IMG_5995 (1)Even before the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jenna was doing virtual training sessions to people all over the world, which has made her exclusive transition to digital so smooth. Yet, Jenna notes that her biggest motivation in starting her newest program “Don’t Sweat It Alone” was her lack of motivation in the beginning of the pandemic. Jenna was having a hard time getting excited about doing her training and couldn’t imagine that if she couldn’t get up and do some squats, what others must be feeling like. As a result, Jenna made a promise to show up, not only for herself, but for her followers by going live on Instagram with her workouts. Jenna received such positive feedback from doing those sessions, which motivated her viewers to get out of bed in the morning, that she turned the Instagram Live sessions into a regular occurrence. Jenna has since formalized “Don’t Sweat It Alone” into a virtual fitness and healthy living membership and community that is all online. Jenna goes live three times a week within the community, with workouts that are tailored to working out home with minimal equipment. Jenna also ends every workout with a meditation and brings in nutritionists and experts from across the fitness spectrum to talk on the platform. If you sign up for the program get ready for sweaty selfies, free giveaways, and a lot of plank rows and squat presses- two of Jenna’s favorite at-home moves! 

What has been the most challenging part of starting this venture of personal training? Jenna mentions that there is always going to be road bumps, but it’s figuring out how to pave them. Every time you take two steps forward, be prepared to take five steps back, but be motivated enough to make the leap forward again. “Trust the process” is what Jenna says, a mantra that we can all use to benefit from.


Want to get in on all that “Don’t Sweat It Alone” has to offer?

Head to the website and follow her on Instagram

Don't Sweat It Alone MONTHLY corp FLYER (1)

CEO Sit Down: Hayoung Park on HYP

A company revolutionizing exclusive releases: HYP, started by CEO Hayoung Park for the world.  

So, what’s all the hype about? I’ll tell you! HYP, a company started by CEO Hayoung Park, was recently unveiled to the world this summer, causing a stir among the limited collectors of all things street wear. HYP is an online bidding platform that partners with brands for exclusive release auctions. So far, the company has hosted extremely rare items, like a one of a kind pair of Nike “Stay Home” SB Dunk Low Pros in a custom hazmat box and a tie-dyed Supreme Box Logo Sample, which sold for a shocking $52,000. There are many things that are unique about the platform, one of them being your ability to see who is bidding live and their respective Instagram accounts, so you can really flex in front of the world. HYP has already been featured on Complex, Highsnobiety, Hypebeast, and Nice Kicks, making a splash right out of the gate. If this is what only a month of releases look like, we are truly in store for a wild ride. I have the privilege of knowing Hayoung personally, allowing me to get the low down on all things HYP to share with you. Let’s jump in.


So Hayoung, how did HYP first start? How did this idea grow into a business?

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It all started when I was 12- I was obsessed with basketball and thought I needed the Jordans to play better. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t willing to pay for any of the sneakers, so I had to make my own money. A friend of mine was willing to sell me a pair of his Jordan 6 Oreos for way under retail – for $50, but before I borrowed the money from my mom, I had a buyer for that pair as well as sellers and buyers for two other pairs that I would buy that day. After my first day of reselling sneakers, I made $150 dollars in profit, paid my mom back the $50 with $1 interest, and grew my collection to a little over 300 pairs in the next four years. 

In doing this, I realized that brands have been innovating on product for as long as they’ve been around, but the way they price and sell the goods has remained stagnant since the beginning of mass production. It’s been a flat price in an attempt to capture a volatile market. It also physically was not able to capture any of the additional value created in the aftermarket because that was passed the brand’s point of capturability. I started to play around with the idea in early 2019 and officially started working on HYP in July 2019. At first, I pitch it to a couple of friends who were a bit doubtful that it was going to work, but I had the opportunity to pitch to a few major brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Supreme, and got some really great feedback. I took the points of concern and the wants of the brands and formatted to what it is now, which is: HYP, the social bidding platform for exclusive releases. On HYP, users link their Instagram to compete and show off in front of the world for exclusive release auctions in fashion, collectibles, and art.

What has been your biggest challenge in starting the company?

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The biggest challenge in starting the company has been finding a way to shortcut the Catch-22 that is consumer platforms. In order to get the brands to get the cool releases, you need the consumers and you need the demand side. But in order to get the demand side, you need the cool releases and you need the cool brands. We found a way to shortcut that by finding and working with the artists who were really cool and hyping up the first release. We knew that the platform would hyper concentrate and show demand to encourage other people to bid as well, and it worked pretty well! Our biggest challenges are finding cool releases and brands to work with as we curate the next batch of HYP releases to elevate both the HYP brand as well as brand partners. 

What advice do you have for anyone looking to start a company in today’s climate?

For anyone looking to start a company today’s climate, I honestly think it’s a better time than ever to start a company because a lot of the traditional incumbent companies are short on cash and they’re not as agile as startups. I think there’s a lot of room, especially now for startups to take over different niches that the bigger brands can’t quite adapt to because of COVID-19 restrictions or because they’re really really short on cash.

What is a collaboration that you have dreamed of doing?

A collaboration that I dream of doing is with Daniel Arsham. I think he’s a great artist and I think he really understands consumer sentiment and is great at balancing the past, current, and future. 

What about today’s culture makes HYP attractive to consumers?

Humans have been showing off to other people they see during the day forever. Recently, we’ve been showing off to our friends on Instagram. I think the next logical progression is showing off in front of the world, amplifying the feeling of walking in the mall with designer shopping bags in your hands. There haven’t been any digital equivalents to that feeling, and I believe HYP provides just that on an even more elevated scale. 

You’re quite fashionable yourself, what are some of your favorite brands?

My favorite brands are Thom Browne and APC. I recently started dressing more minimalist as I stopped wearing streetwear while optimizing my wardrobe for meetings. I have to dress more mature and elevated, so I started to invest in pieces that are a bit more sophisticated than Supreme, Bape, and Off-White. I still love those brands though.

What piece of advice have you received that you would give to others?

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The piece of advice that I would give to others is just to send it. No one knows exactly what they’re doing at the end of the day, as crazy as that sounds. I realized that you can’t learn to swim without getting in the pool and that you can’t learn to swim by reading a textbook. If there’s a project that you want to work on or a question that you want to answer, just go out and try to figure it out, try to take that first step because that’s always the hardest. When you do take the first couple of steps, find more reasons and motivations to take the next few. Also – stay (mentally) young and creative. Have fun.

 I know it’s top secret, but could you give us any clues as to what future releases HYP is going to be having?

For future HYP releases, we want to do collaborations that no one saw coming that strangely make sense. I think the fun is putting shit together that isn’t meant to be together and having that work & look great. From animal plush dolls to porcelain sculptures, we’re considering all of it. 

 

Running a Poshmark Empire with Tara Masjedi

I sat down with Tara to get the inside scoop on how she grew her Poshmark account into a business, racking up over 117,000 followers.

Many summers ago, when I started my Poshmark account, I had the dream of selling my entire closet and starting fresh. Little did I know exactly how hard that would be! Selling new or gently used clothing on Poshmark requires the skill and savviness that my good friend Tara Masjedi possesses. Tara and I were roommates during our BRIC study abroad program and have become close friends ever since. I vividly remember one of our first conversations together being about Tara’s Poshmark empire and how she has sold hundreds of items since signing up for the platform. I tirelessly pried her for information on how I could make my account as successful as hers- what was I doing so wrong that I couldn’t sell my middle school impulse purchases? I interviewed Tara on the blog so that you could get in on all of the advice she has given me over the years. You’re welcome in advance! Give her Poshmark-Instagram some love to keep up with her latest finds and scroll all the way to the bottom of this article for a little discount courtesy of Tara!


Hey Tara, tell us about yourself!

Hi everyone! My name is Tara Masjedi, and I run my own clothing resale business on many different platforms such as Mercari and eBay, but I primarily sell on the Poshmark platform!

Why did you start selling clothes online and how long have you been doing it for?

I started selling clothing online when I was 14 (in 9th grade) as a way to make money for myself so I could buy the things I wanted without the help of my parents. Independence has always been a big part of my identity and creating my own source of income was the best way to help me get started. Since then, it’s been 8 years that I’ve been selling clothing online!

What do you look for when you buy clothes to resell?

The first thing I typically notice or look for is brand. Once I identify a quality brand- which, in my mind, includes contemporary brands such as Vince, Rag and Bone, and All Saints-, I’ll examine the item to see if there are any signs of significant wear, stains, or holes. In addition, I try to pay a maximum of $10 per item I source. Most of the items I purchase are from the bins of consignment shops, which means they are priced by the pound, so I typically end up paying around $1-2 per garment.

Is sustainability and recycling old garments important to you?

Absolutely! With every garment I purchase secondhand, I know that I am helping to reduce the impact of the fashion industry. Fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world and fast-fashion definitely exacerbates the environmental impact. I try to purchase as much as I can from sustainable brands such as Patagonia, but also work to repair garments that may not necessarily be as sustainable but can be given a whole new life with a little bit of TLC!

What do your margins look like?

It really depends on the type of garment that I’m selling, but I always break even with every item! I calculated a 570% average margin for the sale of all of my items. 

How have you grown your following?

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A lot of the growth I’ve experienced around my following is from consistently not only sharing my own listings but also sharing the listings of other sellers! If there are buyers who are obsessed with a specific brand- how I am with Lululemon and Tory Burch-, they will constantly be checking newly listed items under that brand. By offering low or reasonable prices for highly demanded brands, you can quickly grow your following and gain traction as more buyers develop interest in the other items you have listed. Also, specifically for Poshmark, I started selling less than a year following the inception of the app. 

How do the different sites that you use to sell your products compare to each other and which is your favorite?

The three platforms I mainly use to sell clothing are Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay. Poshmark is definitely the most fashion-focused platform, as it was created for the intent of reselling solely clothing and accessories, whereas on eBay and Mercari, you can sell anything you can think of. In terms of fees, Poshmark takes 20% of every sale, Mercari takes 10%, and eBay takes a 10% fee if your item sells plus a 3% fee from Paypal for processing the payment. I think each platform has its own pros and cons because the users on each vary. Sometimes I’ve tried to sell something on Poshmark for months, and, when I post it on Mercari, it instantly sells. I would say Poshmark and Mercari are pretty close for me as I have developed a following and have sold quite a bit on each platform, but eBay is definitely a website I am working to list more on.

What are 3 pieces of advice you would give to people interested in starting to sell clothes online?

One of the biggest things I’ve learned over the years is that, for resale, you need to remember you aren’t shopping for yourself; you’re shopping for the customer! There are times where I will look at something and think, I would never wear that, but you need to consider current trends and brands your customers are interested in. In addition, don’t feel defeated if it takes a while to make sales! There are times where I’ve gone weeks without making a sale, and then, all of a sudden, I’ll get a few orders! The key for the entire process is patience. Finally, I would recommend starting small if you’re interested in reselling. It takes a lot more patience than you think to list items, so start with a few pieces and then gradually expand- if you have the room for it!

What is your favorite brand or designer?

I have quite an obsession with Lululemon and Tory Burch! They are both such quality brands, and using these platforms also helps me find killer deals!

Where to find Tara:

Poshmark

Instagram: @tara.posh.candy114

Use code CANDY114 on Poshmark to get $10 off your first purchase!

All About Coffee with Tim Braatz

Coffee, coffee beans, coffee shops! Tim shares his knowledge on all things coffee and his future plans to open a café of his own.

Tim has been a long time friend of mine, who has been obsessed with coffee ever since I have known him. Having traveled the world to experience and taste all the coffee there is to offer, Tim has accumulated a depth of knowledge around the café experience, barista techniques, bean roasting, and coffee quality. Tim has also worked as both a dishwasher and a barista, acquiring that much needed experience “in the field,” working hard to learn about how to run a successful business. After years of exploration and long hours spent in the café, Tim is finally opening his own coffee place next year- congratulations Tim! When I return to Hamburg, I cannot wait to pop in for a delicious cup of coffee and I hope you’ll join me in supporting Tim very soon!


Hallo Tim! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m 23 years old and was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. Besides my passion for coffee, I enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and family, traveling, especially to the US, driving and reading about cars, and learning more about nutrition and the plant based lifestyle.

 How long have you been interested in coffee and what has sparked this passion?

Believe it or not, my parents always tell me that I had my first coffee at the age of five. My first job in coffee was working as a dishwasher for a bigger local roastery and café. This is where my passion for specialty coffee really took off. After graduating from school, I visited different states on the east and west coast of the United States and explored different concepts and business ideas. After many years of refining my idea of what I want to achieve with my concept and writing a business plan, I finally signed a lease for a space to open my own café in the heart of Hamburg in Spring / Summer of 2021.

 What are your favorite coffees and coffee chains or shops and why?

Funny enough, most of them are in the U.S.! Heart Coffee in Portland, Oregon is probably my favorite coffee shop because the staff is very knowledgeable and the drinks are consistently high quality. I’ve had some of my bests coffees there. I also enjoy going to the Starbucks Reserve Roasteries because the interior design and aesthetics are mind blowing and the coffee is decent too. Coffee-wise, I prefer washed coffee from Africa. Kenyan coffees are usually very sweet and juicy. 

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I know you are opening your own coffee shop next year (how exciting and congratulations). Tell us a little bit about this new venture and what will set it apart from other coffee shops?

Thank you! I have always wanted to open my own café because most of the ones I’ve been to lack the basics of what makes a good experience to me. I think if you can provide consistently great service and high quality products in a beautiful and clean environment people will come back. Every decision I have made considers all of the above and we-my father co-owns the company- have put  a lot of thought into the design process of the space. I can guarantee you it will be like nothing else in Hamburg.

To you, what makes a good coffee shop experience?

Like I said, people want a great product, served with a smile, and fast. It’s really hard to consistently achieve this level of service, but the whole concept is built around these three factors. 

How has your previous experience as a barista helped you in building your new business?

Over the years, I was fortunate enough to gain many insights relating to the processes, finances, staff, regulations and of running a coffee shop, simply by learning from others peoples’ mistakes. I wouldn’t be as confident as I’m today without my experience as a barista. I’m convinced you can only be a great entrepreneur and employer if you’ve worked through the ranks.

What is one challenge that you have faced in starting your new coffee shop?

Convincing the banks it’s not just another coffee shop. Specialty coffee is still relatively unknown in Germany and it’s hard to convince people of something they’ve never tried themselves before. Also, finding the right space that checks all the boxes. It took me four years from starting to look for a space to signing the lease.

If I have learned one thing from this process: never give up and follow your dreams!

Last question, what do you think the future of coffee consumption looks like?

Due to climate change, the world will have 50% less land available to grow coffee by 2050 than we have today. This will hopefully bring the price of commodity coffee up so farmers can make a sustainable living from their work. Also, I think the consumer will make more informed buying decisions and especially look for high quality coffee. I’m definitely excited what the future holds for specialty coffee!

The Future of the Fashion Show

My take on what runways will look like in the “new normal”.

When I attended my first fashion show, Carlos Campos‘s Spring / Summer 2019 collection, I felt as though I was entering into a whole different universe. The show was part of The CFDA‘s New York Fashion Week Men’s Calendar, produced by INCA Productions, the company I was interning for. When the music started pumping, the room fell silent and I could feel the anticipation, as everyone was looking forward to Campos’s latest line of menswear. Once the models began gliding down the runway, the focus was pulled toward the perfectly tailored garments, some of my favorites in peach and vibrant yellow tones; half a year’s work packed into every beautiful piece.

A fashion show is a collective experience, everyone partaking in soaking up an intense, yet brief, five to ten minutes, where months of work and planning lead to what the future of fashion will look like. Having been an intern for three seasons of New York Fashion Week, I have seen, first hand, the amount of time, money, and effort that is required on behalf of both the brand and the fashion production company to put on a runway show with such precision- a few minutes of fashion perfection.

When I attended Alexander Wang‘s Spring / Summer 2020 show in Rockefeller Center last summer, I knew that the fashion industry was on the precipice of extreme change, albeit I had no idea it would happen so quickly. Alexander Wang had invited all of New York City to his public fashion show via social media and I knew I had to experience this show for myself. I flocked to the railing to see all of the names in fashion- yes I saw Anna Wintour with my own two eyeballs- both walk the illuminated catwalk as well as fill the show seats. This was Alexander Wang’s first fashion show open to the public and, what felt like, a huge innovation in the fashion world. Wang let everyone be a part of the experience and share in the excitement of his fashion show, previously offered to very few who make the VIP list. In just one night, I knew I witnessed fashion moving forward by leaps and bounds.

Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many challenges for the fashion industry. Stores have turned off their lights due to mandatory government closures and social distancing requirements. Unemployment numbers have made it so that people are spending less and saving more, as the future looks uncertain for many. The question of whether in-person fashion shows were happening was rapidly circulating at the beginning of the year. 

Would fashion houses be able to afford the expense? Would people be able to attend the event in person? If not, what would the presentation of a new collection look like?

Screen Shot 2020-09-09 at 9.56.03 PMBrands have been forced to make independent decisions on how they plan to present their collections, fragmenting a once cohesive industry. Many companies have forged ahead in planning digital and drive-in fashion shows, while others have decided to postpone their presentations altogether. Unlike many brands, Jacquemus decided to take the leap and hold their own in-person fashion show in a French wheat field with social distancing in place. Some brands, such as Off-White, have even taken this time to experiment with a see-now-buy-now opportunity in the future, where consumers can purchase clothes off the runway a month after they are presented. Now, if that doesn’t represent the “see it, need it, have to have it” consumer culture that permeates retail today I don’t know what does. 

Despite the obstacles that the fashion industry has faced, we have seen some unparalleled creativity in the presentation of collections. LOEWE‘s Collection in a Box, shown below, is one of my favorites, which features a curated set of tangible components that represent the brand’s latest collection as well as what the fashion show would have looked like in a paper mock up, had it happened. Celine‘s fashion show, taken via drone on the Circuit Paul Ricard motor racing track in the South of France, was also an inventive approach, which was featured on various social media outlets and on the brand’s website. While, Lanvin decided to use the beautiful and intricate Le Palais Idéal, near Lyon, as the backdrop of a short film and lookbook to feature their latest. Brands have learned how to leverage livestreams, digital marketing, film making, and much more to keep their brands alive and relevant. 

Yet, with a slew of fashion improvisations now over and done, there are clear reasons why in-person fashion shows just cannot be replaced exclusively with virtual presentations. A lot of the attention a brand receives is from having show guests dress in their latest collection and be photographed attending their fashion show. With virtually little to no attendance at the shows, less attention and press are gathered from these moments. With less influencers in attendance, there is also less organic sharing, posting, and videoing happening in the fashion world. During Copanhagen’s Fashion Week, for instance, popular brands like Ganni have taken major hits, earning $630,623 in earned media value between August 10th to 12th compared to $3,847,748 for the previous year and Saks Potts’s earned media value was $176,386, compared to last year’s $469,047. Another thing to consider is the over saturation of content on the internet and social media sites with every brand trying to compensate with virtual. When social media streams are being overwhelmed with content, it can be hard for certain brands to stick out and make their collections seen above the noise. 

So what does this mean for the future of the fashion show when conditions return to a “new normal”? In the future, I see fashion houses reverting back to in-person fashion shows, yet retaining their current digital efforts, creating hybrid-type events. There is no denying that brands get more reach when incorporating digital elements to their events. However, given that customer engagement, press releases, and personalized influencer marketing are so critical in the fashion world, the impact of in-person is hard to recreate online.

Additionally, now more than ever, I think we are seeing individuals craving unique and special experiences, which are hard to replicate with today’s digital technologies. That being said, brands should be more motivated to look into innovative technologies that help push the envelope of the consumer experience itself. We might not have the technology now to foster those unique experiences from home, but we might in the future. Obsess is one company that is helping retailers utilize virtual reality to allow customers to visit stores from their phones. Who knows if fashion shows are next in line for a virtual reality transformation in the future.  

Not only should time be spent around utilizing creative ideas to mitigate health concerns, but fashion brands should also be refocusing their efforts towards sustainability, given the incredible wastefulness regarding fashion production, as well as model representation on runways. With an increase in consumer exposure to brands, there will be a greater focus on company practices in both these realms, which have become increasingly important to, specifically, the Gen Z consumer. We have seen younger consumers prioritize supporting companies with a strong stance on sustainability and ecological preservation. Designer Gabriela Hearst‘s carbon neutral show, which appeared last year and was first in the industry, was a wake up call for everyone in fashion, showing that runway without a negative impact on the environment can be both beautiful and possible. This wave of shoppers and fashion influencers also take a strong stance towards companies who display a lack of body and racial representation, pushing brands to rethink who is walking down their runways. All things considered, fashion has a lot to think about for the future and should take this time to reflect on major changes occurring in the industry. 

Overall, the future of the fashion show may look uncertain now, but I anticipate not for too long. The fashion industry is an incredibly creative and flexible industry, which is often rewarded for out-of-the-box thinking, innovation, and boldness. The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed some of the traditional “rules of fashion” to fall away to make room for immense creativity and unconventional thinking. From curated fashion “boxes” to buy now opportunities, runway has reached an inflection point of new possibilities and will never again be the same. The future of the fashion show looks in-person, digital, TikTok live-streamed, sustainable, inclusive, a virtual reality experience, and everything in between. If fashion is able to leverage the same mindset it has in terms of design as it is to operations and strategy, the fashion shows of the future are something to definitely be excited about.  

Investing Your Time and Money in College featuring James Cheng

Saving when you’re a young adult can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I have always been vigilant when it comes to my personal finances. I am fascinated by the concept of investing and having your money work for you, where saving now can amount to incredible future wealth. This knowledge and understanding, however, did not come to me overnight. I have a college degree in business, where I took finance and accounting classes, and a father who works in the finance industry, who I poke for clarifications and explanations about nearly everything! I have found this knowledge to serve me well, especially in college, where I was able to grow my personal wealth through investing, saving, and earning money through internships, part-time work during breaks, and my job at our college library. I wanted to share the information that I learned and knew that my good friend James, a fellow Babson College graduate, would be an excellent person to contribute advice on the matter. James is one of the savviest people I know, who has turned his interest in finance and investing into a full-time job as an investment portfolio analyst at Wells Fargo in Charlotte, North Carolina.

When coming to Babson, James’ initial interest was not in finance, but rather entrepreneurship. Yet, when James took Principles Finance with Professor Bliss he was instantly hooked. Principles of Finance was the first class that James took that he found to be really challenging and related to a subject that he did not know much about. James soon took all the finance classes he could register for and quickly became adept in the subject. One of Jame’s favorite aspects of finance is that he can walk into a room with finance professionals and finds that he always learns something new. Although James still desires to start his own business in the future, he is currently focusing on learning all he can about the finance industry, so when the time comes, he’s got the finances covered.


Applying to College

James

Jame’s first piece of advice when applying to college is taking the time to apply for scholarships. If you can get a scholarship your ROI- return on investment– will most likely pay off. For example, if you spend 3 hours on a scholarship application and you earned $5,000 in financial aid assistance, you have essentially made over $1,600 per hour of your time! That’s definitely above the going rate for any entry level job I know of! James also adds that when you are in college you can continue to apply for scholarships and aid to help lower your costs overtime. Every year you can re-engage in a dialogue with your college in order to potentially reduce your cost of college, if they feel you deserve more aid. You can do so by accessing your college’s financial appeal form.

Ursula

In terms of deciding what college will be worth the most bang for your buck, it is also worth checking out the employment rates of the universities you are looking at. This can be found in the yearly reports that the college puts out on its employment statistics. After all, the end goal for seeking higher education, in many cases, is to gain the best employment opportunities. In surveying different options, this might be an important step in your college selection process.   

Establishing Credit History

James & Ursula

Jame’s advice is to get a credit card to establish credit history as soon as you can- the earlier the better. You don’t even have to use the credit card, just get one, and make sure that it is under your name so that it can counts toward your credit score. Establishing good credit for a long period of time is important for things like big purchases in the future- think your first car or first apartment rental- because it shows the bank that you are a responsible person to lend money to. Jame’s first credit card was a Wells Fargo credit card for college students with 1% cash rewards and mine was a Fidelity rewards card with 2% unlimited cash back. Learning how to use a credit card early on will also help you long term in learning how to set up automatic payments and budgeting. 

Budgeting

James

In terms of budgeting, James believes that a lot of college students could save money by cutting back on excess spending on things like eating out during the week- that $15-$30 adds up! Instead of ordering that pizza 3 times a week, minimizing this spending to 1 time per week and savoring the indulgence can help significantly in the long term. James also stresses the importance of taking advantage of work opportunities, such as work study or part-time work. James and I have definitely put in our time working in college, as James used to work in our college’s fitness center and I in the library. That way, even if you do indulge in a night out or splurge on some new sneakers, having a part-time jobs can offset some of your expenses. Passive income from investing or side hustles can also be great if you are able to seek out these opportunities. 

Ursula 

One piece of advice that I have learned from my dad is to pay yourself first. After every pay check, it is important to set some money aside for yourself to save or invest before you go out and spend all of your hard earned money at once. Think of it as an investment in yourself and in your future. With more money in your pocket, you can be prepared for anything that comes your way and life can definitely throw you the unexpected when you least expect it.

Investing early

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Photo by Burak K on Pexels.com

James

As soon as James turn 18, he open a ROTH IRA (Individual Retirement Account), which is what he recommends you do too! Some benefits from opening this account are that it is tax free, you can contribute to it regularly, and you can save significantly overtime. Whatever you can put away today, due to compound interest, is going to be worth much more when you enter into retirement. Additionally, if you are an international student, James recommends that you get an on campus job in order to receive a social security number. In getting a social security number, you can gain access to the American banking system to begin investing, saving, and much more.

Ursula

One point that James and I definitely agree on is investing in broad market index funds or exchange traded funds (ETF) over investing in the specific stocks of companies. The reason for this is that passive investing- meaning you invest your money with the forethought of holding for the long term, has historically yielded better results as opposed to active investing- picking and choosing stocks to try to beat the index. Doing this requires an incredible amount of time and energy to do thorough research on when and what to buy and sell. You really have to be an expert in order to be proficient in active investing, which incorporates greater risk in the individual investments. 

Invest in Yourself

Invest in yourself, there is no limit to a potential opportunity.
                                                                                                 – James
 

James

Some of the most important advice James highlights is to invest in yourself first and foremost. James states that you only need one door to open to be successful, so it is crucial to put as many doors in front of yourself as possible. College is what you make of it, so take advantage of all of the resources that are available that are free and can help you develop professionally and personally. James notes going to free conferences, getting his resume reviewed, and hosting all expense paid college gatherings as some of the ways that he was able to maximize his time spent in college. 

Ursula

Similar to James, I took advantage of the many opportunities Babson has to offer. Yet, I have learned that the first step in doing so is to really sit down and do some research. You won’t know what opportunities you can seize unless you find out what opportunities are out there! At Babson, I was able to receive grants for studying abroad and hosting parties as well as utilize the free receive career counseling and resume review services offered to every student. There are so many organizations, businesses, universities, and people who are willing to help those who are passionate about learning, so don’t miss out!

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The above references an opinion and is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.