CEO Sit Down: Justin McAfee on Wright One Inc.

Look! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a car?

For us mere mortals, thinking about riding around in a flying car is absurd. For Justin McAfee, it is a radical, yet feasible idea. When I first heard about his company’s concept to shake up the way that we transport ourselves, I knew that I had to hear more. Justin is a passionate entrepreneur, who has had an interest in flying since he was just 12 years old. His incredible drive and eagerness to change the world has led Justin to starting his company Wright One Inc. I look forward to the day that I can use Justin’s technology myself- flying to my favorite restaurant with friends and returning back home before the sun sets. Have I peaked your interest? Then you should continue reading.


Justin! Tell us about yourself!

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.07.56 PM

Hello, you don’t know me, but you will soon.

I’m the guy who wants to change your perception of flying and change the way we think about e-mobility in the future. Wright One, Inc. is a company bringing Jetson grade engines to reality by rethinking the way we consider thrust applications for air travel tomorrow.

I come from an aviation background with five pilot ratings and more travel horror stories than I’d like to recount. I have a mechanical engineering degree, and a sure path to prototyping to get us towards the flying car faster. Wright One, Inc. is paving the way into an era built for the Jetson’s!

“Dans les champs de l’observation le hasard ne favorise que les esprits préparés.” 

“In the field of observation, chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

I graduated from college with a bachelors of science in mechanical engineering after 6 years of undergrad schooling and transferring twice- once I left for personal reasons, the second I failed out of engineering and transferred to another university to complete my mechanical engineering degree. It was my final transfer to Mercer University where I started to really dive into entrepreneurship and pitched a business which got the attention of a graduate professor. This happen chance meetup led me to the skill of commercialization which I am continuing to refine to this day not only with Wright One, but also with 2bird Masks!

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.08.08 PMThis business I pitched never took off, but the education I received solidified my love for entrepreneurship. I also started to learn about the power of constant adaptation and change.. “I remember when the dean yelled at me, saying “You can’t take anymore grad level classes unless you’re in the MBA program.” I’d been taking them for three semesters without an issue. On top of that, I was taking courses at two separate campuses (an hour and a half away from each other) to attend weekly classes. I wanted to take these courses so badly I took 18 credit hours at one campus and then added my independent studies from the separate campus on top of my courses to take these classes. If you want something bad enough you are going to have to work to achieve the goal, because no one is going to hand you your goal on a silver platter, you are going to have to take it for yourself!

I have personally started four businesses, and only one of them has been successful thus far – my photography company, Justin McAfee Photography (jusmcafeephoto.com). This doesn’t mean I don’t give up with a dying business, it means I continue to push harder and seek to understand what went wrong with each iteration of starting a business. Then use the knowledge to build the next opportunity forward.

What was the inspiration behind Wright One, Inc.?

I have been working on the idea of Wright One, Inc. for over a decade, since I was 12 and started talking with my father about the idea of magnetically levitating cars. This was also the same year my father took me flying in our twin engine Piper Aztec and I nearly crashed the plane into Lake Conroe near Houston, Texas doing 45 degree steep bank turns. I can also remember the serial number of the airplane as N54259 – this number has been my favorite number ever since (my second favorite number is 3).

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.08.15 PM

This was the very first airplane I think my family purchased back in Houston, Texas in 2000 or 2001? You would have to ask my mom about it… notice the tail number.

Wright One, Inc. is a company focused on industry development of future flying mobility solutions. As a company we know there is going to be huge technological leaps geared at developing ‘flying car’ solutions. But we don’t think the ‘car’ aspect of the vehicle (where you drive on a road) will be the end-all solution. What’s more, we believe people would rather have a strict vertical take off or landing (VTOL) solution where you fly directly to your home and land in the driveway (think of a helicopter landing in your driveway) based on customer interviews and based on the versatility of the helicopter. Wright One, Inc. intends to be the core of how the development of the flying car ecosystem begins.

Some Background

When you look at the aviation industry and the way people are traveling you begin to see a fractured element. There needs to be a more customized and sophisticated logistics approach to air travel for the common person. Traveling in bulk containers across the nation are becoming crowded and cities are developing at a quickening rate to catch up with our travel system. You can see this fracture at dense metropolitan airports like Dallas/Fort Worth International, JFK International, and Chicago O’Hare International. Instead of flying from a small city to a dense airport to fly to another hub and then to another small city, we need to cut out the middle two locations to not only make it more convenient for traveling but also more efficient from an energy standpoint.

In my opinion, the engine is the key to kicking off this spur in future development for more customized flying vehicles. The engine is the reason why we need to rethink how we, as a society are going to think about VTOL and flight possibilities. Currently there are 4 manufacturers that specialize in making these engines for our current mode of transportation. This isn’t going to sustain the innovation rate that is going to be needed for things like space travel to Mars, commercial drone shipping across the country, and my personal favorite super-sonic flight across the globe for one person. We need to have more choice in the engine solutions we can model to our vehicles. That’s where the Orville comes in, this is where this engine will radically start to change the way we think about propulsive devices for the future.

So here is the (multi)billion dollar question: how do you design an engine for future mobility solutions which has ALL the benefits of current combustion engines but has the added value of being able to configure itself to have the best efficiency across multiple points of operation in flight?

Let’s talk about our first product, the Orville, a bit.

This is where Wright One, Inc. is playing. We are changing the way we fly with the Wright Turbine.

Our turbine has a number of advantages :

  • 100% electric
  • Silent
  • No central shaft – less weight, more surface area, and greater thrust

This means for future engine operations, not only can we give you the power you need optimally for cruise flight, but we can also give you the exact amount of power you need for take-off and landing situations as well (whether this is vertical take-off or a rolling take-off).

Go wild – you deserve it, we all do!

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.08.25 PM

This is one of my favorite photos from the Alaska seaplane trip my dad and I did in 2019 for my birthday. We went to Alaska for 3 or 4 days and got our seaplane rating during that time.

Who are some entrepreneurs that you are inspired by?

It may come as a shock, but I am incredibly inspired by the Wright Brothers. They lived in the days of great titans like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Henry Ford.

The Wright Brothers fought tooth and nail through patent issues to have their aircraft design be the first one for controlled powered flight. The ideology for being able to make the impossible possible is where my inspiration from the Wright Brothers came from. This is what drove me through my 6 years of engineering school, what drove me to keep pushing after a failing company, and to start a photography business after getting fired from my engineering company and take it to 6-figures within one year with the help of key partnerships.

Entrepreneurship is a beautiful endeavor and is not for the faint of heart. You have to have an exceptionally strong passion for the product you are delivering and you must be in it for the long haul once the business launches. There are no shortcuts in this process.

Stories like these titans and how they got started are inspirations for me, Elon Musk is definitely in that ballpark. Elon Musk did an interview with 60 minutes where he teared up talking about Neil Armstong speaking vehemently against private space companies launching rockets in 2012. Are you going to push past your fears and stand on the shoulders of giants before you?

My father has been a huge source of inspiration for me with Wright One. His passion for flying and for engineering not only set me on a course for Mechanical Engineering when I was thinking about my major, but also got me a job as an airplane mechanic at the age of 16 with a mechanic at our home airport in Burleson, Texas. Since then my family has had 7 aircrafts which we have churned through selling and upgrading to the current one the family has now, a G58 Beechcraft Baron. 

I remember one time where my father and I were flying back from a ski trip where we started in Denver, Colorado. We were taxiing onto the runway and the airplane literally fishtailed as we turned to get lined up. This was a towered airport so we had clearance to take off, but the wildest thing was the runway was completely covered in snow. Once we got up into the air we encountered a super-cooling event where 3 inches of ice began to build up onto the leading surfaces of the airplane. The airplane was ‘so proven’ that the airframe was able to not only take the 3 inches of ice, but made short work of getting rid of the ice even after the event that we didn’t have to stop and wait for the storm to pass.

Screen Shot 2021-01-06 at 9.08.31 PM

This is my dad, the most gutsy pilot imaginable. He has taught me never to stay down. Always get back up and keep fighting, no matter the cost. Always believe in yourself and never let someone crush your dream.

Here we are in two of the airplanes we have owned in the past. The left airplane is a C172 Turbo and the airplane on the right was a Cessna TT-x a composite built aircraft (fastest prop plane on the market at the time flying at over 270 MPH).

I want the freedom to be able to go anywhere, at any time. And I want to be able to do it cheaply with a proven technology. The Orville engine is the first step to realizing this dream, currently operating a Cessna 172 with a glass cockpit is $160 an hour – flying at around 150 mph. For the common person this doesn’t make sense taking into consideration the amount of time and money it takes to get a pilot’s license. We can do better for the 21st century and beyond. The first thing to make air travel, flying cars, a reality – is driving down this hourly operating cost (for a vehicle it’s between the $30 and $50 mark currently).

What has been the biggest challenge in starting Wright One, Inc.?

The biggest challenge we have faced as a team has been structuring the company and getting the math to confirm the concept’s feasibility. We are creating new mathematical models to model the engineering behind the Orville engine. Merging two mature technologies to develop a novel iteration. Nothing groundbreaking, this is just the next step in technological development.

There currently is no text or proven concepts that tie together the mathematics which we are doing with a turbine and an electric motor. They are proven separately, but conjoined the mathematics shape out differently and as a team we realize we are going to need some highly specialized aviators to help confirm this type of math. 

We recently were approached by a venture capitalist here in Boston to start the conversation of working with Wright One, and as the VC was sitting there chatting with me about how we are going to put the engine onto his very light jet body and retrofit some of the components to make the concept work even better he started to realize just how early stage the Orville was currently. This was when he started talking about his team, which comprises four of the SR-71 Blackbird team who formerly worked for Lockheed Martin’s famed skunk works to give you the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft. A record which has been unbroken since its inception in 1966.

One of the engineers is wanting to help us develop the math and the concept to bring you the engine we promise. One which can take on the current jet engine and bring you the next wave of technological innovations!

What do you find interesting about new technologies, like the one you are working on?

The potential.

But if you look at new technologies, a perfect example is the Detroit Auto Show every year. There are new technologies featured every year which capture the imagination and attention of consumers the world over for what is ‘to come’ and what is already here!

The problem with the auto show is the novel technologies don’t really have a plan forward. They show what could possibly be in the industry, but what could become in the future might take in what BMW recently released with their 100 year vision concept vehicle. Meaning that the concept vehicle would be the vehicle which ‘would be released’ (most likely will look significantly different because of market conditions) by BMW 100 years in the future. Another vehicle that is a perfect example is the famous Audi vehicle which was portrayed in i-Robot with Will Smith.

Why can’t we have that car today?

Of course, having been working in the auto industry I can say it’s not as simple as saying let’s design, package and ship it, suppliers don’t want to make a huge jump forward in technology because of the untested materials and huge cost to testing which would need to take place and manufacturers can’t promise that vehicle because if they did, they would be staking their brand equity to push production for the vehicle at such a breakneck speed. Incremental innovation here is the name of the game. Have a product ready for market and push your vision further with scheduled ‘freeze points’ bringing a product to market. Then watch as your competition struggles to keep up with the pace of new technology your company is constantly bringing to market.

So, we get stuck with incremental innovation and this allows for companies to educate (manipulate) customers into future mobility solutions where you know how to use the product over time. Think Apple and their tech hub system. They started with the iPod and now they have the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Pro, Apple TV, and AirPods all seamlessly working together to bring you entertainment, health services, and a platform to share your creativity with the world. That’s their “Why” as Simon Sinek discusses.

What have been some of the most rewarding moments in your journey with Wright One, Inc.?

The most rewarding part of my journey working on Wright One, Inc. has been working steadily through the process of building the business from the ground up. I’ve done this before with my own photography business, Justin McAfee Photography, and the reward of building the company over time was incredibly fulfilling because I got to see people’s faces directly impacted by my work. But one of the most fulfilling moments was getting to see clients’ faces when I gave them something tangible, like a photo album or a photo print.

The tangibility is what I find to be the most rewarding in the journey. Something people can see, touch, feel, and experience. You can take all of my money in the world, but if I get to see the way that my products impact society on a global scale, I will have achieved a life dream of mine. Change my mind, I dare you.

What is your ultimate goal- blue sky dreams- for the company?

My ultimate goal for Wright One, Inc. is for you – for anyone to be able to travel 7500 miles away for breakfast in the morning and be back in time for lunch. Forget flying cars, what about an affordable supersonic craft for agile, rapid, personal transportation.

More than 100 years ago, everybody said humans would never fly. The Wright brothers set out and proved them wrong. Now, I’m doing the same thing with Wright One by building the first commercially viable flying car with a first of its kind electromagnetic turbine. Most people scoff when I say that, picturing something out of the Jetsons. “Flying car” is almost shorthand for pie-in-the-sky technology we’ll never see in our lifetime! We used to dream of the stars, but technology has only given us social media addiction and increasing isolation. But what if things could be different? What if you could hop in your car, push a few buttons, and fly off to see your friend on the other side of the country, before coming back in time for lunch? With Wright One, we’re bringing the boundless optimism of the space age coupled with the limitless potential of the open sky, directly to your morning commute.

Yes, this means I want to create a flying vehicle, something which you can fly yourself with no expert knowledge, no specialized training, an hour and a half, halfway across the globe to go experience breakfast in new, breathtaking locations.

What does the future of flying look like to you?

For me to answer this question, I think the best thing for me to do is tell you about what flying from a general aviation standpoint looks like.

Let’s say that you want to take you and your 3 best friends to a BBQ place which is 20 minutes flying time (about 60 miles away) south of your current location. Here are the steps which it would take for you to get there:

  1. You and your friends get into the airplane 
  2. You get the weather at your current location and you taxi to the runway (this does not take prior planning – this can be completely on the spot, no pre-planning called a ‘visual flight rating’ clearance)
  3. You take-off and fly to your destination (you don’t even have to communicate with anyone in the air – just the tower at your destination after taking off)
  4. You land
  5. You enjoy BBQ – and at the restaurant I am thinking about, they come pick you up on the tarmac after you land in a golf cart to take you back to the restaurant

Compare this to traveling commercially, how much time do you spend in line dealing with customs… getting to your airplane’s gate. The experience is night and day. The stress is night and day. For the 21st century, traveling should be significantly more stress free, no matter the distance.

So now, I want to answer the question of what does the future of flying look like for me? It looks like driving today. Common place, convenient, and boring. The only difference is that flying will be much more stress free than driving on roadways of today. This is because of the amount of space we have in the air to utilize versus the billions of taxpayer dollars we spend yearly to keep up the infrastructure of our roadways.

Last question, do you believe we will live in a Jetsons world eventually?

12066894I get asked this question all the time, and I guess it’s warranted. I typically answer on the spot saying my concept engine is like the Jetsons’ vehicle because it’s the easiest way of framing the conversation in saying this is a GIANT leap forward in turbine technology.

But really, I adjusted a couple of things and came up with a design which makes the current design obsolete. It happens everyday with mature technologies like the jet turbine. We need an electric equivalent. Thing is, when will the public be ready to fly in an all-electric airplane? Only you can help me answer that question!

Star Wars has single handedly birthed a number of technologies just because of things which were seen on set.

This is the remarkable thing about humanity and one thing I love so much about being human. We are able to connect dots which aren’t supposed to connect. We are in essence the very ‘x’ factor which machines, artificial intelligence, tend to avoid. Don’t forget that when you are afraid a robot may be taking over your job in the future. 

Will we live in a Jetson’s World eventually? My answer is no, we will live in a world inconceivable and 100x better than the Jetson’s World because there are people like you, reading this blog post and making connections which aren’t supposed to be made.

Go make something! And tell me about it!

CEO Sit Down: Bert Cumming on Mijimask

Inspiring individuality and identity, while covering up and keeping safe.

Masks have been on everyone’s mind since the beginning of the year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has become an increasing concern for people across the globe. The Center for Disease Control has advised mask usage in helping decrease the spread of COVID-19, as masks provide a barrier to prevent respiratory droplets from being transferred from person to person. For many Americans, mask usage is a new concept that makes expressing who we are difficult, because of the area of the face masks cover. Realizing this, Bert Cumming started a business during the past year that focuses on helping children show their personality and individuality with Mijimask.

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.08.24 PMBert! Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am a junior, and recent transfer, at Babson College.  I am concentrating in finance and entrepreneurship with hopes to one day take one of my companies public on the stock exchange.  I consider myself an innovator and a doer, what I mean by that is that I love to create solutions to all sorts of problems and my motivation drives me to attack these ideas.  

Some hobbies include Jet Skiing over the summer, snowmobiling over the winter and day trading in between.

What is Mijimask and what was the inspiration behind the business?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.23.55 PMMijimask is a customizable face mask designed for children of all ages. Our mission is to provide children the opportunity to “own the pandemic” by wearing a mask that represents who they are. It provides children the ability to customize their own masks thereby providing them a unique mask and gaining confidence. Mijimask allows kids (recommended ages 5+) to customize their masks with attachable and detachable Mijis making them unique to their personalities.  

My inspiration behind the business is to prevent kids from losing their individuality by covering their faces every day.  At young ages, children are susceptible to every little thing they are exposed too, and I do not want their creativity to be effected in the future years because of the pandemic that is happening at this pivotal time in their lives.

What excites you about the business and the business’ mission?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.24.03 PMWhat excites me the most about this business is the direct correlation that comes from COVID-19.  In today’s marketplace supply chains are affected across the globe affecting businesses, and if I can learn to navigate the supply/product market in the hardest time in history, I will be more than capable of navigating the market when COVID-19 does not exist.  

My mission is exciting because I am working towards protecting the creativity of young minds, and this is important to me because I consider my creativity and innovative abilities to be some of the most important traits I have.

What makes Mijimask different from other masks on the market?

Mjimask is different from other masks because it promotes the personality and customization of face masks. Other masks in the market are extremely generic and mass produced with printed designs on them, limiting the rarity of the mask itself. Mijimask makes it nearly impossible to have the exact same mask as anyone else, promoting creativity when designing the mask.

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting and operating the business?

Screen Shot 2020-12-15 at 6.24.19 PMMarketing has been the most challenging aspect of operating my business.  This is due to the sole reason that I do not know how advertising and marketing work, and I have to spend a majority of my time studying and learning instead of actually doing something since it is costly.  I had previously underestimated marketing as a whole, and now have much more respect for that industry.

What has been the most rewarding moment of starting and operating Mijimask?

The most rewarding moment of starting Mijimask, MaskMate L.L.C. is demonstrated in the picture of the two girls below.  When I received this picture of the kids choosing their mijis to put on their mask, I knew what I was doing was for the right cause and my mission was chosen correctly. 

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are starting or would like to start a business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Do it. Do not let COVID-19 delay your plans to start a business or intimidate you into not starting your business at all.  We do not know how long this will last and the longer you wait, the less passion you will have for your idea in the future and less of a chance to be successful.  Start your business not matter the environment around you, and learn as you go–like I am currently doing with marketing. 

What about the future excites you?

Screen_Shot_2020-12-15_at_5.22.23_PM-removebg-preview

I am excited for these vaccines to be released, and for things to go back to normal as soon as possible.  People keep saying, “our new normal”, but I do not want to accept a world wear wearing a face mask and doing work and school online is considered our “normal”.  The way we are currently living is a false reality and we need to do everything possible to return to the world we used to live in, where it was normal to gather in groups for holidays and no one needs to feel scared when a simple cough is let out. Mijimask is made to make these times easier, but it is not made to make these times acceptable forever. We need to wear our masks while we are told to prevent the spread, but we also need to accept the time when it comes to abandon these masks and return to our normal way of life, and I am excited for that day to come. 


Contact Mijimask

Website 

Instagram

CEO Sit Down: Ivana Mesarić on American Opulence

Thrifting like you have never seen it before.

Palm Beach raised, Boston educated, and currently living in the Orange County area, Ivana Mesarić is a force to be reckoned with, ready to make waves in the fashion industry with her new vintage luxury retail company American Opulence

Ivana has always known that she was destined to be a full-time entrepreneur and, even when she was in Middle School, exhibited some incredible entrepreneurial spirit. Ivana remembers heading to Goodwill with her mom when she was 13 years old during the 2008 financial recession, as her family had encountered hardship. For Ivana, this was a drastic change, however she learned to enjoy the experience, going with a friend to find fun and interesting items. Everything changed one day when Ivana went to Goodwill and found a Tory Burch tunic for $3, which she was able to resell on Ebay for $100. Ivana’s ability to make money this way was mind blowing to her at such a young age. Selling the tunic sparked the idea of buying other things to resell. Ivana quickly began familiarizing herself with designer labels and subscribing to popular fashion magazines in order to educate herself on what popular designer brands she should look for and which would yield the best resale value. As times changed, Ivana transitioned from selling on Ebay to Poshmark and got more serious about her hobby once she moved out to Orange County, California after graduating from Babson College. 

Screen Shot 2020-11-06 at 2.02.15 PM

Although Ivana is currently an analyst at an energy consulting company, she always makes time for thrifting. Having been involved in creative outlets her whole life, whether it be in music, dance, or musical theater, Ivana has always tapped into her creative side. Thrifting was just another way Ivana expressed herself, this time through fashion. “You never know what you are going to find on a thrifting outing,” Ivana says, “which makes it so fun and therapeutic in a way”. One of the most compelling parts of the business for Ivana is making older items look new again, she mentions. She also enjoys having control over the branding, fashion, and overall styling of the pieces. 

While living in the Orange County area, Ivana has curated a large selection of cool items, which got her to consider formalizing her resale business into an exclusive luxury store over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ivana always thought that her transition into entrepreneurship needed to include a world changing idea, yet she realized that it really didn’t have to be- it could be stylish and simple.

American Opulence’s aesthetic is luxurious and fashion forward, most of the pieces being one of a kind, Ivana tells me. One of the company’s main motivations is to convey that you don’t have to purchase from fast fashion retailers in order to be on trend. Surprisingly, Ivana finds a lot of fast fashion items while she thrifts, most likely items sent to influencers in press packages, she informs me. Some of Ivana’s favorite pieces in her curated collection, however, are oversized trench coats that exhibit quality and classic style. Lifetime pieces.  

One of the challenges that Ivana has encountered during the process of starting her business has been figuring out who her niche target market is, seeing that there is a lot of competition in the thrifted fashion space. That being said, as far as the future of thrifted fashion goes, Ivana sees the second hand fashion industry as a huge market that isn’t going anywhere soon. Gucci’s recent collaboration with The RealReal is just one example of how high end designers are trying to leverage the thrift market to the company’s benefit. Looking towards the future, Ivana also senses that getting traffic to the website will become a challenge, which she prepares to mitigate by leveraging Instagram and Instagram ads to target the Gen Z and Millennial market. 

“Even though the market is saturated, it’s not over saturated,”

Ivana says. 

In terms of the future, Ivana is excited about her new company, but also the impact it will have on the world, given that 5% of all of her sales are going to one of her favorite charities called MoviesMakingaDifference. MoviesMakingaDifference is a non-profit that directly aids the survivors of human trafficking and is especially important to Ivana, as she has volunteered extensively for the organization. 

I am convinced that, if Ivana is involved, the future of fashion looks more than bright. 

CEO Sit Down: Jack Flynn on Pure World

Pure World: Promoting adventure through sustainably sourced products.

Jack Flynn is someone who sees opportunity in everything. That’s why when Jack saw a hemp backpack for the first time, he knew that he had to share them with the world- through Pure World. Pure World is a company that sells sustainable backpacks that embody adventure, eco-friendliness, and social responsibility. A start-up founded in college, Pure World is now a fully operating company, sending backpacks to adventurers around the globe. Read all about Jack and his Pure World adventure below!


Jack! Tell us about you!

Hi Ursula, thanks for having me! So I grew up in Attleboro, Massachusetts and went to public school there my entire life. I played lots of sports, took music lessons and studied hard enough to be accepted into Babson College – a school ranked #1 in the nation for entrepreneurship. I chose business school because I believe that it’s the quickest and easiest way to make a meaningful impact on the world.

What was the inspiration behind starting your company Pure World?

Screen Shot 2020-09-19 at 11.47.55 AM

I always knew that I wanted to start a company with the minimum requirement that it’d be inherently sustainable. During your freshman year at Babson College, every student is required to start a business. My 14 person team had students from ALL over the world and one of our teammates was from Nepal. She had brought a hemp backpack to school that she had purchased from a street vendor in Kathmandu and our team absolutely fell in love with it. She asked her father to meet with the backpack vendor and to organize a bulk order and the rest is history!

Well that’s at least the story about how we were introduced to our backpacks… but my mantra for Pure World is that it is more than just a backpack company. I had the opportunity to travel and explore the outdoors a lot as a kid and that part of me really came to life when I saw that first Himalayan hemp backpack. Those backpacks belong in the great outdoors. I imagined all of the incredible adventures that our customers would take them on. In my opinion, sustainability is ingrained in our DNA, whereas adventure and free-spiritedness is our true personality.

What makes Pure World products unique and different from other products on the market?

Screen Shot 2020-09-19 at 11.47.17 AM

Pure World Backpacks embody sustainable fashion! The organic hemp that we use is local and abundant in Nepal. It requires a fraction of the amount of water that cotton requires and none of the pesticides. Not to mention hemp fibers are extremely versatile and durable too! Apart from the environmentally friendly aspect of our bags, they’re also socially sustainable. Our manufacturer really emphasizes social responsibility! They pay their employees well over the minimum wage and offer many care programs such as educational scholarships, personal finance classes, and health care clinics. I really believe that we sell the BEST hemp backpacks on the market.

 What has been the most interesting part of starting this company?

Our goal is to create a community of people who are passionate about sustainability and adventure. It has been an incredible experience to see the type of people who are attracted to our bags. They are people who care about the environment and want to cherish it and explore it in a respectful way. They are friendly and awesome! We are excited to build a platform that can support them. Something that helps them share ideas and meet new like-minded people.

What has been the biggest challenge in starting Pure World? Are there any stories that stick out to you?

Screen Shot 2020-09-19 at 11.47.43 AM

To me, the challenges are always the most interesting part! My first challenge was finding a replacement for our original manufacturer. Back in 2017, our bags were cool but their quality was just not quite where we wanted them to be. So after wiring money to half a dozen Nepalese manufacturers and receiving a ton of samples, we chose the manufacturer with the highest quality products and who offered the most employee support programs.

Secondly, facilitating community development has been a challenge. We spent a lot of time building a platform that allows travelers to document experiences as well as access a crowd-sourced database of other unique recommendations for off-the-beaten-path experiences. Unfortunately, servers and software development is expensive. Once our platform is robust enough to support users we are considering offering an access code with each of our Pure World Backpacks.

What does the future of Pure World look like? Do you have any goals or milestones you would like to achieve?

We are always moving forward! Right now we are looking to develop a carbon offset program. This would essentially mean that for every backpack purchased, Pure World would invest in carbon capture technology that would offset all of the carbon emissions associated with shipping and manufacturing the bag. Ideally, we could even take it a step further. Imagine the tagline “For every backpack purchased, we eliminate twice the amount of carbon created”.

Last question, favorite Pure World item?

We sold this one backpack called Purple Moose a while back. I took that bag with me on the most daring adventure of my life: a 10,000 KM solo backpacking trip from Paris to Bangkok. But it was never the specific style that made it special. It was special to me because of memories that I made with it.

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.

Screen Shot 2020-09-21 at 2.50.09 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2020-09-21 at 2.49.41 PM

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.

 

The Other Ursula Dedekind

Leaving a legacy of elegance, beauty, resilience, and glistening gowns.

It may surprise many to know that I am not the first Ursula Dedekind, I am actually the second. I was named after my grandmother or “Omi” as my family calls her. My Omi lead an incredible life that I thought deserves to be shared, especially since her passing this past March at the age of 89 years old.

Omi’s story is one of perseverance, resilience, and strength, one that typifies the struggle of many immigrants in The United States. But, it is also a story of wonder, elegance, adventure, and style- a full life to say the least. My Omi immigrated to America in 1962 with her husband and my father from Lima, Peru, where my grandparents owned a children’s clothing store called Pepe Grillo. The reason for their departure from South America was as a result of simmering political tensions in the country, which they heard about while attending a dinner party. Instead of returning to Hamburg, Germany, where they were both from, my grandparents decided to immigrate to America, as my grandmother had a cousin who was willing to sponsor them- more adventure to await them.

My Omi’s first job was at Henri Bendel- which, at the time, was a high end fashion retailer- in New York City. At Henri Bendel, she made custom ready-to-wear clothing for wealthy clients. When her client base became big enough, she rented a space to work out of in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and established her own business as a couturier. A major inflection point in her professional journey was when her husband, my grandfather, passed away from a heart attack, while delivering clothing on a hot day in New York City. From that point, my Omi decided to shift her business into selling directly to companies, lessening the burden of having to work for individual clients. Omi’s main client was Leron, who she designed and made nightgowns and lingerie for. Having tired of the work, it was by chance that one day on the street she bumped into her old colleague Monica Hickey from Henri Bendel, who was now the bridal director. Monica told her that she should make wedding gowns and, without skipping a beat, my Omi returned to Henri Bendel, this time making bridal gowns under her own name Ursula D.

Quickly, Omi made a name for herself, transitioning her skill in making beautiful nightgowns into making stunning handmade wedding dresses that could be seen in Egypt, France, Italy, Japan, and South America, as well as in Saudi Arabian palaces- elegant designs that would be desired by brides around the world. Omi was particularly famous for making her signature handmade satin organza flowers featured at the dress’s shoulder line and her pearl embroidery. Some of my Omi’s most memorable clients include Spike Lee’s wife Tonya Lewis, James Taylor’s wife Kathryn Walker, Alison Becker, my mother, actor Charlton Heston’s daughter, former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn’s niece, as well as many American socialites and even international royalty. She also made the bridesmaids dresses for Maria Shriver’s wedding who married Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1986. Yet, arguably, one of her most famous designs was for Vera Wang, known today for her own wedding dresses. Vera Wang wore a dress custom made and designed by my Omi when she married Arthur Becker in 1989. Wang’s dress- which weighed an astonishing 45 pounds- was made from pure silk satin and french lace and with hand embroidered pearls and Austrian crystals overlaid. A truly stunning dress for Wang’s big day.

My Omi loved the beauty, artistry, and creativity of making her gowns in addition to the connection it allowed her to have with others. She also enjoyed the challenge of customization, having her clients be able to design along side her their dream wedding dress. That challenge, however, did not come without a considerable amount of hard work. My father notes that she remembers Omi staying up late every night after dinner, working at the sewing machine on embroidering pieces. For her, the work was labor intensive and required extreme detail and care on her part as the designer. Deciding to retire in 1997 from such a hectic pace, Omi stepped away at the height of her career, when she was most familiar with the fashion trends and practices of the time, before wedding styles changed radically into slinky, strapless designs. However, I was happy to have grown up with her at every event, recital, and family holiday.

I will remember my grandmother for many things: her subtle German accent, impeccable style, hard working nature, and beautiful gowns. But most of all, I take away from her an awe inspiring perseverance. My Omi’s journey towards becoming a couturier for the “who’s who” did not come without its obstacles, patience, and hours of diligent work. From overcoming living through World War II as a child, to uprooting her life and living in South America, to finding a new home in The United States, my Omi learned how to navigate extreme uncertainty with grace and poise.

One day in the future, when I walk down the aisle in the dress that Omi made for my mother when she married my father, I will beam with pride, happy to know that she is with me on one of my most important days. Right by my side, as she should be. How she would have wanted it to be.

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?

Screen Shot 2020-09-17 at 2.16.09 PM

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?

Screen Shot 2020-09-16 at 3.11.40 PM

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?

Screen Shot 2020-09-16 at 3.17.32 PM

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. 

 

CEO Sit Down: MetaLogic Consulting with Rayan Goyal

A company providing creative machine learning and data science solutions for the world.

There is no question that machine learning and artificial intelligence have become a crucial component in business today. As companies collect more and more data, these tools have been deployed to help businesses derive meaningful insights and support business decisions. Having worked in the manufacturing sector, Rayan and Aditya quickly realized the need for sophisticated analytics in this industry and, after graduating from Babson College this past May, Rayan and Aditya started their own data science driven consulting firm MetaLogic Consulting. MetaLogic Consulting provides tailor-made, data driven solutions to manufacturing companies across the American Midwest and beyond. I had the privilege to sit down with one of the CEOs Rayan Goyal to learn more about how their company is making a serious impact driven by data.


Rayan, tell us about yourself!

Hey! I’m Rayan, and I am from Chennai, India. Growing up, I always had a passion for numbers and mathematics, which eventually led me to concentrate in Computational Finance and Data Analytics at Babson College. I also grew up in a very business-oriented environment, and so I have always wanted to start my own company. As soon as I graduated from Babson, my roommate Aditya Kaushika and I co-founded MetaLogic Consulting, which is a company that provides machine learning and data science solutions for primarily American manufacturing firms. 

What was the inspiration behind starting your consulting practice MetaLogic Consulting and what differentiates your company from other consulting firms?

After working for multiple manufacturing companies in the Midwest and in India, Aditya and I realized that there was a lack of sophisticated analytics being implemented in large corporations that you would expect to have top-level analytics. We realized that most data scientists tend to flock to the east or west coast, leaving this huge untapped market in the Midwest. So, we came up with the idea of creating a machine learning and data science consulting company that specifically targets manufacturing companies in the Midwest. 

To your second question, there are multiple factors that differentiate us from other consulting companies. As I mentioned before, we are targeting an industry and a market that tends to be ignored by large consulting firms. Also, we have an entire dedicated team that works on each project that we are hired for, which is very different from the “one consultant” approach that is standard in the industry. Furthermore, we not only provide end-to-end solutions, but we also tailor-make our services to unique customer requirements. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What is the mission and ethos of your company?

Broadly speaking, our mission is to help companies derive the most out of their data. You’d be surprised to know how many companies there are out there that collect a ton of data but don’t really do much with it. Our goal is to help them use this data in meaningful ways to grow, expand profits, and realize returns.

What is the greatest challenge that you have experienced in starting your new business?

I think that the biggest challenge that we encountered was that we had to repurpose our fundamental data science and machine learning knowledge to fit the different tools used by different companies. To be more specific, we had to re-learn, in a way, how to do what we do using the different softwares and environments that are used by various companies.

What makes machine learning and artificial intelligence so critical to business in today’s world?

At MetaLogic, we have always said that machine learning and artificial intelligence are no longer luxuries but are necessary to stay competitive in today’s business world. Let me give you a very simplified example to explain what I mean. Assume that you are a widget manufacturer that has only one machine. After using the machine for a year straight, it breaks down for two weeks. During these two weeks, you have an increase in costs (repairs and maintenance), a decrease in revenue (no inventory to sell), and a newly-developed perception of being unreliable. 

To prevent all these things from happening, your company could have used a machine learning algorithm that tracks your machine usage data and tells you when you need to repair it or how to use it optimally to prevent breakdowns. Now, this is a very simplified example, but the point is that as businesses and processes get more complex, there are countless opportunities for machine learning and data science to help improve efficiencies. This is especially true if companies want to stay ahead of the curve and be competitive. 

Photo by Markus Spiske on Pexels.com

What is one thing that you wish more people knew about data science?

I think that there is a preconceived notion that data science, and machine learning specifically, is a field that is very complicated and overwhelming. A lot of executives only think of autonomous cars or highly sophisticated concepts when they think of machine learning, which, in turn, makes them feel like it is not applicable to their business. But, in reality, data science can be applied to the simplest of tasks at almost every single company in the world that collects data. 

What about the future excites you?

I believe that the future is very exciting for data science as a whole. More companies are understanding the value in implementing machine learning and data science within their firms. This not only means a larger market for us but also leads to more deliberate and interesting decisions taken by companies across the board. 


Where to find MetaLogic:

Email: rayan.goyal@metalogicconsulting.com

Website

LinkedIn

Spotify and Apple Music: Podcasts

CEO Sit Down: Jesse Selchow on Stevies General Store

Jesse Selchow’s new company born from tie-dye dreams.

In the chaos and idleness that quarantine can bring, many people have utilized newfound time to turn their hobbies into businesses. My friend Jesse Selchow is one of them, who has been transforming vintage finds into up-cycled tie-dye pieces. I sat down with Stevies General Store‘s CEO Jesse Selchow to learn more about how she turned her passion for tie-dye into a business over the past few months.

Jesse, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Hi! I’m Jesse. I grew up in the midwest with hippie parents, so tie-dye was something I saw a lot of when I was a kid. I have worked in the fashion industry for over ten years, and have dabbled in everything from styling to model casting, to eventually becoming an event producer for luxury brands.

How did Stevies General Store start and why recycled clothing turned tie-dye chic?

I have always had a love for vintage! With the world in its current state, no one is doing events so I found myself with extra time on my hands. I started brainstorming how I could combine my enthusiasm for hunting recycled clothing with a new hobby of tie-dye and turn it into a creative outlet.

Personally, has starting this business helped you to manage the COVID-19 quarantine currently present throughout the United States?

Definitely. It has been a blessing to find the feeling of productivity, even amongst the chaos surrounding the world. Keeping busy was really important for me to stay sane.

What is something you look for when finding clothing to recycle and revamp?

I have an affinity for 80’s era clothing, especially when I am looking to up-cycle. I always thought the retro 80’s graphics were really cool, and turning that into something new has been exciting.

What has been the most unexpected challenge in starting your e-commerce Instagram business?

The most unexpected challenge has definitely been the time it took to get the style and aesthetic of the brand ready to show the world. The possibilities are endless when identifying your style and, to me, continuity is the most important part of a brand.

What has been the most fun part of starting your new business?

Experimenting with colors and dying techniques has been really fun, especially on vintage items that already have a certain style to them. Surprisingly, I also found enjoyment doing the photoshoots for Instagram. I hate having my photo taken, however, we managed to find a playful way to do it that made it feel like I’m not taking myself too seriously which is ultimately what the overall project is about.

What new skills have you learned in starting Stevies General Store?

I have learned a lot of tie-dye techniques that I had never tried before and lately I started experimenting with ice dying which I am going to focus on for home goods such linen napkins and placemats.

Last question, if you could tie-dye any clothing piece- from past, present, future, you name it- what would it be?

I would love to die a vintage gown- ideally an organza or taffeta dress with big sleeves and a bow. Probably a vintage Yves Saint Laurent or Valentino from the 70’s or 80’s.