First week in Santiago!

So I promised a lot of people that I’d post pictures and stories of Santiago.  After a week without regular access to email – the silence from lack of iPhone alerts was both irking and oddly peaceful – I’m back online, almost back on track with life, and have some time to post first impressions.

At the Start-Up Chile officeAfter making it off the plane with over 150 lbs of luggage each, Geoff and I made it to Giselle’s house, then to the Start-Up Chile office.  Imagine 140 entrepreneurs crammed into one floor of a high-rise – craziness abound and wireless internet strains under the burden.  But it’s been great to meet everyone!  We’re from all over the globe with companies as diverse as apartment renting, sanitation tech, photoshare and us – fitness.

Meanwhile, at Giselle’s house, we have been getting an awesome dose of Chilean hospitality.  From Sr. Huerta’s antics with the heirloom riding cape to Pache, the cutest and possibly tiniest dog in the world, to delicious fresh meals prepared by Carmen, we’ve felt right at home in our new country.

Sr Huerta's heirloom riding capePache the cute tiny dog

Yumm, Peruvian food

Meanwhile, we also took two hikes to see a panoramic view of Santiago – one near Lo Barnechea in the suburbs and one with the Start-Up Chile crowd up Cerro San Cristobal, the Central Park of Santiago.  The views were stunning, despite the pretty terrible smog.

Jumping for joy against the AndesGeoff finds Hamlet the skullAndes, beautiful AndesVirgin Mary atop San CristobalSantiago sky view from San Cristobal  So overall, not a bad week.  Spanish is improving all around thanks to the difficult real estate market. Can’t wait to move into our SWEET apartment this week and add some pictures.  What can you rent for $550 per month in Santiago?  Get ready to be jealous Boston and NYC folks 🙂

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Got Grit?

I’ve always been interested in the characteristics of successful people, and I’ve read books from Outliers to Bounce to Everyday Survival, but a great article in Women’s Health caught my eye today. While other books have touted intelligence, practice or instincts as the keys to success, this article says it’s grit that makes a difference.  How do they define grit? According to Angela Duckworth from the University of Pennsylvania, “Grit entails working strenuously toward challenges and maintaining effort and interest despite failure, adversity, and plateaus.” That sounds a lot like getting through a hard workout, or even getting your butt to the gym itself!

There are a ton of tips in the article on how to train yourself to have grit, but I wonder whether something like Gym-Pact might help those who really don’t start out with much grit (including yours truly) to even kick-start that learning process. What do you think?

Tory Johnson’s Spark & Hustle Conference

This past Saturday, I was able to spend the day with Tory Johnson, ABC Good Morning America workplace contributor and female entrepreneur extraordinaire, and the amazing women (and men!) of the Boston Spark & Hustle conference.  As the Q&A Keynote on Saturday morning, I was able to share some of my experience as the founder of Styleta and Gym-Pact.  I was pretty nervous the night before, since it was my first time being a conference keynote, but Tory was amazing at guiding me with the questions.  The audience questions were also fun to answer and gave me some great ideas for both startups!

I stayed the rest of the day to listen to the other speakers and definitely learned a ton.  Here are some great tips I learned.

From Dan Schawbel, personal branding guru:

  • Update those online profiles – yes I mean Facebook too!  I’ve seen plenty of FB profiles of recent grads that still seem to say they are students.  For me, I definitely need to do some work on my FB and LinkedIn.
  • Leverage small successes to get bigger ones, especially in media features.  Got covered or wrote for a local newspaper?  Put it in your bio and keep adding to it.  I’m going to update by bio to include media mentions!
  • What to read: Mashable and ReadWriteWeb
From Christina Perkett on media:
  • Have 3 soundbites rehearsed that you must share with reporter no matter what questions they ask.  Good advice that I wish I had heard before my interviews!
  • PitchEngine – social press releases
  • Always say thank you to the reporter, and offer additional content to build the relationship
  • People have different preferred communication methods – if they’re not responding to emails or calls, try Twitter, FB or texting.
From Vicki Donlan on turning contacts to cash:
  • Break that mental barrier between personal and business contacts, and don’t be afraid of telling people what you do for a living!
  • Become an expert, the go-to person on a specific topic
  • Listen for people’s needs and give before you get
Got other tips?  I’d love to hear them!

Styleta’s One-Year Anniversary

Whenever people congratulate me on Styleta, my first reaction is usually surprise.  In the middle of my hectic day-to-day work (i.e. typing emails at lightning speed, mailing sales or lugging donations, all with an illogical sense of impending doom), it’s sometimes hard to step back and see the big picture.  Today – April 12th – celebrates the official one-year anniversary of Styleta’s incorporation.  My baby is turning one year old, and the realization of that fact finally shocked me into stepping back and reflecting on how far we’ve come as an organization.  And indeed, how far I’ve come from the earliest days.

It’s amazing how different things look when you take a step back!  One of my board members  told me at the beginning that I can’t let the past day, week or even month dictate my overall evaluation of a startup, but rather to work relentlessly until a set check-in point, when I evaluate the totality of my work.  I think this one-year anniversary is just such a check-in point.  Styleta is now on 4 campuses solidly and we’ve found 4 out of the 6 targets for launch this fall. We’ve had sold out runway shows, professional quality photoshoots, partnerships with some impressive companies and nonprofits and currently have a strong board and team in place. Not bad for the first year. And as for myself, I’ve gained a world of experience – pitching to CEOs of large retailers, leading meetings with people twice my age, navigating through the 501(c)3 process etc etc.  But most importantly, at least to me, I think this year has finally made me feel like I’ve sloughed off my teenage/college student skin and become a real adult, and capable of real impact.

While I’m sure the impending doom feeling is not going away any time soon, and probably shouldn’t go away because it keeps me on my toes, I’m taking a moment to finally take a little pride in where Styleta is today.  There’s too much work still to be done to have a big celebration, so here is my small celebration of Styleta.

IU's Rock the Runway Show

IU’s Rock the Runway Show

Turning Your Idea into a Business: My Guest Post on Lindsey Pollak’s Next Generation Blog!

I wanted to repost this because I love Lindsey’s blog and thought this info might be interesting to some of you!  Check out the real blog post here.

I’m so honored to be invited as a guest author for Lindsey’s blog!  I’m the founder and CEO of a student-run fashion nonprofit called Styleta, which collects and sells designer clothing donations online – a virtual Goodwill meets Gilt Groupe. For all of you women who are thinking about blazing your own path as an entrepreneur, here are some tips to help turn your idea into a business.

  • Research:
    Always begin by researching your idea and the competitive playing field.  A simple Google search (i.e. “designer clothing donation”, in Styleta’s case) can give you a brief snapshot of how many other companies are pursuing similar ideas and who they are.  Start keeping a list of these competitors and some of the key metrics that you are interested in, such as annual revenue, target demographic, etc.  It’s also useful to set up a Google Alert for keywords related to your startup idea – for me, I track “clothing donation” to see daily updates in the industry.  Don’t panic if there are a few other companies in your industry!  No competitors may be a sign that the idea doesn’t have enough value while 50 competitors may mean an overcrowded market.
  • Test:
    Next, you want to test out your startup concept, ideally with the customer demographic you are targeting to see if the idea has legs.  In starting a nonprofit, my job was easier because there was no need to protect the idea.  I spoke to as many people as I could in all the industries in which Styleta would operate – retailers and boutiques for clothing donations, individuals about online shopping, and charities on partnerships.  With a for-profit startup, it is wise to be more discreet, especially if there are no high barriers to entry.  However, you can still create surveys, mock website designs, and even trial websites to test with trusted advisers — sometimes under the protection of a Non-Disclosure Agreement.  One of my favorite resources is Weebly.com, a drag-and-click site to easily create functional websites.
  • Get Legal:
    If you feel ready to continue pursuing your business, it is time to incorporate your company.  There are huge debates in the entrepreneurship community about whether to form a C corporation (the big guys like Coca-cola and Microsoft are all C corp’s), an S corporation (similar to C corps but with tax and reporting advantages for small businesses), or a limited liability company (LLC).  I won’t go into the details here –there are tax and reporting benefits to all three and entrepreneurs debate over the merits of each form – but I suggest you research the pros and cons and decide on the right fit for your business.  There are many firms who can help you incorporate, or you can fill out your own paperwork.  However, do apply for a federal employee identification number (EIN) so that you can apply for a business bank account.
  • Find the Money:
    Getting the startup capital to fund your idea is tough.  Nonprofit or for-profit, you will probably pitch to numerous donors/investors before getting a yes.  My best suggestion is to begin tapping into your networks, whether from family, work or college alumni network, and keep in touch with supporters.  Someone who isn’t in a position to invest may still be a valuable mentor and ally.

Good luck, and best wishes on the success of your startup!

Food brag

Just wanted to quickly show off the yummy healthy (and non-stir fry) meal I made! Italian angel hair pasta with zucchini, asparagus an shrimp with “Pablo salad”, named after my awesome Chilean friend who uses lemon juice and salt for dressing.

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Running my first 5k in ages!

I used to run 5k’s pretty often when I played lacrosse in high school. Back then, three miles was no problem, didn’t even get out of breath. I fell off the wagon a bit in college when time was short and I had to choose between a run and getting that reading done for class (believe me, the reading-on-elliptical skills you build at Harvard are pretty amazing).  That’s why I’m pretty psyched to be running the Solar Empowerment 5k that my company Gym-Pact is sponsoring.  The proceeds go toward building energy technology for Mali villages.

Results: 26:09 time, 54th place!  Some pictures of my day:

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