question 1


ALEXANDRA SENES - Kilometre.Paris

After the aborted mission with Harper’s Bazaar, I was wondering around a flee market one day, thinking about what was happening with the media. Randomly, I saw a woman selling some white vintage dress shirts. I had no idea why but was immediately attracted to them. I asked how many she had in stock, and she said around 400, and I told her to sell all of them to me. I just had an intuition. I think there should be something to do with them. As someone who always wrote stories on blank pages, I thought I could fill in the shirts. I had already been wanting to start a fashion business for awhile but was never ready to jump into it. Because of this “trouvaille”, I decided to pursue it!


I went to a food-focused book club that my childhood friend, Cara Cannella, had started called Four Burners. It was held at my (future) co-founder Erin Patinkin’s house, and it just so happened that everyone there already worked in food except for Erin and me. We ended up chatting through the night and decided to meet the following week to talk about starting a food business. At that point, we were both willing and ready to take the leap and knew we were the right partners for it. We continued to meet for about a year, mulled over many ideas and eventually, Ovenly was born. 


I had some prototypes that were fairly rudimentary and solved a lot of issues I didn’t like about dress clothes, and Gihan had the same idea, so we clicked and decided to come together to bring them to market.

Christine Bryant - ST FRANK

I recognized the opportunities in the home market and started working on the concept in business school. I took a consulting job and worked for this company called FSG. They basically focused on using social impact as a lens for recognizing competitive advantage, which is very similar to what I do now. While I was working there, I was working on St Frank on the side. I had many amazing friends and classmates from business school who started businesses right at school. I realized that I knew what I wanted to do, but I needed a notch of confidence. Two of my closest friends Robert Denning and Karlygash Burkitbayeva started an amazing sunglasses brand called Westward Leaning. I was thinking if they could do it, then I could do it too! Eventually it got to the point where I couldn’t take St Frank to the next level without working on it full time.


I worked at the shoe and accessories company for around two years before I decided that I was ready to try something new and take on more challenges. Jay Adams, my co-founder, brought up the idea of us starting a brand together. We had been talking about how quality clothing was too expensive and the idea of making a Theory that I could afford. I was so excited about the idea of providing entrepreneurial and ambitious women a gorgeous high quality wardrobe that allows them to reflect their appearance and style. It felt so right. It was exactly what I wanted to do.  

We launched Brass in September 2014 but started working on it around January. We were doing our planning and talking to factories. It wasn’t until September 2015 that I left my job, so it was over a year and half that I was working full time and working on Brass. Finally, Jay and I both agreed that we needed to jump in full time, and it really made a huge difference, and we ended up growing five times more that year.


While I was working with Kayla and helped her build her presence, I became more passionate about fitness and wellness. At the same time, I was doing similar things on Instagram like what I did for Facebook, such as building themed pages around nutrition and workouts just for fun. After I ventured out on my own, I saw there was a gap in the market for simple approachable health and wellness, so I decided to create a place to find it. That's when I created Bloom.

lisa ann markuson - the haiku guys + gals

I was thinking if someone didn’t quit their job and work on this full time, we would never turn this business from a penguin into an eagle. I was working for a social media company and didn’t love it, so I quit my job and decided to see what would happen. It was really quite scary, but I felt like there wasn’t an option. We would get inquiries throughout the day, but we would miss opportunities because we were working our day jobs. We couldn’t work full time then work additional hours during our off time. We had to do this or we would never know. So I did.


We were getting to the point where we were doing all these creative works and events, and it just didn’t make sense anymore. I had to sneak out to the closet to take phone calls while working at Saks. There was definitely a lot of uncertainties, but I was also lucky in a lot of ways. I am from New York, and my family is here. I thought, worst thing worst, I could restart.


Everyone at Stanford was very entrepreneurial and pursuing some sort of idea. I always knew I wanted to start something, too, but it had to be something that I was 200% passionate about and could drive me to solve a genuine problem. So after I realized the problem with sex education, I interviewed doctors and talked to college students and asked them what issues they had and how they learned about sex. There was a lot of brainstorming about how to address the problem before starting to build anything. I stayed at Salesforce for another 9 months and decided to take it more seriously, so I left to pursue tabú full-time in February 2016.  


I introduced Dan and Jay, and we fleshed out the concept for Bodega. I was 26, Dan was 29, and Jay was 33. We were getting old. We just had to do it then, otherwise other players in the market would open. We traded off learning and waiting to have experience because we knew we had real core understanding of the community and subculture. I also never really had a normal job. I worked nights at a club, and I actually continued to work there until 2 years after Bodega was open. Nightlife is a community and lifestyle that is hard to leave, but I burned myself out working all the time.


The financial crisis in 2008 was an awakening for me. A lot of wealthy collectors, even though they might have not been affected by the economy, became very conservative in their spending because so many people lost their money. It had some immediate ramifications in the culture field, as we were not making commissions on sales at exhibitions. I thought that wasn’t sustainable long term. A lot of my peers started opening small galleries on Orchard Street, and I thought they were so brave to open up these places, but I didn’t want to do that. What else could I do? So I had the idea of Vanity Projects, and from 2008 to 2013, I was still working as a curator, selling artworks, and doing consulting, while doing research and getting my money together. I was working on everything that I could do backend without a brick-and-mortar store, such as designing the logo and making the website.


We did a lot of experiments at first, one of which was a Kickstarter campaign. We ended up becoming one of the most founded food Kickstarter campaigns with 1300 backers from all over the world. That’s when we realized that people actually wanted our products, and this could be a real business.

There are people who can work on something part time while having a regular full-time or part-time job successfully. I know myself. I can’t. I have to go in 100%. I also interned at Microsoft and received a full time offer after I graduated, so I know that Microsoft will always be there if I want to go back working for them.


I always had this idea for Liquid Art House, not the name, but the idea, of creating this place that combines food and art. I thought this would be the time. I would either do it or not. I had been talking to my friends forever, and they encouraged me to go for it. I entered Mass Challenge because the hardest thing about starting a business is when to say go. I felt like I needed a deadline, so I entered to give myself a deadline. I had to submit a business plan and make a video to describe my concept, and it pushed myself to get it going.

sophie zembra - antidote

Entrepreneurship is really a part of who I am. I’m born with it. I never imagined myself working for someone else. I wanted to create something by myself and build my own team. At the same time, during these five years doing Shopethik, ethical fashion changed a lot. I saw more and more creativity coming. I began scouting the market for ethical brands for personal use, so I already had a list of designers. When I spoke to people, they were all amazed at all these brands I knew but nobody else knew. I was thinking if there was something for the fashion people who didn’t know, and I thought it was time to do something about it and share these designers.  


I have always wanted to start my own business. At the age of 13, I was hiring my friends to do chores for me around the house and paying them $5 an hour. When I wanted a new video game system, I sold my old one at the garage sale along a bunch of bikes as well. I guess I was always entrepreneurial in that sense. When I was around 21 and 22, I met Nathan Gannage. He had already started Saintwoods while he was at McGill with three other guys, who had left and moved on to other things, so Nate was running the company by himself. I had the marketing contract with this club called Time, and Nathan had thrown some big events there. We met and thought we would work together well. I told him I wanted to be a part of Saintwoods not just Zach Macklovitch the promoter, so I ended up giving him half the contract of Time for the company.