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. 

Screen Shot 2020-09-07 at 9.55.43 PM

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?


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?



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!

CEO Sit Down: Kyla Christie on New Art Collective

The New Art Collective, a company making a positive impact on the performing arts industry in Indonesia.

Photos taken from the New Art Collective Website

Having grown up in the performing arts, I know just how important it is to provide creative opportunities to young children. Through performing, I have learned the importance of dedicated practice, how to overcome failure, and true grit, which I have mentioned in greater detail in a previous post of mine. When I found out that a fellow Babson College student was working towards improving opportunities in this sphere, I knew I had to share the incredible work she is doing with New Art Collective on the blog!

Kyla, tell us about yourself!

Hi! I’m 19 years old and I’m the co-founder of New Art Collective, a performing arts company based in Indonesia. I was born in Indonesia and currently attend Babson College on a full ride scholarship. I have founded over 5 businesses during her 19 years of life, including my non-profit initiative Sing to Build where I rebuild houses and communities destroyed by natural disasters. 

What is New Art Collective and what is your connection to the performing arts?

I have been a singer for 15 years, and back then, aside from performing at small events, I noticed that young and passionate individuals couldn’t get a chance to be fully immersed in the arts. New Art Collective started out as a theatre company but now we are a youth platform that builds and elevates the performing arts ecosystem. We offer classes, content, and internship programs for youth on all performing arts aspects, including modeling classes, social media marketing, and business development. New Art Collective’s original inspiration was just for a 15 year old to find a stage to sing on, and now it’s become a change maker within the industry. Our vision is to give arts opportunities for Indonesian youth in every aspect.

What is the problem that your company aims to solve?

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 8.42.26 PM

Growing up in Indonesia, I noticed a lack of performing opportunities. There is still a prevalent “starving artist” mindset! I built New Art Collective originally to be a place where students and other young people could perform, but we have grown into a community that delves into the industry a lot deeper than just singing, dancing, and acting. We’ve trained young people to learn how to put on their own shows, all the way from creating a sponsorship proposal and marketing plan to set and lighting design for the stage. That way, the financial and technical ecosystem around performing is elevated and people can start seeing the industry as a thriving one, not a starving one

What has been your favorite performing arts project you have worked on?

My favorite project has also the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced! I remember three weeks before our first show, I had my team of 100+ people quit, leaving only me, my co-founder, and three other people. They quit because they thought the show was never going to happen. So our team of five did everything possible to prove them wrong. It was never about starting a business, we just wanted to put on a show. What we didn’t realize was that putting on a show is a business. I handled everything from ticketing, marketing, and sponsorships all the way to costumes and lighting design. I remember plotting out the seats on an excel spreadsheet and coloring in the tickets people bought. At the end of the day, we never sat down and created a business plan, or gathered up a board of advisors, or made a website. We sold through people Whatsapp-ing us for tickets! What we did was start. Anyone can plan, but what set us apart was that we just went for it. Now, of course, after gaining a lot more experience, we now have a board of advisors, we have a website, we have teams but without that first experience     we would never know what to do next! 

How has your business been impacted by COVID-19?

Reflecting a lot on the pandemic and business choices I had to make for my theatre company, this pandemic has forced me to evolve and adapt. I was honestly getting too comfortable in my niche. We were putting out production after production but I was not thinking about the scalability & sustainability of our company. 

In order to be pioneers and lead youth-based change in the industry, we needed to be more accessible and create more sustainable forms of entertainment. I sort of lost sight of that and lost my hunger to constantly challenge the status quo. The pandemic turned out to be a good wake-up call for me and my business. ⁣⁣ 

How will your business pivot or adapt to the changing environment, where live events might not be happening for a while?

Screen Shot 2020-08-31 at 8.56.16 PM

I started noticing that the entire theatre industry is elitist! Most people can’t afford to watch shows, and language barriers for Indonesians are issues that my company should be addressing. 

We are now focusing on creating accessible content and helping aspiring creatives enter the performing arts industry-both in performance and business development-, so they can keep their passions alive during this time! That’s why we opened up an internship program, because we noticed a lot of our friends were losing work opportunities and we still wanted to give those students and young people opportunities to dive into a company that is actively pivoting and changing during the pandemic

Last question, what is the ultimate goal New Art Collective strives to achieve?

We aim to be a company that brings opportunities and new solutions to the performing arts industry’s youth. Changing that starving artist mindset and becoming an industry leader is our main goal, and opening up the accessibility of the arts to those who are passionate

Becoming Food Instagram Famous with Michelle Buslov

How Michelle started and grew her food Instagram page to having over 1,700 followers

Photos taken from Michelle’s Instagram

My good friend Michelle and I share many things in common, we both studied abroad together on Babson’s BRIC program, we love finding great deals, and we love food. We both enjoy eating savory dim sum, lobster rolls, and poke bowls on a night out and always make sure to snap a picture before the meal begins- and Michelle definitely has a knack for food photography as you can see above! Over the COVID-19 pandemic’s quarantine period, Michelle decided to turn her food photo skills and passion for new restaurant finds into starting a food focused Instagram account, where she showcases her latest eats. Try to control the drooling as Michelle takes us through how she has achieved such tasty success.

Michelle, tell us a little bit about you. 

I just graduated from Babson and am working remote at an e-commerce analytics start up. I recently started a food blog with the handle @bostonfoodie_mish to share and find restaurants in the Boston area! 

Why start and food instagram and why now?

I was sitting at home one night until around 3 AM just following food accounts and scrolling through Yelp! looking at new restaurants I wanted to try and it suddenly hit me that I could make one of these accounts myself. I really liked the idea of having my food account separate from my personal account because, instead of spamming my friends with food pictures, I could share them with the foodie community who are really interested in learning about new restaurants and dishes. 

What was the most surprising thing you learned about running a food instagram?

I think I was surprised by how engaged and supportive the food community was. If someone likes your page, they will go back and like or comment on a lot of your photos and put in the effort to send you a message about how much they like it. It’s always nice to have an Instagram community where people are building each other up and sharing pictures of something they really love! 

What is some advice you would give to someone who is interested in starting a food insta of their own?

I think the number one thing that has helped me has been engaging with other foodies, especially ones that had a lot of followers or had pages that I wanted to use to guide me. Almost like networking and just saying “Hey, I’m new to this, what is some advice you have” because the people who are actually in it and running a successful food Instagram will really know what is necessary to get there. Of course general social media growth applies, but they can give you specific advice to the food industry. Although a lot of people didn’t reply, some big accounts did and they really helped me grow by giving me tips on my photos, hashtags, and how to gain more followers overall. Sometimes they would even repost my content and give me a wider audience! 

Screen Shot 2020-08-29 at 11.42.15 AM

What is the biggest challenge in running your page?

The biggest challenge is definitely keeping up with the time commitment associated with having a food blog. Taking time everyday to engage with others and take quality pictures at restaurants can sometimes get tricky with a busy work day, but I think the best way to overcome that is taking it day by day and remembering that this is something I’m doing for fun. If I don’t respond to a comment it’s not the end of the world and everyone understands. 

What is the craziest thing that has happened to your food instagram since you started it?

One thing that was kind of crazy was when I got an email inviting me to some foodie event in Boston Common. It was right after a month of having a food Instagram and I wasn’t sure if it was a foodie event. I have my email in my Instagram account but no one had emailed me for foodie reasons so I was really confused. However, I couldn’t find any information about this event on the internet so it seemed like it was a closed event. I emailed back asking if there was a charge for the event. They responded back saying that it was free and that I could bring a friend. I ended up showing up with my boyfriend and it was a foodie event with all this free food and well-known foodies with a lot of followers. I had a little imposter syndrome around all these people with fancy cameras and tens of thousands of followers but it was such a fun experience and I got to try some amazing food from Earl of Sandwich and delicious ice cream from The Tipping Cow Creamery!

What are some food instagrams that inspire you that you follow:






Do you have any goals or milestones for this fun project?

 I definitely have some goals as far as growing followers and featuring restaurants that may be less conventional. I really want to stay authentic and not just post things that I know will get a lot of likes, so posting a diverse set of foods has been super important to me and I hope to add even more types of cuisine. 

What are some of your favorite places to eat and take instagram worthy photos of your food?

I would say my favorite place is definitely Gourmet Dumpling House in Chinatown because soup dumplings are AMAZING. As far as cute pics go, Boston Burger Company and Taiyaki NYC have some really aesthetic looking desserts, so I definitely know I can always hit up one of those for unreal pictures!

What are you waiting for? Go follow Michelle!



Five Ways Rimowa has Re-imagined Itself

Alexandre Arnault’s re-imagination of a classic brand: Rimowa.

Photos taken from Rimowa’s Instagram Account

The Retail and Luxury Goods Conference at Harvard Business School (HBS) has always been an event that I look forward to every year. I come away from the conference having learned so much from the esteemed panel of speakers HBS invites and a notebook full of insights from the event. This year, the conference’s keynote speaker was Rimowa‘s CEO and President Alexandre Arnault. At just 26 years old, Arnault became the CEO of Rimowa in 2017, when the company was taken in by the LVMH group. Despite being acquired at a lofty €800 million valuation, Arnault had his work cut out for him in transforming a classic luggage brand into a modern item for Millenial and Gen Z consumers. In just three years, Arnault has completely reimagined the company, while still retaining its core identity in superior luggage craftsmanship and design. So, what has Arnault done and how has he done it? In his keynote speech, Arnault addressed a few critical decisions he made which have helped Rimowa become even more successful in the 21st-century retail marketplace.

1) New Leadership Style 

Throughout his presentation, Arnault stressed the fact that he wanted to transform the brand’s internal identity from a traditional corporate management system to operating like a start-up. First, he emphasized the importance of everyone within the company identifying as a team, using “we, not I”. This group mentality allows for every stakeholder to take ownership of the successes and failures of the business as a whole. This attitude also helps to instill greater collaboration, unity, and trust within company culture. Arnault also implemented the practice of “engage. disagree. commit.,” meaning that decisions within the company are allowed to be challenged and disagreed upon, however, once a decision has been made, everyone must commit fully to its implementation. Similarly, this practice helps to focus and motivate employees towards a common goal, despite differences of opinion. The three other targets Arnault focuses on are “move fast and light, be design driven, and embrace the unknown,” core goals clearly tied to the Rimowa brand. 

2) New Products and Collaborations

One of Arnault’s most defining features to the outside world is his age- at only 26 years old, Arnault began leading over a half a billion-dollar company. However, Arnault’s age just might be his greatest benefit. Arnault has the ability to understand the current and next generation of consumers. It was this insight that motivated him to increase the number of product launches Rimowa has per year. Rimowa’s number of new launches per year went from 8 in 2016 to a staggering 28 in 2019 per year. Rimowa has partnered with high-end and exclusive brands such as Supreme,- whose collaboration sold out in 16 seconds– Dior, and Moncler on these new product releases. Rimowa’s luggage is easily identifiable through design elements, such as its ribbed exterior shell, hard casing, and signature wheels. Therefore, this luggage provides a blank canvas for collaborating designers to express their own brand’s uniqueness, while still ensuring consumers know its a Rimowa product first and foremost- a clear win-win for both parties. 

3) Revamped Brand Identity, but Retained Differentiator

Rimowa also went through a complete rebranding, some major changes being a redesigned logo, a new website, and a new slew of brand ambassadors, such as tennis star Roger Federer and the top model Adwoa Aboah. These changes have helped communicate a message to the world that Rimowa is now on the cutting edge and you should be paying attention. One thing that Arnault has made sure not to tamper with, however, is Rimowa’s classic design and craftsmanship, which is what retains the company’s true brand value. You can easily tell a Rimowa piece of luggage coming down the luggage shoot from any other black canvas rollie being churned out. 

4) Celebrity Endorsementsscreen-shot-2020-08-23-at-3.27.24-pm

Along with Rimowa’s new face has come new endorsers of the brand. Huge celebrities like basketball player LeBron James, Louis Vuitton’s artistic director Virgil Abloh, and Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, to name a few, have jumped on board in representing the company. The diversity in these high-achieving celebrities is especially key, demonstrating the luggage’s appeal to just about everyone who can dream big. Arnault notes that his focus on marketing, and especially social efforts, has paid off, given that their Instagram account has grown from having 38,000 followers in 2016 to 402,000 in 2019. What was once seen as an expensive piece of luggage is now a marker of adventure, status, achievement, and much more. 

5) Labor and Distribution Changes

Lastly, Arnault notes that it was the major restructuring that took place that helped the company achieve significant gains within the retail marketplace. In terms of labor, Rimowa cut the number of people required for production and reallocated jobs to retail services, as a result of the company opening 77 new stores over the past 3 years. Additionally, a drastic evolution in their business model, going from uncontrolled wholesale to a precise retail operation, is one way the company achieved more financial stability. Arnault saw that the company needed greater control over their product and restructured its channel mix, providing only 25% of its product to wholesale compared to 75% previously, increasing retail distribution to 68% from 25%, and increasing e-commerce sales to 7% from 0%. Changes to the labor and channel mix have definitely paid off, resulting in an increase in annual revenue from 443 million in 2016 to 455 million in 2019. 

All things considered, it will be interesting to see what Rimowa’s next move is in adapting to the retail challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has raised. With traveling being drastically reduced and normal jet setting taking a pause, spending on luggage in the foreseeable future will take a major decline. Yet, one way Rimowa has shown to be adapting to the limitations of such a niche product is through product differentiation, having recently launched its own eyewear range. Looking back on all of the flexibility Rimowa displayed and changes it has been able to make over the past few years, although the future seems uncertain, I hope Rimowa is here to stay- and I think it will be.

The information and numbers shown in this article are derived from the keynote slides presented at the HBS Conference.

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.

Tips for Effective Fundraising with Jake Heller

All of the strategies Jake Heller and I have used for effective fundraising.

Fundraising can often raise a lot of emotions; fear, apprehension, excitement, and anxiety to name a few. Bottom line: fundraising can be challenging. Yet, given that there are more charitable organizations, projects, businesses, and relief efforts that need funding now more than ever, I thought that it might be helpful to collaborate with a friend of mine, Jake Heller, on how he and I have gone about raising money for the projects that we are passionate about. With the right tools, I believe that anyone can bring their ideas to life. Now, you will have those tools too!

A Little Bit About Us

Jake Heller and No Kid HungryScreen Shot 2020-08-07 at 1.41.39 PM

Upon moving back home to Northern California as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jake found that he needed new outlets for his time and energy and soon rediscovered his love for outdoor cycling. After a couple of months of daily cycling, Jake knew he needed to do a fundraiser, and contemplated how he would accomplish this. To get people interested in the event and the organization, Jake was convinced it would have to be something special and uniquely challenging. It was then that he decided to fundraise for a triathlon. Jake found some friends who had experience training for triathlons on college teams and soon began training with them. These friends helped push and support him throughout his journey. Jake decided to donate the proceeds from his fundraising efforts to No Kid Hungry, which provides meals to children in need. Child hunger is something Jake felt was often overlooked, especially when he found out that in a normal year, according to the USDA, more than 11 million children in the United States live in “food insecure” homes. In 2020, due to COVID 19 and schools being closed, this number could be closer to 18 million children. With a worthy cause in mind, Jake had a plan to make a difference.

Ursula Dedekind and Like a Florentine

Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 8.09.52 PMWhen I was a senior in high school, I was required by my school to conduct a senior study project during the month of May. I contemplated many different ideas but knew that I wanted to do something interesting, something life-changing. I landed on the idea of spending one month in Florence, Italy, taking cooking classes, and learning about traditional Florentine cooking. However, when I thought more about the idea, the unavoidable stood in my way. How was I going to fund this trip? It would have been easy to simply ask my parents to pay for the majority of the trip. But, I knew I would not be taking complete ownership of the project if I did this. Instead, I decided to start a Kickstarter campaign in order to learn the valuable skill of fundraising and how to personally advocate for myself.

Choosing a Platform

Jake chose Go Fund Me and liked that the only fee taken from the platform is through donations from donors, which he knew would help maximize his impact. Jake also knew it was a platform people trusted, the money from donors goes straight to the organization, and he didn’t want any chance of money being lost or people thinking he was messing with any donations.

I decided to go with Kickstarter because I knew that it was a reputable and well-established platform that had high traffic because of the dynamic companies and projects that were often posted on their site. Since its launch in 2009, Kickstarter has hosted close to 186,000 successfully funded projects and has raised $5.2 billion dollars in pledge money from 18 million people. It is important to keep in mind, however, that Kickstarter takes 5% of total funds raised with an additional 3% + $0.20 per pledge.

Setting a Fundraising Goal


Jake first picked $1,000 as his fundraising goal, but, after such a successful first day of fundraising, he doubled it to $2,000. Jake wanted his contribution to have an impact, but also wanted it to be attainable and an amount where people felt that their donation would have an impact- a win-win situation.

My fundraising amount of $6,350 came from a budget that I had created for the expenses of my trip. I factored in my flight, Airbnb, cooking classes, and even the portion of the fundraising that would be taken from Kickstarter to reach my desired amount.

Fundraising Strategy

At first, Jake thought “If you build it they will come,” however, most of his donations came through reaching out to friends and family. Jake notes that networking was the most impactful for helping to reach his goal. All of his donations were from people Jake knew personally or from the families of people he knew personally. To attract donors, one of the first things Jake made sure he wanted to emphasize throughout his fundraising was, “Why this organization, and why this organization now?” He stresses the fact that picking the right partner and having good reasons behind the partner you choose will set your fundraising efforts up for success. The organization he chose, No Kid Hungry, is already close to Jake’s heart because it works to make sure all kids in America have healthy and accessible meals, but especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, this cause is more important than ever. Next, he wanted to share, “Why me?” People want a fundraiser they know will be successful or at least get close to the goal. Showing people he was serious about both fundraising and completing the triathlon was hugely important. Part of Jake showing how serious he was about the project was adding as many updates as he could to keep his audience informed. He was training every day and wanted people to understand he would not stop until “game day”.

Like Jake, I did a considerable amount of texting, calling, and emailing friends and family to support my project. The more personal and intentional that I made my outreach, the more willing others were in lending a hand. It also helped that I had expressed an interest in cooking and baking throughout my life, baking cakes for friend’s birthdays and meals for guests in our home. I also found that providing rewards for certain pledge amounts helped to incentivize some of my backers. For example, if you pledged $100 or more you would be receiving a cookbook that I would be creating and publishing upon my return, which 24 people were rewarded. I also included a reward for pledging $300 or more, with the reward being a private Italian cooking class with myself, the menu for this lesson being custom-tailored to their liking, which 2 people received. Although the point of fundraising is to give without receiving anything in return, sometimes it is nice to get a small perk for your generosity.

The Biggest Challenges

The biggest challenge Jake encountered was tapping out a lot of his friends too early on in the process. Jake thought he would have gained a bit more traction, raising the $2,000 easily. He also identified the fact that there were many other amazing fundraisers going on at the time he was fundraising, which made it hard to cut through some of the noise. That being said, Jake’s plan is to complete another triathlon as soon as it is both safe and when his body is able to reach that goal!

For me, personally, the biggest challenge I encountered during my fundraising process was “the ask”. Reaching out to friends, family, friends of friends- anyone I could think of- felt really daunting to me, a young senior in high school. It was easier for me to think about all of the things that were embarrassing or disappointing, rather than thinking about outreach as throwing darts at a dartboard, you only need to pay attention to the ones that stick. When it came to crunch time in the end, I learned to put my hesitation aside and really go for anyone I could think of to put out the ask. And it paid off!


For Jake, having the support of so many of his friends definitely helped to motivate him. Knowing he was swimming, biking, and running for a cause was a huge motivator. Jake knew people were counting on him, and he was not going to let them down!

I can definitely say that when you look at a fundraising number that is as large as $2,000 to over $6,000, it is easy to get discouraged at the beginning- “How am I going to pull this off?” Yet, you will never know unless you try and, as Jake experienced, if you don’t hit your number the first time, it is totally OK to creatively think about other ways to reach your target. The important thing to keep in mind before any fundraising is the why question. Like Jake and I, you want to be passionate about why you are raising money. When the going gets tough, the answer to this question will help you be resilient and push forward towards your goal.

The Outcome

Jake never thought he would become a triathlete, donating thousands of dollars towards a good cause, and I never would have thought that my dream of studying cooking in Florence could become a reality. What makes Jake and I different from you? Nothing really. I hope our stories serve as inspiration for you to get outside of your comfort zone, believe the impossible, and take that first step in asking others to join in building something with you. You never know where the journey will take you and who will come along for the ride.

Help Jake Reach His Goal!

Donate to Jake’s Go Fund Me, where all of the proceeds will go directly to No Hungry Kid.

Retail Designed Differently with Italic

Providing over 800 quality goods from the same manufacturers as designer brands. Could it get any better? How about zero mark-ups.

Photos taken from Italic’s Instagram and Website

Italic is a company that has been taking e-commerce by storm recently, so it’s no surprise that the company has been getting a lot of buzz from media outlets like Fast Company, Business Insider, and Men’s Health. Italic is approaching direct to consumer buying, customer interactions, and brand management in unique ways, which sets it apart from other direct to consumer companies such as Warby Parker and Glossier.

Italic first launched in 2018 by Jeremy Cai, who started the company after receiving a Thiel Fellowship and $100,000, which required him to drop out of college, move to San Francisco, and pursue starting his company for two years. Italic differentiates itself within the retail industry, given its promise of wholesale prices from the same manufacturers as designer brands without any markups, an idea worth $13 million in venture capital funding. The company features over 800 luxury items for incredibly low prices, a sure disruption- or at least a rude awakening- for consumers who are used to spending an arm and a leg for almost an identical Prada bag. Italic plays a crucial role in unveiling the high margins that luxury brands are making a huge profit from. However, brand logos and trademark patterns do have their place in retail, given consumer culture’s desire for easily recognized designer items to flaunt to the world. Luxury brands like Goyard, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci have become extremely successful on this very premise. Yet, what about purchasing on the basis of pure quality?

Screen Shot 2020-08-13 at 3.12.05 PM

There is no doubt that consumers are doing more research as to where their products are coming from, company sustainability efforts, fair labor practices, and product durability. A longer-lasting, high-quality product has become more of a priority to today’s consumer, allowing for Italic to fill a void in the marketplace- moderately priced, high-value items with full transparency. To Italic, it’s all about style, function, and quality, which Italic is surely delivering and without the price tag.

Considering current trends in consumer behavior, Italic is incredibly smart for making the core of its mission very transparent to its consumer. According to McKinsey’s ‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its implications for companies report, Gen Z consumers “increasingly expect brands to ‘take a stand’” when it comes to brand ethos. The consumer report specifies that it has found that a brand would benefit from choosing “specific topics (or causes) that make sense for a brand and its consumers and to have something clear to say about those particular issues. In a transparent world, younger consumers don’t distinguish between the ethics of a brand, the company that owns it, and its network of partners and suppliers”. For Italic, transparency is so key, which makes its side by side comparison of prices, and highlighting the high-end brands that use its same manufacturers refreshing and alluring. To shoppers, it is evident that Italic takes a clear stance.

Italic’s close connection to its customers also makes the company stand out. It was only the other day that I was scrolling through Instagram when I found a post from Italic asking “What products do you want us to develop?” with a flurry of responses underneath from Italic fans asking for everything from skincare to furniture. This is just one example of how the company’s openness and eagerness for consumer input have allowed Italic to grow and thrive among the crowded e-commerce marketplace. I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see what Italic comes up with next.

Photos taken from Italic’s Instagram

You can get in on all of the retail therapy Italic has to offer by purchasing a monthly subscription for $8.33 per month, adding up to just $100 a year. It is also worth noting that more than 90% of Italic’s customers breakeven on their first order- the best deal of 2020 I’ve seen so far. So, what are you waiting for? The future of fashion is calling.

Here are some of my favorite items Italic is selling right now:

1. Recycled Terry Cropped Hoodie 2. Slumber Cotton Poplin Pajama Set 3. Cashmere Hoodie 4. Laight Short Puffer 5. Point Dume Cateye Sunglasses 6. Comrade Nylon Backpack 7. Niki Leather Moto Jacket 8. Bowery Teddy Jacket 9. Diamond Pave Huggie Hoop Earring 10. Casey Cashmere Scarf 11. Miles Cashmere Travel Blanket and Eyemask Set 12.Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle

All You Need to Know About Investing: Short and Simple with Author Leonardo Timis

Does finance jargon seem like a foreign language? Is investing meant for “other people”? After reading Leonardo’s new book, you might change your mind.

There is no getting around it, investing and finance language can be complicated. Yet, writing a book explaining it sounds nearly impossible! Nevertheless, a fellow Babson classmate of mine and an exchange student from Bocconi University, which ranks 3rd in Europe for Business and Management, has just written a book titled All You Need to Know About Investing Short and Simple. His goal? To help everyone understand investing or, as Leonard refers to it, the “planet” of the confusing and complex.

First off, tell us a little bit about yourself, the author!

Hi Ursula! I was raised in Milan where I studied Finance at Bocconi University. During my last semester, I exchanged at Babson College in the States, now I live in Dublin where I work for Credit Agricole.

What was the inspiration behind writing a book about investing?

Well, I feel the financial world is perceived like another planet from those that are not on it, a planet of suited professionals speaking another language. But if you look closely at this planet, it is not as complex as it seems, at all. I thought that by simplifying the language, I could create a bridge between the real world and the financial world, helping many that might want (or need for investing purposes) to know more about it. That’s why I decided to write this book.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing a book aiming to simplify the complex language of finance?

Avoiding the use of sectorial but more precise terms, preferring more common words in order to be understood by more people. Simplicity requires common terms.

What are the core issues people find most confusing about investments and investing?

It links to the previous question, sectorial terms. These terms are a way for financial professionals to express precise ideas, to communicate more efficiently and rapidly among themselves, but sometimes these words are too exaggerated, scaring those that are outside. But again, if you look closer, the ideas under these words are actually easy to understand.

When the market does take a turn, as it had a few months ago, what is your investing perspective and advice?

For long term investors like me, market downturns are a good thing, we actually wait for them to buy. But the last turn was not enough, prices on the stock market are still too high because of ow-interest rates and because of pushing up forces coming from index investing.

What is your view on increasing global debt?

This is a great question. We are at the end of a macro debt cycle, we should see big changes from this point of view over the next years, especially from Central Banks, they have to address this issue.

What advice would you give to young adults to ensure they will have a bright financial future?

Do not think short term, unless you are an insider trader (just kidding, insider trading is not legal). Think long term instead, for three reasons: compounded interest rate effect, inflation and transaction fees cost.

Where you can pick up a copy of Leondardo’s book




Free PDF



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

Starting a TikTok Empire with Julian Parra

How Julian Parra racked up over 80,000 followers on TikTok giving career advice.

Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 4.41.30 PM

My friend Julian Parra has always been one of my go-to people in terms of who I get career advice from. Having worked in the Center for Career Development at our college and having navigated the job circuit to land a position at IBM, Julian has both incredible professional and life experience to draw from. Recently, he created a TikTok channel to share some of his advice, which has accumulated over 80,000 followers. I sat down with Julian to understand a little bit more about how he built a social media empire around his passion for helping others professionally.

So Julian, tell us a little bit about yourself!

Sure thing Ursula! So I was born and raised in Hawthorne, NJ, I’m a recent graduate from Babson College, and I’m currently an Offering Manager at IBM.

How did you first come up with the idea to start a TikTok channel giving professional and personal development advice?

I first found out about TikTok in December 2019, and immediately, I was super interested in how the TikTok algorithm worked. The app is engineered for virality and users who may not have many followers can have videos blow up on the app. At Babson, I was a Peer Career Ambassador at Babson’s Center for Career Development for three years, and in my role, I met with many students a semester to help with resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, and all things career development. This experience solidified my passion for personal and career development and mentorship, so while I was in quarantine, I decided to combine my two interests in social media content creation and career development and starting posting on TikTok!

How have you worked on growing your following?

I first focused on the career-development niche and consistently posted at least one TikTok a day related to that. I also studied the way the TikTok algorithm works, why it pushes certain content over others, and optimized my future content accordingly.

How do you keep your TikTok followers engaged?

I try to respond to as many comments as I can on my videos and am always open to suggestions as to the content they want to see. It’s been great reading comments and direct messages from people saying that my content has helped them level up in their career development journeys. I hope to go on TikTok Live more consistently and encourage my followers to follow me on my other platforms like Instagram or LinkedIn.

You currently have over 8ok followers on TikTok, was there ever a major turning point for you and your channel?

I had been posting 2 TikToks a day for a month and hadn’t seen much traction. However, in mid-July, I started an “Interviewer-Interviewee” series, in which I gave concrete examples of how I think people should respond to certain questions in interviews to ensure a successful outcome. I received a lot of engagement from those videos and continued to post that type of content. I also uploaded a “How to send work emails like a boss” TikTok that currently has over 1.5m views that helped jumpstart my growth on the platform. Finally, I was incredibly grateful and humbled to have been featured on Buzzfeed’s Facebook and Instagram platforms, which has motivated me to keep providing the best content I can!

Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 4.34.46 PM

What are three pieces of advice that you would give to anyone currently unemployed?

First, I encourage you to do your research on what companies you’re interested in working for and get clear on what exactly you want. Think about your own strengths and align that with your interests. Knowing what kind of job you see yourself working in will allow you to have a more focused path to getting to your end goal. Second, I encourage you to focus on building out your network. Although slightly cliche, LinkedIn can be a powerful tool if used efficiently. Reach out to someone whose career you would like to emulate, and ask them to hop on a 10-minute call. You never know what can happen. Third, don’t get discouraged. Although easier said than done, be sure to set time aside every day towards your goal of getting a job. This can be applying to this amount of roles, or reaching out to this amount of people. It’s always okay to take a step back, reflect, take a break, and go back to the job search when you’re ready. Celebrate the little successes and reflect on how far you’ve come. This should get you motivated to continue seeking your dream job.

What is the most valuable piece of advice someone has given to you?

One valuable piece of advice that comes to mind is that “whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” As soon as we understand the true power our minds have, we can achieve literally anything. Moreover, I am incredibly appreciative of being surrounded by friends who support my journey and endeavors and push me to continue to reach new heights. You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, so it’s important for everyone to choose wisely!


Lastly, what about the future excites you?Screen Shot 2020-08-19 at 4.35.00 PM

I am incredibly grateful for my role at IBM, as it’s allowing me to grow professionally and personally, it challenges me intellectually, and my team is very supportive. I’m also super grateful for the platform I’ve developed on social media. I aim to stay consistent and post as much content as I can on TikTok and Instagram, and hope to motivate, inspire, and educate more and more people around the world!

How to find Julian


Business Instagram:

Personal Instagram: