Neal Jeup on Becoming a Model

Life can lead us on unexpected twists and turns, Neal’s twist was modeling.

I’m sure it would surprise many to know that model Neal Jeup was an entrepreneur well before all of the jet setting and photographing began. Neal is one of eight siblings, who grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a suburb right outside Detroit. In Neal’s house entrepreneurship was always at the center and, when he was only 19 years old, Neal started his own iOS device repair service business, which serviced between 2,000 to 3,000 devices by the time he graduated from high school. Neal credits this repair business in leading him to pursue entrepreneurship full time one day. Neal went on to study finance at Clemson University in South Carolina, yet his career path would become anything but straight. The summer after his Freshman year in college, Neal taught English at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Following this experience, he would travel to Shanghai and work with some of the founding members of Über, as the company navigated their entrance into the Chinese market and developed the initial framework for ÜberEnglish. After such engaging and unique summer experiences, Neal found it difficult to re-enter a traditional classroom setting and decided to take a leave from school to return to work with Uber in Shanghai. Fate had other plans for Neal when, at a modeling gig for his girlfriend at the time, he was asked to step in for a missing model. Soon, Neal was signed with a local agency called AMAX, which was required to participate in the shoot, and so his modeling career began! 

Although he never imagined he would become a full time model, Neal thought he would at least participate in the modeling agency’s annual showcase, where they flew in scouts from across the globe to view their models. At the end of the showcase, Neal was surprised to find many offers from agencies in Los Angeles, New York, and Miami that he thought modeling might play a part in his future. Putting his return to Shanghai on hold, Neal took a leap of faith and moved to Seoul, South Korea, to build up his modeling portfolio. He views this time as being instrumental in his development as a model, learning to become comfortable on set and in front of a camera. After living in Seoul, Neal lived in Tokyo, Japan, Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, California until settling in New York City, which is when he began to land high profile jobs with Vince, Cole Haan, Tommy Hilfiger, Rag & Bone, and Christian Dior. Neal says that his favorite shoot was for Dior’s newest fragrance at the time “Joy,” where he got to work with Jennifer Lawrence as well as DP, Emmanuel Lubezki and director, Francis Lawrence. 

When asked about some advice he wishes he knew before getting into modeling? Neal responds that he wished he would have focused more on personal growth in the beginning of his career, than comparing himself to other people in the industry. “There is so much about the industry that you personally can’t change, the agents handling almost everything. And you look the way you look,” Neal mentions. “After entering the modeling industry, I quickly realized that no matter how far you take a career, there will always be someone with a leg up. Designers might like you one day, and run cold the next. It was incredibly disheartening out of the gate.” It was only when Neal acknowledged this fact and decided to focus on personal development that he became truly happy. “We’re inadvertently taught to idolize the fictitious, continuously euphoric, lives we see through social media – like a revolving door of jealousy,” he notes.

All things considered, unlike other models, Neal was able to find comfort in the fact that he would one day return to school and finish his degree, making it easier for him to put less pressure on himself to perform and find work. Neal was hyper focused on the fact that poor decisions regarding reckless behavior would yield underwhelming results in the future. As a model, Neal found himself in a world where the only factor of relevance was appearance and, therefore, saw other models take advantage of being careless with their health through partying and other means- a live fast die young mindset.  “When you think that you are going to be a model forever, you don’t hedge that long term bet with the need for stability and health in the future,” Neal mentions. Neal finds himself fortunate to have been able to connect with like-minded people in the industry who prioritized their wellbeing overall and have become long time friends.

Neal knew that it might be time for a change when he reached the middle of his twenties and decided that, if he was going to go back to school, he was going to go back now. Neal applied to Babson College, the number one school for entrepreneurship, got in, and the rest is history! 

When reflecting back on his modeling career, Neal realized that he went from controlling everything he did in entrepreneurship- meticulously planning and organizing his life- to having to succumb to a lack of control. Modeling taught Neal that you have no control and that if the agency didn’t send an email with a job that day, you had the day off and hoped for work the next. In modeling, you can control so few things, which is something that Neal wishes was different within the industry. Neal notes that he wishes that models were able to have a greater say in terms of advocacy, where the agency has all of the control in representing you as a model. All things considered, Neal has watched the power of social media disrupt the traditional structure of the business, where models can craft their own persona on social platforms – most notably, Instagram.

Although Neal is currently finishing up school, he notes that he wants to incorporate the global exposure he had in modeling to the work that he does full time as an entrepreneur. For Neal, that may look like many different things- only time will tell- for now, Neal strives to “become an advocate for introspection, personal growth and overwhelming gratitude above all else.” 

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. 

Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 6.55.08 PMJoe’s ceramic wall art

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. 

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)

Carlos Brandt on Running his Podcast Dear Queer People and being Part of the LGBTQ+ Community

An advocate and trailblazer, Carlos is taking the world by storm, opening up the conversation around LGBTQ+ narratives.

When I first met Carlos, it was clear that there was something so special about him. Carlos is an incredible human, LGBTQ+ advocate, and entrepreneur that has a calm and gentle way about him. Carlos has taken the world by storm, working for RuPaul’s Drag RaceWerq The World Tour,” creating his own social media and branding company, and starting his podcast Dear Queer People, we wonder when he finds time to sleep! I am happy to call Carlos a close friend of mine and I couldn’t be more happy to share him with you all right here. I hope this post inspires you to change our world for the better and advocate for what you are passionate about, just as Carlos has.


Carlos, my long lost brother, tell us about yourself!

My lost sister, so happy to be connected with you and be part of your wonderful family.

I was born in Venezuela and raised in Spain. I grew up in a very Catholic family and always knew that I was different from others. When I was a teenager I accepted the fact that I was gay and came out to the world. I moved to New York City 3 years ago, fell in love, made mistakes, grew as a gay man, and have never turned back. I use my past experiences to motivate me to continue to learn and grow throughout my life. Here, I built a support system that I never had in my life and I met the greatest love that I could ever feel and see- the person which I experienced many ups and downs with that has allowed me to grow and learn the true meaning of love. Here, I built a company out of my passion for journalism and audio-visuals, in a place that is not my home country and proved to myself that I could. Here, I’m learning and shaping who I am. 

What the inspiration behind starting your podcast Dear Queer People and what is the podcast all about?

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Dear Queer People is a call to action, it’s a call to be better as a community and understand the whole spectrum of LGBTQ+. I started this podcast because I wanted to ask questions and know how queer folks navigate different aspects of life. Also, the podcast served as a way for me to save myself and put my thoughts out, to claim a voice and break from the stereotype of how I look. It was to show the world that I also have a brain, passion, and things to say.

The main purpose here is to inspire people to show up better and do more, for themselves and for our community- no matter who you are, where you are, or what gender you identify with.

I bring guests from all different background, from transgender to those who are disabled, to tell their stories. The purpose is to break the bubble you live in and realized that there is more to see and learn. 

What was some of the feedback that you received from the podcast? Was any feedback surprising to you?

So far it’s been both amazing and overwhelming. Folks from Japan, Russia, Africa, and Mexico have all shared their thoughts with me, explaining how listening to the show’s has inspired them to come out to their families or get involved with local organizations. It’s a great feeling knowing that what you produce is having an impact on someone somewhere in the world. 

Are there any stories that you have featured on your podcast that changed your perspective and outlook on life?

Every story is special, every voice that you hear in this podcast means everything to me.

Carson Tueller speaking about advocating for better disability laws in his local area and how he faces love and sex as a disabled gay man. Jake DuPree, a fantastic entertainer and actor, on how he learned to overcome his battle with depression and suicide to conquer his life. Every story is a hard conversation to have, but that is where the beauty happens, because that’s where you learn. Shequida Hall, Evan Katz Ross, and Jiggly Caliente, every story is unique, starting with my own.

You were recently featured in Out Magazine– congratulations! What was that experience like and what did the feature mean to you?

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It was very overwhelming. I wasn’t expecting anything and when I saw a two-page spread in the most important LGBTQ+ print and digital magazine it was a moment that was so honoring. Being a gay immigrant and having this type of validation that what I’m doing someway, somehow is right- it’s a very cool feeling. 

What is one thing that you wish more people knew about the LGBTQ+ community and the journeys of people within this community?

Be one community. We need to learn so much from one another and accept everyone within our community. From our trans brothers and sisters to non-binaries to value entertainers, it is important not to discriminate and create separations because of labels and stereotypes. It is my hope that some day this utopia will see the light. The fight continues!

What is a dream project that you would like to work on or collaborator that you would like to work with?

 A documentary and a coffee table book. Both are in my mind already, let’s see when I am ready to sit down and work them out, but, as for now, I’m calm, working on myself and taking one day at a time!


Where to find Carlos

Out Magazine Article: How Carlos Brandt Is Helping Queer Immigrants Tell Their Stories

Instagram

Dear Queer People Podcast

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?

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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. 

 

CEO Sit Down: Wes Woodson on thehidden

Read all about how Wes built his own clothing brand around inclusivity and acceptance to help inspire everyone to live life boldly uncovered.

Everyone has feels, at one point or another, that they want to hide. In high school, I wanted to hide for many reasons, one of them being my bad acne. I couldn’t look people in the eye when they spoke to me, I tried to cover my blemishes with my hair, and scratched at them, only to make things worse. For Wes, it was a skin condition and his inability to “fit in” with any circle of friends. Instead of feeling defeated, however, Wes felt inspired, creating a line of clothing that motivates everyone to live their truth, unhidden. thehidden has now grown into a full range of clothing as well as moved into the realm of content development. I sat down with Wes to get the complete run down on how his business has flourished over the years.


Wes, tell us about yourself!

Sure! My name is Wes Woodson and I’m the founder and chief storyteller of thehidden company. Recently, I have graduated from Babson College- where you and I met haha. In my free time I like to write, listen to music, and walk my malti-poo Bentley. Oh! And my favorite color is red. Always have to mention my favorite color in intros.

What was your inspiration for starting your clothing company thehidden?

 I honestly love this question! The inspiration behind the brand actually stems from my personal experiences growing up feeling too white for the black kids and too black for the white kids. It was this feeling of being misunderstood, lonely, as well as my diagnosis of my rare skin condition, which led me to “hide” the parts of myself that I was ashamed of. This included the skin condition, which caused white spots to appear on the surface of my skin. However, I wanted to build a brand that would inspire kids (like me) to never hide who they are and truly accept themselves; which defines the name “thehidden” but also explains our iconic logo. I wanted to empower those who feel hidden to never hide who they are. 

What is the mission and goal for your business?

The mission of thehidden company, which now houses our clothing label (thehidden) and our content development arm (thehidden Project), is to use the power of storytelling through merchandise and original content to empower our generation to never hide who they are. My goal with thehidden company is to empower 1,000,000 unique individuals to be their true selves unapologetically.

Why hoodies, t-shirts, and shorts to help spread the message of acceptance and inclusivity?

Back at it again with the great questions! So growing up, I always wanted to wear the streetwear brands everyone would rock- Supreme, Palace, Obey, etc.-but I couldn’t afford them. More importantly, I wanted to build a brand that not only empowered people but helped them express who they are as well. So, when thinking about these two things, making clothes with messages of acceptance and inclusion made sense because that’s how people express themselves: by the clothes they wear. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of your company’s journey?

Truthfully, the most challenging aspect of my company’s journey has been dealing with self doubt and anxiety. Every time I release something, or do interviews like this, I want the world to see thehidden company for what it is: a company started by a kid trying to help others not feel the way he once did. Of course, doing anything entrepreneurial or risky can create a level of anxiety. However, the hardest part for me has been trying to find a way to channel that anxiety into a positive force to propel the brand forward.

How has thehidden changed your perspective on life?

I used to think people fell in love with “images” or ideal lifestyles. Through thehidden I’ve found that the real beauty is becoming comfortable enough with your flaws to share them. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve learned that there’s power in being authentic with yourself and with those around you.

Are there any personal testimonials from your customers that stick out to you?

Yes! I remember when I first launched the business, I had written my story through a medium blog post. Turns out, someone had shared the blog post with their mom who has the same skin condition as I do. The daughter, who shared the post, purchased two hoodies. One for herself and one for her mom. She ended up writing to me to tell that her mom had been battling depression after receiving her diagnosis, but felt less alone reading my story. 

That is what it’s all about. Those are the types of interactions I live for. 

What does the future of thehidden look like?

The future is looking bright! Like I said, I’ve always wanted to build a brand that is known for talking about real things instead of just selling clothes. Therefore, in the next few months we will be releasing new products that have never been seen before as well as other cool pieces of original content dedicated to something near and dear to my heart: mental health. No matter what, though, our mission is still the same. 

Lastly, favorite merch item?

Okay this is tricky! My favorite merch item, prior to this interview, was the Adore hoodie. It’s a black and white camouflaged hoodie that’s super comfortable. However, at this time, my favorite merch item hasn’t been released yet! (Ooo! Cue the suspense!).

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The Adore Hoodie


Where you can find thehidden:

www.thehiddenco.com

@thehiddenco

www.weswoodson.com

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!

A Summer Farming with Ivan Perez

Some summers are meant for reflection, some for rest, this summer was meant for adventure. Ivan’s adventure.

Undoubtably, this past summer has been an unconventional one. For me, it was a time for rest, searching for new opportunities, and reflecting on what I desire for my future. As a result, I have had time to create and design my blog, work on new business ideas, read a slew of books, and dream up new, exciting projects for the future- stay tuned for some more exciting blog content coming soon! For my dear friend Ivan, this summer was about diving into something new: farming. When Ivan thought about what he wanted his summer to look like, amidst the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic, he reflected upon simpler times, when life was full of the peace and magic that the outdoors can often instill within us.


Hello Ivan, tell the people who you are and a little bit about yourself.

I am currently a Senior at Babson College studying entrepreneurship and business strategy. I’m a cancer sun and gemini moon which really describes me (moodiness included). I live my life knowing that I am incredibly lucky to be alive, lucky to have supportive friends, and have selfless parents that help ground me. In anything I do, I try to seek discomfort, and try not to make life more complicated than it has to be. However, I can be a very restless person and, as a result, you might see me take on random projects. Maybe it’s ADHD, maybe it’s an internal fear of being stuck doing something forever, but I love jumping around learning as much as I can from everything!

Why farming and why this summer?

As a kid I love gardening with my mom and dad. From the ages of 6 to 12 I remember going to Lowe’s every Saturday because they had free workshops to build random things. I still have birdhouses that me and my dad built from when I was 10. While my dad and I were building things in a random corner of Lowe’s, my mom would always be in the garden section with a cart full of plants and flowers. I loved Saturdays because I was either at Lowe’s or spending time with my mom planting flowers outside. Till this day it’s one of my favorite childhood memories

During quarantine, I was stuck. I felt hopeless every time I opened Instagram- I felt like the world was going to shit, and grew frustrated that I wasn’t doing anything meaningful to make things better. So, I decided to do something that would be meaningful and make me happy. That was farming for me.

How did you convince your parents to let you go live on a farm for a month?

I live my life dedicated to seeking discomfort and trying to push boundaries in everything I do. For me this meant, packing up my backpack and living on an organic farm in the middle of nowhere Texas. I won’t self-incriminate myself, but I’ve had to tell one too many white lies to my parents to convince them to let me do things. I really believe that if you care about something, no matter the obstacles, you will find a way to get it done! This is something that I remind myself often.

What are some things you have learned about farming?

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READ, READ,READ. Get informed! Know where your food is coming from, who is the person that is farming your food, are they good people, and they are trying their best to be sustainable, do they use insecticides, do they use pesticides/fertilizers that contaminate run-off water? Learn as much as you can about the things you are putting into your body.

Most organic farmers are not actually organic. There are big loopholes in organic regulations. There is an inherent conflict of interest built into the organic certification system. The very agencies that inspect organic farmers and processors, and certify their products, are paid by the farmers they certify. Also, just to get nerdy with you, there are three types of organic classifications: 

  1. ‘100% organic’ is the highest level, for packaged foods and produce.
  2. ‘Organic’ products contain at least 95% organic ingredients.
  3. ‘Made with organic ingredients’ contains at least 70% organic ingredients.

Most times in grocery stores, nothing is 100% organic, even at places like Whole Foods, most things are organic and not 100% organic. Customers are oftentimes misled and no one really cares to double check things. However, I’m optimistic that things are changing and that starts by voting for officials that care about the environment, that will ensure fair regulations, and have a willingness to advocate transparency in every sector of life. 

What are some things you have learned about yourself?

If you don’t know what you are passionate about, try new things. I loved farming, but am I passionate about it to do it for the rest of my life? I don’t think so. Farming can be very lonely. I was out in the field with 106 Fahrenheit (41 Celsius) degree weather everyday. I was waking up before most people even have their first dream, and it’s only you, the fields, and the livestock. It was very lonely most days, which was hard for me because I enjoy talking to people. But, back to something I learned, you don’t know something until you have tried it. So I challenge myself and you, to try something new, deviate a bit from the norm, and learn to push yourself!

What is one piece of advice you wish you knew at the beginning of this farm-adventure?

Patience. Nothing happens overnight. The plants we were germinating in July weren’t going to be harvested until 4-5 months later. The soil we were growing on had taken 28 years for it to be nutrient rich and the farm itself started over 30 years ago.

Paul, the main farmer and owner, who is 74 probably, will never live to sit under the shade of the trees he planted. These pear trees planted will probably outlive me. 

Yet, I watered them everyday because I knew that nothing in this world is mine, that my time here is limited, and sometimes we will never see the fruits of our own labor, but that doesn’t mean we give up! If anything, it motivated me to wake up grateful for everything I had around me. Also, drink tons of water and wear sunscreen! 

What do you wish more people knew about farming and where their food comes from?

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Behind every farm, is the dream to make the world a better place. If you have the ability to shop directly from a farmer please do so. Google local farmers near you, call your local community garden, ask how you can get involved, volunteer your time to help out if you can

Also, I wish people had the confidence to start small, have patience, and slowly become more self-sufficient. The best way to know how something is grown is by growing it yourself! Buy that basil plant you always wanted to buy or, better yet, get the seeds and watch it grow! It might not seem like you are making a difference, but every small thing matters!

 

Would you recommend this experience to other people and, if so, why?

YESSS! Please, please, please! It should be on everyone’s bucket list to work on a farm, preferably an organic farm! Before you die, you have to visit a farm, you have to volunteer at a farm, or, better yet, become a farmer! Nothing compares to being able to see something grow, to literally go from the soil to your table. It’s like watching a baby grow right before your eyes, it’s so rewarding! It helps you appreciate all the hard work that goes into growing and making the food we all eat. Please put it on your bucket list to work at a farm and hopefully you think of me when you’re out in the fields picking weeds.

How has this experience changed your perspective and what will you do differently going forward because of this experience?

My parents immigrated to the United States when they were teenagers almost 30+ years ago. My mom’s first job was when she was 13 years old at a tomato farm where she earned less than $1 per hour. As of 2019, the average Mexcian farmer makes 3,200 pesos ($165) a month.  Many people around the world and in places not so far from us are struggling. They are exploited, they are underpaid, have no access to healthcare, suffer from diseases caused by extreme sun exposure, and barely have enough money to make ends meet. This is the reality that most people live, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Therefore, it is our responsibility as people to try to fix these injustices by not only voting for people that care about these issues, but also involving ourselves in solving these injustices.

There are big problems in the world and not enough people that care enough to solve them. I challenge myself, and you reading this, to have the courage to find something you care about and make it better! We all have it in us to make the world a better place, all we have to do is start!