Introduction What seems to be a contagious trend of entrepreneurial spirits on college campuses, with the plethora of success bringing students to ask themselves, “Am I cut out for entrepreneurship?” The answer is yes, and the time is now. Dr. Teresa Nelson, the Elizabeth J. McCandless Professor of Entrepreneurship Chair at Simmons College, surveyed undergraduates in 2008 to find that an outstanding 80% of Simmons Students plan to start a business at some point in their career. Entrepreneurship is changing the world by driving innovation, creating jobs, and fueling economic growth. Higher education institutions and business leaders have been working to foster an environment that inspire and give students the necessary resources to be entrepreneurial. The Princeton Review recently named Simmons College’s graduate program one of the top 25 graduate entrepreneurship programs in the United States. Simmons also offers an undergraduate minor in the field of entrepreneurship to support and inspire women leadership from a young age Today, it is as common to have a new baby in a household, as it is to start a new business. The recession has inspired many long-time employees of large corporations, and students venturing out into the frugal job market, to consider going out and starting something of their own. Entrepreneurship allows people to launch their futures and create the job they have always wanted, and furthermore, to be their own boss. Successful women entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey and Vera Wang are setting the bar for women leaders and inspiring people, of all ages, from all over the world, to start something. “The time for women entrepreneurs is now,” says Dr. Susan Duffy, Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Simmons College. “Currently there are 10.1 millions firms that are majority owned by women, employing 13 million people and generating more than 1.9 trillion in sales. It is not hard to understand the phenomenon of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurial skills are needed in everyday life, and are what people are seeking now. Employers need people who can think outside the box, spot problems, develop solutions, take action, and drive results.
The Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization would like to give our thanks to the
2010-2011 Simmons College Alumnae Executive Board whose support and generous Centennial Grant made this publication possible. We thank you for being the leaders of today, and fostering the leaders of tomorrow.
TABLE OF CONTENTS Heatherjean MacNeil Founder and CEO Of Proxy Apparel 5
Gary Hiniker Owner of Concord Information Systems 7
Phil Johnson CEO and Founder of PJA Advertising + Marketing 8
Lauren Berger Owner and Founder of the “Intern Queen” 9
Penny Hauck MEFA Director of Marketing 10
Anne Callahan , MB Jarosik, Karen Dendy Smith Co-Founders and Principals at Kor Group 11 Bettina Hein CEO of Pixability 13
Jessica Stowe CEO & Founder of Personally Paired 15
Carmen Baez Entrepreneurial Journey Up the Corporate Ladder 17
Mel Bozkurt-Conant Co-Owner of New York Dog 18
Ginger Bailey CEO of GG Bailey 19 Melissa Tyler Owner and Founder of TummyToys 20
Heatherjean MacNeil Simmons Alum
Founder and CEO Of Proxy Apparel Interviewed by Blair Griffin What did you dream of being when you were a child? My ambition dating back for as long as I can remember was to save the rainforest. I was really passionate about the rainforest. I’m not exactly sure at what point that sparked for me but that was my ambition. Interestingly that ambition translated into the work that I am doing now in a very roundabout way. I did, when I was in college, live and work in the rainforest of Ecuador for a year and realized at that point that it wasn’t just about saving the monkeys and the trees but as much about working with communities that were living in endangered areas. Working with them to live more sustainably in order to protect the natural resources of the area, that was my dream. When did you first think of the idea of Proxy apparel and what was the impetus to making that idea a reality? When I was serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras, I was working with women’s groups to start businesses, primarily agricultural businesses, and I was so impacted by that experience that I knew I wanted to start some kind of venture that would create jobs for women living in rural areas of developing countries that typically don’t have access to any source of employment. I came to Simmons knowing that I wanted to start a venture and then it was actually, I think, my second semester I was here I did kind of a soul searching trip to Peru and I was on a chicken bus in the middle of nowhere traveling through the mountains of Peru and I noticed there’s the llamas, and you’d see women knitting on the side of the road, you’d see them weaving and dying. So really the whole apparel supply chain was right before my eyes while I was there. I just had a spark at that point knowing that a clothing and accessory company would be the perfect model for creating jobs for women because there are so many opportunities in the supply chain to do that in rural areas in the world. Also it is very culturally aligned with women because most women in the world know how to sew or knit and work with there hands. It all crystallized at that moment. What is the business model of Proxy Apparel? Proxy apparel is revolutionary in that we work with fair trade and worker-owned cooperatives to produce our products and we sell direct to consumers. We sell our products online and also at trunk shows and fashion shows. What we’ve done to the apparel supply chain is that we’ve cut out any middlemen. We’re designing and creating the products ourselves and then bringing them directly to the consumer. We’re keeping the value in the hands of
the producers, meaning that we’re paying them premium wages, and then we’re also able to sell our products for affordable prices because we’re not using any middlemen platform. That’s what’s unique about our business model. What is your number one piece of advice for college students who want to be entrepreneurs? Just go for it. I interact with a lot of entrepreneurs; I have had the pleasure of meeting some very successful women entrepreneurs, and I think the most important ingredient to being a successful entrepreneur is audacity. You just have to be brave. There’s no time like the present. I think it’s been the thing that has enabled me to do what I’m doing. It takes a lot of guts. It just takes guts. You figure things out as you go along; you just have the guts to put yourself in the way of doing that. What was your most profitable failure? I always find that just that phrase and concept annoys me and yet it really is so true. I think you have to fail, and you will fail in any venture that you attempt to start. It is sort of the nature of the beast. I think our most expensive mistake was when I first started out I thought I had to hire fashion designers in order to create Proxy designs but there was a disconnect between what the fashion designers envisioned for our line and what the cooperatives were able to produce. So my reference point was the fashion designs created by these designers here in Boston and New York rather than the abilities of the cooperatives. So, two of my fashion designers quit because they weren’t willing to be flexible, but it is necessary because our mission is to work with the cooperatives. There were some resources lost through that process but eventually I realized the reference point of the process had to be with the cooperatives, what they were able to produce, what they could create. Eventually that’s what we started doing; some of our first products were things that they were already making and knew how to make. From there we’ve been expanding our line and working with the cooperatives to create our designs both in accessories and apparel. It has just made all the difference. It has enabled us to grow our collections. There was some failure at first. Do you do skill training with cooperatives? Interestingly enough, we do a lot of skill training; most of it is in business development; working with them to make sure they are able to produce product under our quality control requirements, ship product on time, follow up, and when I’m
there in the field working with them that people are showing up on time. There are some cultural barriers, but it is helping them strengthen their businesses, which they really appreciate. We do some technical training too. Often the women already have the skills and it is just drawing them out and applying them to what we are already doing. They may know how to do a certain stitch and it is about teaching them that in fact it goes here. If you could walk in somebody else’s shoes for one day who would it be and why? This is a hard one. There are several people who come to mind, I feel like I want to say a strong woman. Honestly, though, I think it would be the Dali Llama. I think that running a start up is difficult because there’s never enough hours in the day and it’s really hard to feel satisfied with your progress because its slow and its hard work. So, at this point in my life, just to experience the perspective of the Dali Llama and his outreach would be really helpful in terms of helping me continue to keep good perspective on life as I build my venture. What keeps you up at night? What doesn’t keep me up at night? Just growing my business. How am I going to grow my business; from cash flow, to raising money, to marketing, to new product ideas, to my partners. My co-op partners keep me up at night. I have pretty intimate relationships with a couple of the co-ops we work with. Natural disasters happen all the time, one of my dearest co-ops is in Guatemala and they’ve had horrible landslides and torrential
rains and they live in a very violent area of Guatemala, so, I worry about them. What do your dream of now? My dream is to grow Proxy into the online fair-trade Urban Outfitters of the world, really growing it into a widely known socially conscious lifestyle brand. I would say that that’s my primary dream, and then I already have another social venture idea and hopefully after Proxy is in its growth stage I can move onto starting that venture, which is more domestically focused.
Gary Hiniker Owner of Concord Information Systems Interviewed by Ashley Hiniker
What did you dream of being as a kid? When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut or race car driver. These arenâ€™t exactly what I turned out to be but I love what I do today. My passion for automobiles has followed me throughout my life as a passion rather than a job. I think I am happier about this because work is work; you need a hobby to relax with. Was there a pivot or turning point that made you realize you wanted to be an entrepreneur? Right as I was graduating from Northeastern I realized how important computer technology will be in the future. I started working for a large computer development company after graduation for seven years. I learned a lot, but I wanted to do things on my own. I saw a market that was beginning to rocket and took advantage of it. With the support of my wife we started Concord Information Systems. A lot of time, effort, and money went into this. We were starting a family at the time, which is an expensive event in itself. This company became a reality because night and day I developed, sold, gained support, marketed and more. There are no vacations and there are more frustrating moments than celebrations, but it was what my wife and I wanted and we made it came true. All you need is support. What is the focus of your business? We focus on a direct sales model. We gain contact with a potential customer, do an evaluation of what their needs and wants are, give demonstrations on products that suit their needs, and then follow up with training and IT support. We are fully involved with the customer along the way; a lot of face time comes into play. What are some tips for entrepreneurially minded college students? College students need to realize work should be fun, not a miserable experience. Love what you do and you will be successful. Also find a solid support system, through the good and bad my wife was there, I never could have done it without her. What was your most profitable failure? Right when we started the company, about two or three years into it, our office was robbed. Everything was taken, and we self
stored a lot of equipment on site with us to have anything we needed to IT support for customers. My failure was we had minimal security, we were not in a great area, and overall a lot of things were wrong. That was a huge setback but a vital learning experience. Who inspires you? Stirling Moss. He is one of the most infamous race car drivers in the history of racing. He was fearless, he took danger as excitement and without danger in racing it would be like cooking without salt, you can do it but there is no flavor. This is the same with business, you take no risk you will be safe, take risk and a much more exciting road is ahead. What do you enjoy doing in your free time? Besides watching TV it would be supporting my family. I want to provide them with the best lives they can live, for them to be able experience everything and learn from their and my mistakes. What are your future plans for your business? I would love to relocate to Florida where it is warm and have my youngest son take over the business. He has shown so much interest in what I do and technology in general. If we competed sometimes I worry he would beat me. Passing down what I have created to a son is the hopeful future for Concord Information Systems. Do you find it difficult trying to stay ahead of the technology curve? It is extremely hard; sleeping at night causes you to miss new developments and technologies. I just have to stick with my niche so that I am not directly competing with all the powerhouses.
Phil Johnson CEO and Founder of PJA Advertising + Marketing Interviewed by Victoria Solomon How did you found PJA Advertising + Marketing? I had no plans to start a company. I didn’t study business. I was an English and Philosophy student. I was really not at all career-driven in the early part of my life; I was interested in communications in film and publishing. I liked writing and that was how I got into the business world was as a writer. When I was in my early 20s, I started working as a writer for ad agencies and some film companies and I did a lot of script writing for education films. I began writing speeches for people and developed a niche as a speech writer for corporate executives, presidents and CEOs for companies. That was my business education: hanging out with those people and writing speeches for them. I learned how they thought and what was important to them. In working with other agencies, I noticed that they shied away from anything complex and hard. Agencies are most excited with consumer products that they understand. Through working with corporate executives I worked with healthcare and technology companies. They had rally complicated stories. It wasn't like selling soft drinks or sneakers. My observation was that a lot of agencies weren’t interested in this stuff but I liked it and I thought it was interesting. That was the original insight for PJA: an agency that wasn’t afraid to work with companies that had complicated stories. What was difficult about being an entrepreneur in the beginning? Ignorance is bliss. The nice thing about not knowing anything is you’re not afraid of anything. I didn’t think about, “I need to go get clients or how you build a management team.” I thought, “Hey, gee, I have some clients, some work and we’ll find some people to help get it done and see what happens. I rented space in this building and it was no bigger than this room. It was one room and had a couple of desks. A couple people I knew that I thought were talented and that came in and worked with me. No one had titles or defined job. We have some work; lets hang out, get it done, and make a little money. You learn as you go. Oh wait, who’s going to pay the bills? How are we going to get new business? I was one of those people.
I'm not the product of a business school. I had a really simple idea and I figured it out as I went a long and enjoyed each stage of it. I didn’t even know what it meant to be a boss or manage other people. I didn’t understand the sales and marketing part of the business. I learned that all on the job. What is the most difficult part of being an entrepreneur? Yes, there are some really difficult parts of it. It’s up to me to figure out what direction the company is going to go in and to make sure we have people who can get us there. At various times in the company, you recognize that you might need to make changes in your strategy or need a different kind of management team to get you there. Those are hard decisions you have to make. The hardest part is driving change and getting people to make changes and do things differently, to see that the world is changing. When you decide to do something different it’s hard. What is the best part of being an entrepreneur? The best part is when you get the right team of people assembled and they’re running the business day to day. It’s just a wonderful experience to be surrounded by really bright talented people who you’ve brought into the company and see the way they’ve been able to transform the company in ways that you couldn’t do on your own. When I started the company, I could do pretty much everything that needed to be done. I could do creative and management. When I look around now, I couldn’t get hired here. I don’t even qualify to have a job here. There are so many talented people and new and different skills. Its kind of liberating and frightening to see that. Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Don’t be afraid. The only people who fail are the people who quit and if it was easy everybody would do it. Pick people who you absolutely trust and believe in. They’re going to drive the success.
Lauren Berger Owner and Founder of the “Intern Queen” Interviewed by Victoria Solomon
#5 on Business Week’s annual list of 25 Young Entrepreneurs Under 25.
Tell me a little bit about your college experience. I had fifteen internships in college. I graduated from the University of Central Florida. My friends and I always talked about how difficult it was to get internships and how easy it was for me. So, I created my website, “The Intern Queen.” We decided to name the company “Intern Queen.” The company went on from there. I had the idea in 2006 when I moved to Los Angeles from Florida. In 2008, I was able to find an investor at my job at the time and start doing it full time. Did you ever think you would be an entrepreneur? I had no an idea. I originally wanted to be a magazine writer. I started writing for national publications in college, then, I thought now I want to be in the entertainment business. I was always interested in journalism, communications, marketing, PR and branding. It’s kind of ironic how it all happened. How has having your own company been? It’s been great. My first two years out of school, I worked at the Creative Arts Agency (CAA) in Los Angeles and I worked for someone 24 hours, 7 days a week and that was very hectic. I didn’t like that I couldn’t make my own schedule or my own hours. I would wake up and it was dark and I would come home it was dark. Now, I make my own schedule; I do what I do when I want to do it. It’s a lot of hard work and a lot of ups and downs but I wake up in the morning and do what I want to do. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur? There are tons of challenges everyday. Everything from managing my web team to managing the interns that work with me and that all the business deals that go through. Making sure they go through with legit companies. I get approached by a lot of
different companies and a lot of different people. You want to like every body and work with everybody but not everyone is really great. You have to develop a kind of sixth sense in this situation. How did your college experience prepare you to be an entrepreneur? In college, especially at my college in my communications major, we did a lot of group work. With group projects, you have a lot of people and there are always one or two are tough to manage. I work with over 600 clients. They’re not all “hunky dory” all the time. Managing different personalities is really important and I learned how to do that in school. Advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and students? Go for it and do it while you’re in school. I didn’t start my business while I was in college and I wish someone told me I could start it in college. Get it started and get all the legwork done while you’re in school. There is a chance you might get all the funds and that way when you do graduate you can run it full time. What do you think about being a woman entrepreneur? I am definitely a minority in the field. By trade I am in human resources. The conferences I go to are heavily maledominated. I’ve never been in any strange situations because of being a woman. It’s been a positive experience and I have been treated equally.
Penny Hauck MEFA Director of Marketing Interviewed by Emma Bisogno
Penny first joined MEFA’s college savings department in 1997. She took a break to work in the start-up phase of U.Promise and to teach art to children of all ages. She re-joined MEFA in 2003 as the Director of Marketing. Penny received her B.A. from Clark University and received her M.A.T. from George Washington University. About MEFA: MEFA is a not-for-profit self-financing state authority, not reliant on state or federal appropriation, that works to make higher education more accessible and affordable for students and families in Massachusetts. Nearly 30 years ago, MEFA was created by the state legislature at the request of Massachusetts colleges and universities. MEFA provides community education programs, college savings plans, and low-cost financing options. In its nearly thirty year history, MEFA has issued $4.2 billion in bonds and has assisted hundreds of thousands of families in financing a college education.
What did you dream of being when you were a kid?
What were the steps you took to succeed?
It seemed as though my dreams were shaped by parents who emigrated here from Greece and always talked about being doctors or lawyers. None of it made any sense to me at the time.
I guess the best thing I did was work for other organizations and try new things. I love working with kids and teaching; I love art; I love being creative and I love being passionate. All of these things led me here and will continue to shape my day-to-day life. In life I would say that keeping a positive attitude and belief in what you feel is key. Intuition is something that everyone should be able to trust within themselves. I have drive and I am persistence. Do I always succeed…not always but I get up and keep going.
When you were in college did you think you would work in the area of marketing or financial service once out of school? I had no idea what I was planning on doing when I graduated. I was clueless and applied to graduate school to delay actually thinking about it. I was an art history and sudio art double major and no one ever talked about how going to college may some day relate to a job or making a living. What do you like about working for a non-profit? I love the mission of MEFA and the drive to help families learn to make good decisions for them and their situation. What does the word entrepreneur mean to you? I always thought that an entrepreneur meant having a new and innovative idea that would somehow generate tons of money. It was never in my mind set until I spoke to you about how to be entrepreneurial within a workplace. What inspired you to start (the marketing department at MEFA)? I saw lots of gaps in the messaging of MEFA. The inconsistencies of the logo and product naming and the fact that many people had their hands in it, but not one person was responsible.
What was your most profitable mistake? I worked for a .com during the boom of web companies and worked so many hours in a day – my work life balance was way off and I was so burnt out. I thought I was making lots of money but until I sat down and calculated my hours versus salary I realized it was an illusionary profitable mistake. I quit with confidence and worked at a restaurant to decompress all the stress I had built up from being in that type of work environment. It was still a step in my success in some way so I would not say it was a mistake. In your opinion what are the most valuable characteristics and attributes in a leader? Someone with vision, who is relatable, understanding, inspiring, motivating and also caring. If you could walk in someone else’s shoes who would it be? I would love to shadow the president for a day and also the life of a true artist who concentrates on the process of creativity.
If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice in college what would it be? Try everything. Take different classes and find out what your really passionate about. I think passion is the key word. If you’re passionate about something the sky is the limit. You have to like what you do. What keeps you up at night? The amount of work that needs to be done and where I should start and the anticipation of presentations. It keeps me going though. What do you dream of now? I dream of teaching kids again and I also would love to be a little more creative rather than administrative. I also want to be able to enjoy my children where they are at this age.
Anne Callahan , MB Jarosik & Karen Dendy Smith Co-Founders and Principals at Kor Group Interviewed by Victoria Solomon
Tell me a little bit about your individual backgrounds. MB: During my pre-Kor Group, I spent ten years doing campus planning and creating environmental graphics at various architecture firms in the Boston area. That’s what I brought into this company as the co-founding partners. I have an undergraduate degree in visual design with a minor in photography. I have taught visual design at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. We really have a lot of different roles that we play here other than really marketing the firm and managing the client teams, art directing, creative directing the designers, helping the marketing strategies, and we all have to run the company. We are the CMO, COO, CEO, CFO of Kor Group. And we share those responsibilities Karen: MB and I went to college together: we met freshman year. That’s part of our history too. We both have our undergraduate degree from University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. I also have a minor in photography. I also have a master’s degree in design from the School of Design in Basel, Switzerland. Before Kor Group, I had a variety of different jobs: at Boston University in education design, I’ve worked at William Mercer doing employee communications, and creative direction at Houghton Mifflin. We founded Kor Group in 1993. At Kor Group, we all lead different projects and manage the clients and be creative directors. Anne: I went to Massachusetts College of Art and Design. I have a BFA in design with a minor in two-dimensional work and
painting. In my previous job, I worked in advertising, I worked in university settings at Boston College and Suffolk University. I worked at a small design studio where I met Karen and did a lot of high-tech work and networking projects. When I met Karen, we decided that we really wanted to start the company. It took a few years. I went to Boston University and took some classes towards an MBA and hated the numbers part of it. I decided I would just jump in. From my apartment in Watertown, Mass., we worked full time jobs for a year while we started the company. One of us at lunch would go and check the voicemail. We put all of our money for that year towards Kor Group. We had a bunch of great first clients, including Polaroid. We put all that money aside and bought our computer equipment and then left our jobs. We had a good vision of what we wanted the company to be about. We had all worked in a variety of creative positions, we didn’t have the power to make decisions that we wanted to make and create the company we wanted to make. MB: It really did allow us to shape the type of clients that we wanted to be working with too. We wanted to have some kind of control through Kor. When you work for other people, you don’t have any control over that. We had high and large clients from the get go. That was deliberate. We knew we weren’t another small design boutique. We based our design process on strategy. That separated us from some of the other shops 17 years ago. Because of that we have always had great brands. Anne: Our name Kor: from the beginning, we wanted to have a philosophy behind our name. The phonetic version of “core” relates to strategy. Since then, our identity has not changed but our brand has expanded.
How do you feel about being women entrepreneurs? Karen: We can find synergies where we can agree and accept that we wont agree on everything. That’s the psychology of women working together. It’s different than most male companies. In general, all studies have shown, generally more women work in collaboration better than a male dominate company where there is more of a literal hierarchy. It was our goal: we would be equal partners and the collaboration between the three of us. A woman-run company is different than a male-dominated company. Anne: I belong to The Commonwealth Institute, a womenrun organization. I’m part of a CEO forum for women business owners that support each other and help each other with the challenges of running a business. Karen: Whether I’m a woman or a man, I’m getting the job because I’m good. What is the most difficult part of being entrepreneurs? MB: Starting the company. The three of us we weren’t really able to just quit our jobs and just start the company because we had all this capital sitting in the bank. We drew up a business plan and we went to the Small Business Association and asked to be considered for a loan. We realized that we had a service we were providing we didn’t have a product so there was no chance that that was going to happen. So we said, “we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it on our own.” What a wonderful thing to be sitting here 17 years later. It really made us charge forward. No one’s going to help us. Anne: None of us had a good sense of what running a business was. None of us have had business degrees. None of us had a real business plan with financial projections and profit and loss statements. We are all really creative-idea people. So it’s the naïve approach and just continue to believe that we can do this. MB was doing the checkbook by hand and we were off $500. We learned very early on and we have core strengths and we bring on the experts consultants for HR, tech, and financial. Each of us is gravitating to manage this side of the business. MB works with financial services, I work with human resources, Karen works, with technology partners. We didn’t realize that all that came with running a business—best quality design and services. We had to quickly learn.
Karen: You can have an entrepreneurship mind. Someone who is an entrepreneur will fail two or three times before they succeed. Why did we succeed? There are a couple of layers: we chose to deliver a service that we were actually good at. We had a proven track record, our work had won awards, had been in books, and we had taught design. We had a strong track record in what we wanted to build the company around. You have to stay very focused if you’re going to be a good entrepreneur. You get to a roadblock to climb over it and get it around it. Being part of a team is part of being a really good entrepreneur. MB: Being an entrepreneur is also who you are as an individual. We have it in our DNA. This is what we’ve always wanted to do. It’s an adrenaline rush of not knowing. That is like the ultimate high. We are constantly pushing ourselves to go into the unknown for that rush. We’re diving off of a cliff to keep that energy and momentum because that’s who we are as people. Anne: All three of us have a low tolerance for boredom. How we can capitalize on that? How can we make this more interesting for ourselves? All these kind of things add value to the bottom line.
Bettina Hein CEO of Pixability interviewed by Blair Griffin
I see entrepreneurship in a distributed computing way. I can have the best super computer in the world; multi-core, everything tricked out but it will not be as powerful as if I harnessed thousands of computers around the world in a distributed network. If I am a Sloan Entrepreneur and I have this brilliant idea and I enlist a lot of people to help me improve my idea, give me feedback, connect me to other people, then I have become so much richer because I have harnessed those resources. The art of the entrepreneur is largely one of being resourceful. What I delight most in my profession is that you create something, it’s an idea and it turns into something.
What did you dream of being as a child? A couple different things. I come from a family of entrepreneurs. I didn’t quite have a concept of what it meant to have a “career”. That was not something that I understood intuitively. The first thing I wanted to be was a nurse because my dad is a doctor and my mom is a pharmacist and I thought that would be very complimentary, (laughs) a very complimentary profession. But, that was when I was 4. The first time my dad took me to the hospital he had to perform stitches on one of my friends and I couldn’t see blood so I decided, “I’m not doing that”. Then I was very interested in law, and I was very interested in becoming a businesswoman. So I did both. I got a law degree and I got a business degree. I decided to do that when I was 7 or 8. My grandfather, who created a very scalable coal business, would always tell me about his exploits and how he built his business. We would practice doing arithmetic together. We would calculate the size of the German social security system, or those kinds of things. He taught me all about coal mining because he was a coal miner. He would make drawings and we’d calculate things. We also created business models. How do you earn money with this? How do you do that? How does this work? To this day one of the things is I do is calculate business models in my headit’s sort of fun for me. If I’m on the treadmill and I have nothing
to do I’ll figure out how does this gym really work? How many members do they have to have? How much does it cost to lease the machines? What’s the rent? What’s the square footage? How does all of that work together? And then figure out their business model. Where’s their break-even point? How they can make money off of this and what’s the ROI on that? I do that for entertainment. Other people do other things, but my mind has this extra cycle. I think it just comes from my family background. When did you first think of the idea for Pixability and what was the impetus of making that idea into a reality? How have your goals changed since the start of Pixability? I was at MIT and I had transitioned out of my last company. Then I had this idea that there was something happening in the video space. I had written my Masters Thesis at MIT around business models in the software industry. The problem with many, many tech companies is that they are just too early. They see something, it’s obvious that something’s going to happen, but then it takes 10-15 years for it really to happen. I was looking for something that was closer to adoption and it was right there. And I thought, “Video is definitely happening”. Originally I thought that people take all this footage of their families eating holiday cookies, opening presents, and weddings and they never do anything with it. I was going to find a way to help them unearth that and put it into a form where they could consume it. Soooo, That didn’t work. You have to be very light footed and figure out how to make it work. With Pixability we basically figured out that even though people loved our service everybody that was buying our service of these family edited videos had a household income of a quarter million dollars or more and they were paying us roughly $300 to do this. That’s not a market. So, I had bought a flip camera, went to a trade show and brought the flip camera. I loved using that flip camera! Then I had the experience that my
friends (also entrepreneurs) and business people needed video for a pitch or website or something. I said, “No,” but then thought, “Darn. I need the money.” So I did it. Then I decided to put out a new offer to the mailing list we had. On July 15, 2009, we put out this offer to 25 people. We got 20 people to sign up! I’m figuring out that you have to be flexible and focused at the same time.
when you come to a point where you have contributed all you can. Sometimes it’s just a mid-cycle crisis of the entrepreneurial life cycle and sometimes it’s true that you’ve come to the edge of where you can contribute to a company and you need others to do it. That’s part of the process, like with kids. You want them to go off to college and be successful in their own right. You can’t be doing their homework when they’re 21 and sit in the job
What is your number one piece of advice is for a college student who is interested in becoming an entrepreneur? Be active in organizations. Founding them is actually the best experience. You can also do little ventures. I have someone working in my company who is a collegiate entrepreneur. He ran one of the campus stores at his university. Also, do business plan competitions or pitches. The most valuable thing, really, is to execute on something. Create a sustainable business model and learn from mistakes you make- I’ve made a lot of mistakes too, one organization I ran into the ground because I didn’t pay attention to the finances. That taught me a really good lesson. If you want the life of having a secretary, personal assistant and a cushy limousine service to drive you home… Nah, don’t bother with entrepreneurship. Me? I know that I can make things work. So why shouldn’t I just try it? You have nothing to lose. If you’ve made the investment in good education nobody can take that from you. So give it a try. Just try it. You can always go get a job. What do you dream of now? What keeps you up at night? What keeps me up at night? (Laughs) Making this company work. We aren’t there yet. There are phases in entrepreneurship
interview with them. What do I want to be when I grow up? I want to help other entrepreneurs. That’s one of the things I really believe I can do. I accidentally founded an organization called the She-E-O’s, of 100 women. This is my hobby that I do from 11:30pm-midnight. If I can make some money off of what I do then I would like to be an angel investor in my next life, when I’m 50 or 60. That’s what I would like to do. It takes a lot of energy out of you to be an entrepreneur. I don’t know how many more companies I have in me. I really think that I can help others to create even more jobs and make the world a better place with entrepreneurship. It sounds kind of cheesy but I really believe it.
Jessica Stowe CEO & Founder of Personally Paired Interviewed by Iman Richards
I first met Jessica when I was interviewing to be her Personally Paired event-planning intern. We met at a small local coffee shop, where she treated me to tea and biscotti. Although I was nervous for the interview, her charismatic charm quickly relaxed me, and I could tell she must be a great leader to work under. As she explained Personally Paired to me, you could see the excitement and passion she felt for her company. Now, over a year later, we reconnect in reverse manner, where I get to do the questioning.
Let’s get started. What did you dream of being as a child? Both of my parents are entrepreneurs so I always saw myself going off on my own as well. I always wanted to work with children in some shape or form. When did you first think of the idea of Personally Paired, and what was the impetus to making that idea a reality? After I graduated college I worked in marketing and events and continued babysitting on the side. In early 2008 my position was eliminated due to the downturn in the economy. I realized that it would be my chance to finally conquer my dream of starting my own business. Having worked in the childcare field for so long, I would often get asked by frustrated parents if I could recommend a qualified caregiver for them. Working as a caregiver, I knew all too well how difficult it was to find the right childcare positions with the hours and locations that best fit my schedule. I then set out to create my company to solve the ongoing dilemma that parents and caregivers have - how to find each other in a time efficient and neutral environment. With this idea as the foundation, I developed Personally Paired.
What is the business model of Personally Paired? We connect parents with pre-screened, interviewed and reference checked caregivers. We do this via face to face mixer events and custom searches. What is your number one piece of advice for college students who want to be entrepreneurs? I truly believe that above all else you really have to love what you do. Rather than focus only on what will make you wealthy, determine what you would still be passionate about 10 - 15 years from now and do that. That passion will keep you going! You often hear about the importance of experiencing and learning from failure to be a good entrepreneur. What has been your most profitable failure? I believe that everyone who is a success in life has failed. It’s how we learn and grow knowledge. As an entrepreneur you can’t be afraid of rejection or failure. When I first started my business I often drew assumptions about my clients and caregivers. For example, I assumed that most caregivers understood the nanny tax process or that most parents understood the role of a childcare referral service. However, I have learned that I can’t make assumptions and I now make a point to define relevant practices and specify expectations from the start.
This has helped my business succeed tremendously because clients and caregivers really appreciate the time and care taken to do this. I have also learned that I can only meet or exceed customer expectations when they are defined from the start. If you could walk in someone's shoes for one day, who would it be? Why? I would choose to walk in my grandfatherâ€™s shoes who ran his own manufacturing company. Unfortunately he passed away when I was only 5 years old. He lived a short life (only 58 years) but was able to achieve so much in that short time. I would love to see what he did and how he did it. What keeps you up at night? As an entrepreneur there is a lot that keeps me up at night. Ways that I can continue to grow my business, how I can continue to increase customer satisfaction, ways that I can continue to motivate client referrals, ways that I can continue to recruit outstanding caregivers, etc. What do you dream of now? I dream of someday expanding my business to different markets across the country. What's the biggest obstacle you've had to face with your business? Do you think you'll experience this again in the future? The biggest obstacle that I face with my business is time management. As a solopreneur I have to wear many hats. I am the owner, the sales director, the receptionist, the recruiter, the marketing manager and much more. As my business continues to grow and work increases, I know that time management will be an ongoing issue. It is difficult to make time for everything but I am learning how to prioritize my tasks so I can be more time efficient and affective. What is most rewarding for you at Personally Paired? The most rewarding part of Personally Paired is knowing that I am bringing balance to parent's lives and giving caregivers job opportunities. Where do you see Personally Paired in the next ten years? I see my company expanding to different markets across the country while employing knowledgeable representatives to help me achieve that goal. I also see myself continuing to learn from my mistakes and taking those lessons and turning them into great success for the company!
Carmen Baez’s Entrepreneurial Journey Up the Corporate Ladder Written by Emma Bisogno
Two young savvy businesswomen sat at the dining room table brainstorming their next move. Although apprehensive, the two women give off an energy filled with confidence and fervor that envelop their surroundings. They start by naming clients they would like to work with. As the various possibilities echo around the room, they turn to each other; “I want to work with Disney!” exclaims Karen Zahorsky, co-founder of Baez-Zahorsky Incorporated (BZI). Carmen Baez '79 and '03 Honorary Degree, also co-founder of BZI, at first laughs it off. Aiming to get one of the most successful brands in the world as their first major business deal may have been bold, but with not much to lose, the question wasn’t should they aim for Disney, but rather why not aim for Disney? Zahorsky remembered a Disney executive who once tried to recruit her for an in-house position. Flipping though her collection of contacts and business cards the two women found themselves on the phone with that same Disney executive. Zahorsky casually mentioned that she and her business partner would be in the Orlando area and they would love to get together. One thing led to another and before the two women had time to question their leap of faith they were on a plane to Florida. Zahorsky and Baez met with their Disney connection in a small coffee shop. The brief meeting went well, and although a new contact, and friend, was made, no business deals were spoken of. Baez and Zahorsky flew back to Boston. Not long after their Florida adventure the two women’s strategic friendly meeting paid off when the phone rang and they got their first assignment from Disney. This was the start to BaezZahorsky Inc, BZI, the Boston-based marketing and communications consulting company. BZI was officially in
business. After Bank of Boston and Disney signed on it was like a domino effect. Big companies were starting to take notice and BZI’s notable client roster began to grow. Just a few years prior the two women had comfortable positions within the much sought after corporate scene of Boston. Both coming from prestigious colleges and landing good jobs at the well-known marketing agency Rapp Collins. Baez was 29 and the youngest President of Rapp Collins and seemed to be living the dream. “I loved my job, my clients, and the people I worked with.” Recalls Baez. Despite her successful career and good health after three years on top the corporate world had made Baez feel as if she was on a treadmill. At age 31, Baez stepped down from her position as President at Rapp Collins and decided to take a break from the daily grind. She left the agency in good condition and on good terms. The desire for a change and a combination of curiosity and ambition led her to take the time to travel the world. When she returned back to the States she reconnected with former colleague, Karen Zahorsky. Baez explains they were both “IBJ” (in between jobs) and found themselves utilizing their expertise and networks to start a strategic marketing firm. Through hard work, determination, networking, and a little bit of luck, their clients eventually included Disney, Bank of Boston, and Omnicom Group. In 1997 Omnicom offered to buy BZI and hire the two entrepreneurs to head two departments at Diversified Global Agencies (DAS), a division of Omnicom. Since then both Baez and Zahorsky have led successful careers with Omnicom Group. Although humble, their journey up the corporate ladder is certainly of eminence. “I have done a number of things. I’ve worked in corporate, had my own company, worked on Madison Avenue, and in Boston, and traveled around the world.” Baez modestly attributes key elements to her successful career path. Today Baez oversees the development and growth of DAS operating companies in the regions of Central and South America including agencies such as Rapp Collins, FleishmanHillard, Ketchum, Interbrand, and Porter Novelli International. Baez leads all DAS multicultural marketing initiatives in the US.
Mel Bozkurt-Conant Co-Owner of New York Dog Written by Molly Beatson
Mel Bozkurt-Conant is the Co-Owner of New York Dog. She started the company in 1998 with her partner Pam when she was 26 years old. Before that Conant attended Parsons School of Design and got her bachelors in Business and Design, as she knew she always wanted to be in fashion but not necessarily a designer. While in school she worked full time at SAKS Fifth Avenue. From there she worked for a company called Honey Fashion where she did production and design. Then she worked for Celine, which is owned by Louis Vitton a French luggage company. There she was assistant to the vice president and was involved in price, selling, etc, essentially everything the V.P. did she did as well. Next she worked for Omega, where she was the director of marketing. After working for all of these companies she decided that whatever she did for her bosses made them lots of money so why not do that for herself. Conant always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur. She is first generation American. Her parents always told her “we came here for you”. Therefore her options were endless and coupled with the fact that she was such a hard worker, she was destined to become and entrepreneur. In 1998 she quit her job at Omega to pursue her dream of owning her own company. She felt that if she didn’t do it then she never would. Her goal then and now, which hasn’t changed a bit, was to be the best. Better then everyone else. “And looking back, we know that we are, no one else does what we do as well as we do it”. –Mel. Her vision was to be the best and provide fashion at a reasonable price. She says a mission statement holds true forever. However in order to achieve it you must change and adapt with the times. They started with $265,000, which was all self funded between she and her business partner. Three years later they were paid back in full. They worked with a friend at a P.R. firm who gave them a friend rate as well as getting invited by a friend to the Jacob Javid show at SAKS a month after starting the company. This friend gave her a table for free and they basically said well what happens happens. It was a hugely successful show and before they knew it their products were in SAKS and D.K.N.Y. After that they continued to show at many trade shows. New York Dog is an 11 million dollar a year company. They design and manufacture accessories and apparel for dogs. That includes collars, leashes, harnesses, sweaters, coats, booties, Halloween costumes, beds, carriers, toys and more. They started very high end, selling to SAKS, D.K.N.Y. and better boutiques. This included $300 carriers and $150 beds. They were wildly successful however because they were in such a high end/luxury field they got to a point where they could no longer grow and make money.
So the next step New York Dog took was to generate a lower line – Manhattan Muts, which was created overseas. They sold to Petsmart for a million dollar order. This too was successful and they knew they were headed in the right direction. Then two years later they were selling to Target and two years after that to Wal-Mart. Of course with being so young they did make mistakes. One of her biggest mistakes resulted in a $250,000 loss for them. They had sold a plaid carrier to Petsmart. It was a great product, great pattern. They loved it, the buyers loved it and it was doing very well in the stores. A week later they get a letter from Burberry saying get those carriers of the shelves and destroy them, you are going against our Patent by using that plaid. Turns out Burberry had just patented the plaid about a month earlier. While this was a crushing loss for NYD they now ask their patent attorney before using any pattern and if there is any patent out there they don’t use the pattern. Its not worth the risk and nightmare it could become. Conant credits her companies’ success to her hard work and amazing design team. She has no limits and is always seeking to become bigger and better while following her gut. They have grown from two people to thirteen in eleven years. When I spoke with Mel her next appointed was a lunch meeting with a financial planning company. She is looking to for investors to invest in the company in order to help them grow. They have been an 11 million, 11 million dollar company year after year and Mel wants to be 20, 30, 50 million dollar company. However they have always been self funded but at this point in order to make it grow to the scale that she would like it at they need to have investors and share holders. They have turned down offers to be in grocery stores and stores such as CVS etc because they didn’t have the proper knowledge about selling to grocery stores and others so they didn’t want to risk it and just go about it how they would for Petsmart and Target. This means more capitol is needed to do things properly. Another key to their success has been to not just say yes to everything, really think things through and if its going to be done its going to be done right. Some advise that she gave to me and anyone starting a new venture is to invite the right people. Conant says it is crucial to have a good partner and to know them and how they work very well before you even think about a partnership agreement. Because she was so young she is running into the “partner issue” now. Mel is a total workhorse and will pick up the slack where people are slacking. While this is good for the company she is doing extra work but she and her partner are gaining the same amount from it. So to solve that, she says to fight to get 51% of the company. “As hard
and awkward as that may be, fight for it and you’ll be happier in the end”. –Mel. Another solution that she had and says she will do for her next venture is to not have a partner but instead hire an amazing C.O.O. someone who manage and operate things while you are the sole owner. Business plan- Mel did not write a business plan initially. One, because they were solely funded and only needed a plan if they were going to investors for money. And two, everything for them happened to fast they didn’t have the time to write a business plan. Though she noted that while they didn’t write a plan in the beginning they now write plans all the time. Three-year projections etc. Financial Planning- Mel obviously does a lot of financial planning but by meeting with a financial group she is furthering her planning by planning long term in order to have the company grow by staying within her means. Pricing Strategies- They started our very high end with higher prices. Then when they found that they really couldn’t grow they redid their pricing and created a lower line
Creativity- Because this is a part design company they really get to use their creative juices! Mel credits much of her success to an amazing design team. I found doing this interview to be very interesting. Mel was incredible to talk to. I find it totally inspiring to listen to other peoples stories and how they got from eating pizza everyday to an 11 million dollar company. The thing that I learned the most was her piece of advise about getting 51% percent of the company. I found it to be smart and business savvy as well as her suggested to be a sole proprietor and hire a great C.O.O. I took away from this the most because while I don’t have a specific venture I hope to pursue someday I feel like the entrepreneurial concepts and thinking process are the way I think. So for me being a C.O.O. would be great. I would be working hand in hand with a creator of a new idea while also using my entrepreneurial background to add to it and be in charge without being the owner. At the end of the interview I asked if there was anything else she would like to add and she told me this. “Say good morning to everyone in your office everyday. And be nice, it’s a team, similar but different to a family. You will spend more time with these people then you will with anyone else. Congratulate people when they do good work”
Ginger Bailey CEO of GG Bailey
Member of the Committee of 200 Interviewed by Emma Bisogno
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you?
What keeps you up at night?
It’s attached to being a good manager – achieving the ultimate success through being innovative, taking risks, and having initiative.
I think about everything - all the possibilities related to both personal and business matters, it always changes. I try to shut off business but I can’t. I think about the economy and growing the business.
What do you think are the most valuable attributes of a leader? It starts with values and having empathy. Understanding peoples talents and their fit within an organization. Being a good role model and being able to “walk the talk.” What is your most profitable mistake? Taking a job in the financial industry, I didn’t fit. It was too abstract for me. I ended up turning down a job with GE and the chance to work with Jack Welch but that mistake led me to the epiphany that I need to be an entrepreneur.
If you could go back to college and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be? I guess my advice would be about all of the distractions that we are faced with on campus. I wish I could have focused more on academics.
Melissa Tyler Owner and Founder of TummyToys Interviewed by Emma Bisogno
Melissa Tyler, a graduate gemologist, has studied both in the UK and the US. Currently making her home in Boston. After many friends who wore and complained about their belly jewelry, Melissa combined her passion for jewelry with her entrepreneurial spirit to create TummyToys. With a patented clasp, TummyToys belly rings and body jewelry eliminate the hurt and hassle of traditional body jewelry. The TummyToys clasp is so simple: you just slide it through the piercing and snap it shut. TummyToys body jewelry is offered in a variety of metals and styles sporting everything from martini glasses to elegant precious and semi-precious stones.
What does the word entrepreneur mean to you? An individual that thinks out of the box all the time the brain is spinning, wheals are turning and they are not afraid of the silly, ridicules or obscure. They look at everything with a can do attitude and open mind. What inspired you to be entrepreneurial? Every job I had I could do it better faster and more profitable than the boss. But I was a woman in a mans world and was told to wear a skirt and shut up. I just couldn’t listen to a man tell me what to do anymore when I was making jewelry for women who bought it and wore it. What was your most profitable mistake? Bought a house when I didn’t have a job rehabbed it and sold it for double. Who knew the housing market was going to explode. What are the most important qualities of a leader? When you make a mistake admit it apologies and move on. If someone else makes a mistake acknowledge it fix it and move on. Be human remember that children and pets are important so is sanity. A day off for a sick child or lunch out of the office is well
rewarded and appreciated. Money will only solve an employee problem short term. Listen, Listen, Listen and do something about what you heard. If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice in college what would it be? Network and not just with your friends. Teachers, business people, parents, join clubs and not just school clubs. Don’t be afraid but don’t be cocky. What keeps you up at night? Paying my staff and all the bills. People depend on me to live so if I can’t pay them they can’t live. It is a big burden when you have a tight budget or a plan to expand. What is your favorite part about your job? Doing something that is different stepping outside the box and watching the reaction of others when they have that wow moment. Being told that my TummyToys are the best invention since the wheel really made my day and knowing I have that effect on my customers is something to be extremely proud of.